Hiding behind food

Enjoying food is one of the sensual pleasures of life, and comfort eating is something we all do to a degree. But if you are spending all of your spare time on the sofa watching television and munching through packets of biscuits and chips and eating takeaways, then you are heading for trouble. This kind of eating gives no comfort - it just causes your weight to rocket.

If the highlight of your day is where the next meal is coming from, you are hiding behind food. If you are feeling depressed, visit your doctor for help in turning the corner and moving on. If you are using comfort eating as a method of coping with life, you need to stop and look at the source of your problem.

There are two main sorts of comfort eating. One is to fill an emotional void. No one is taking care of your emotional needs, or you are not getting the support you need, or maybe, in childhood, you got into the habit of using food as a fix to cheer yourself up. 

For whatever reason, your needs were not being met, so you ate as a substitute for the love you needed. Or maybe you are so busy taking care of everyone else that you forget to ask for what you need. To put a stop to this kind of comfort eating, you need to deal not with the food issue, but go to the source of the problem. Ask yourself what you need; ask for help and reassurance when you need it; forgive yourself for your failings; be kind to yourself and feed yourself positive messages. 

If you can change what you can and accept what you cannot, the future is all yours.

The second type of comfort eating stems from plain, simple boredom. Is there nothing more exciting in your life than what is on the television, and what you can eat? You deserve more. You need to get to the source of this as well. What is lacking? Is it your work? Is it being at home alone with the children? Is it the wheel of life that leaves you tired and bored? Make some changes - add some spice to your love life, take up a cause, or take up exercise. Only you can decide, but you need to make changes and move on to something more interesting than the highlight of your day being food.

Overeating disorders 

Many eating disorders, like bulimia and anorexia, are now recognised as medical conditions, but overeating is only just becoming considered by doctors, because the damage to the body is slower and more long-term. 

Margaret, an expatriate living in the Gulf says, “My husband had a good position as a financial controller and was always very busy. I didn’t work and could look after my two children myself. To everyone else, my life looked perfect and I appeared happy, but all I ever thought about was food. Food was my best friend, and food made any bad feelings just disappear. I had hidden supplies of food that I would eat when there was no one else around. When I was eating, I felt safe, and when I ate, I focused on the food like it was a fix. Outwardly, I was happy and cheery, and I always kept the peace at any price. Sometimes, I would panic over the weight I was putting on and so I would starve myself all day, and then in the evening I would eat everything I could find, which would lead me to feel disgusted with myself. During this time I joined diet clubs, and to the world, I pretended to eat moderately. I would get up and have a small breakfast with my family, but once they had left the house, I would sit down and eat more”.

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“Eventually, a friend recommended that I contact a therapist, and this was a real turning point. The therapist made me be honest with myself and face the fact that I had a problem and that I was burying my feelings for food. I was pretending that I had no feelings, and using food as my pay-off. I realised that the only way I could control the world I lived in was by creating a safe haven where I could eat and eat.”

Her therapist helped Marianne find another way, instead of eating. It has taken a lot of hard work to change her habits, to talk to her husband, family and friends about her needs, and to try new things. Most of all, she has learned to accept that it is okay not to be perfect - it just makes you more interesting.

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