Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reasons for Overeating

I've been thinking all day about a comment Waisting Time wrote on my previous post (Exploring Anger). She said:

The old saying goes... it's not what you are eating, it's what's eating YOU. Sometimes there is truth to that. Sometimes not. Sometimes for me it is just about food and habit and boredom.

I couldn't agree more.

Sometimes I overeat because something is eating me, something very current, especially if I feel a person close to me (mostly my husband) has slighted me or disrespected me in some way.

Sometimes it's all about celebrating... my birthday, his birthday, the cat's birthday, that we accomplished some chore, an unexpected sale, that the snow melted... any old thing! Celebrating has always involved overeating, rich foods, deserts and buckets of Tums.

Sometimes it's all about being bored. I don't know how that got started, but I can recall many back-to-back refrigerator raids associated with boredom and perhaps as a remedy for it.

Then there are the pot-luck parties, open house events, fund-raisers, gallery openings, etc. OMG, I can graze way past the need for Tums when the opportunity arises.

At a workshop about a year ago, a local diva hosted a party at her spectacular 2-story artists' studio condominium. She set out a lavish table full of exotic cheeses, crackers, breads, chocolates, pastries, fruits and nuts. Being somewhat shy and always uncomfortable in social situations where I don't know people well and where I feel a class difference, I hung out at the table while the others put a few goodies on a plate and then gravitated to an adjacent sitting room. I filled my plate, ate standing by the table, filled it again, ate again... and again... and again... I probably stuffed 4,000 to 5,000 calories into my bulging tummy that evening.

In my case, I'm fairly sure that most of my overeating in recent years is long-established habit; while a much smaller portion is directly in response to current issues that I can't or won't face.

However, what's behind the habit? Why hasn't long-term diet success (like twice reaching goal weight in the Weight Watchers program and keeping it off or a year or more) been sufficient time to break old habits and establish new, healthy-eating habits? Why is it that EVERY TIME after dieting, I returned to repeated and habitual overeating and bingeing?

I'm 67 years old and have repeated the cycle over and over for 50 years. So now, I am looking behind the habit at emotions and related patterns of eating as ways of coping that must have been firmly established long ago.

At age 5, I had significant childhood grief at the loss of my daddy (fatal car accident) and temporary loss of my mommy (for 2 years while she returned to college immediately after his death). There were no tears allowed. Mommy set the example... stoic and determined to find a way to support her two kids... no time to cry. I recall my paternal grandmother, who took care of us for two years, saying "Don't cry! Your daddy in heaven will hear you and you will make him sad." During these two years, she'd give us sweet treats to make us stop crying any time we had an emotional or physical injury.

In all my life I only remember seeing my mom cry, very briefly, one time and that was more in frustration and anger than in grief. I never saw my grandmother cry. We were admonished and bribed with sweets not to cry. It seems quite reasonable to figure that sadness is what is behind the habit that manifests in overeating and bingeing... probably much accumulated sadness, starting with daddy and including the death of pets and all the other losses, defeats, illnesses and hurts of my life.

One thing I may need to do to break the overeating habit is to feel the grief and to cry. Yikes. There are such strong prohibitions against this... I can feel myself stomping on the break pedal. So I pray for strength and guidance to crack open the floodgate on the lake of tears inside my heart... to sit with the sadness, one journal post at a time.


  1. Good evening, Peacefulbird ~ your words here feel so strong, even though I imagine this is NOT what you are feeling. Perhaps it is your stance that is strong!

    So, I have a LARGE thought about tears. Let me preface by saying that I have never had any trouble crying (except in front of strangers and then it is as if I am being strangled by their judgements) so I do not completely understand your "break pedal."

    That being said, I believe salt water is cleansing. Does that sound trite? Not meant to be. But if you are sad and have sadness collected behind some great dam, then WAIL. Wash your bones with the tide of it! It is your right - those are YOUR feelings!! Those feelings are just as honorable as pure joy.

    And I wonder, too, would it be possible to make tears...those forbidden tears..YOUR "sweets"...

    Yes, we are a product of our genetics. But we are each UNIQUE. If your need bucks the family history and you need to cry your guts out, then say thank-you-very-much to all the previous dialogue about "Don't cry!" and walk, PB..walk your own path like you do so valiantly for other things, for others...

    Hugely hugging you - hope I haven't spoken too out of turn,

  2. "However, what's behind the habit? Why hasn't long-term diet success (like twice reaching goal weight in the Weight Watchers program and keeping it off or a year or more) been sufficient time to break old habits and establish new, healthy-eating habits? Why is it that EVERY TIME after dieting, I returned to repeated and habitual overeating and bingeing?"

    This part hit me. Because I am a yo-yo dieter and have reached goal many times (yes, once with WW too). I really wonder about what is behind my eating. Is there really something bigger lurking there, deeply ingrained in me? Because if so, I really don't know what it is. I read many blogs and know that some overeaters can see a clear basis. But some don't seem to even consider that or care. I know Oprah would tell me that I will never conquer my eating if I don't figure it out. But I still wonder if there IS something to figure out.

    Very thought provoking for me today.


  3. OMG - I got so caught up in your post that I did not even remember that just today I posted about overeating and said, "For me, after years of yo-yo dieting, it is not enough to lose weight and have a nice number on the scale. I want need to put overeating behind me. I don’t know why I do what I do. Yes, there have been some trigger foods and trigger activities that I now recognize. But I wonder if there is more to it for me." I actually wrote the post a while ago so was not focused on it. But what a coincidence!

    Here is the link: http://waistingtimeblog.com/2010/05/05/over-analysizing-overeating/

  4. Peaceful Bird, I will also pray that you can find the strength within yourself to cry those buckets of tears that are inside you. Crying is as natural as laughing, it's not shameful or embarrassing. At times crying can be empowering. You are owning your emotions. It's just another way of speaking the truth. These things, I know from personal experience because there was a time in my life, a couple of years ago, that I literally cried every day for six months. I had suffered a physical trauma, a broken neck, and was recovering from surgery at home. Sure some of those tears were because I was scared or hurting, but a lot of the time I bawled like a baby for no reason at all. And I'm not talking a few sniffles, I cried loud, deep, gut wrenching sobs every single day. The smallest things could set me off...a bent Qtip, a sappy commercial, an empty water glass when I was thirsty....I had absolutely no emotional filter to prevent the tears. My mind and body needed a release and there was no other way than to cry buckets of tears. It became no big deal for me to cry over anything and everything. Looking back, I believe that it was truly a gift, to be able to cry like that. Crying provided me with the peaceful release that I needed while I healed.
    Through your words, I can sense the sadness in your heart, Peaceful Bird, and I will pray that you find your path to releasing some of that sadness. Go out into the woods and howl like a baby. Crying can be a wonderful thing.
    I send you Peace and Love,

  5. Hi Peaceful; somehow I missed this one. I'm going to go back and check my settings, the techno-zero that I am.

    OH, that is such a sad story about your dad, and the roots of your overeating going back to that time. Until we get to a certain age-and apparently I've had a collision with it--we don't put all the pieces together of why things in our lives are the way that they are.

    I had others tell me (warn me) that it would happen in my 50's. Your past comes back to you with clarity and you start figuring out the "whys". A lot of not-pretty stuff that we've always accepted as "normal", but never was. We finally have enough information about the world and the lives of others to figure out that our lives had many abnormalities. I think you will find this phenomenon in the background of most addicts, whether it be to food, gambling, alcohol, etc. (With some of the more dangerous stuff, a lot of people don't live to the "clarity" point of their lives or its so painful that they just keep drowning it in drugs.)

    So, that's what were up against in this battle with food. All of the times we used it in our lives to gloss over the abnormalities. Because that's what someone taught us. (Don't get me started on my teachers.)

    So, my amateur diagnosis is that you are more normal than you have ever been by feeling all of these feelings now. And it's OK to cry. And there is no cure for the overeating link, just our own vigilence. Heaven help us!!!

    I would not have been tardy to this posting if I would have been on my game. So I apologize, and I hope you're feeling better.

    There is hope! At least, that's what the pharmaceutical commercials tell us. C'mon, LOL! Or, cry out loud. Whatever makes you feel better.


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