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Perimenopausal and an Emotional Eater

By November 21, 2012

Hi! This is my first time I’ve sent a question. I have been getting info from this website since it started. I have come a long way in my thought processes; however, I still have a way to go. I am 45, perimenopausal, 5 ft 5 1/2″ tall and weigh between 125 and 130 pounds. I used to weigh 110-115 in my 20’s and 30’s and it still bothers me that I now weigh what I weigh. A year ago I weighed 135 and thought I was going to freak out!!!! We finally joined the YMCA and I had lost 10 pounds in 3 months by doing cardio and weight lifting (I used to lift weights in my 20’s). Since the holidays I have not really worked out and I struggle with food. I realized that my whole life I have been an emotional eater but it never affected my weight because I had such a high metabolism for so long. But once I hit my 40’s that all changed. I can no longer eat the amount of food that I used to eat but I really still want to and have a lot of trouble with stopping. I have never been anorexic or bulimic because I love food and hate to throw up. So that won’t be a problem. Instead, I just dwell on my emotional eating all the time. Some days I feel okay about my body, but mostly I obsess about my flabby abs, poochy stomach, and obliques. Because I don’t look overweight to others (but I know that I am), it is hard to talk to others about this. I’m sure you all understand this. I just need some encouragement and accountability. My best friend of 8 years just moved away in Nov. so there went my encouragement and accountability partner. I am a believer in Jesus and I know he can help me. I have prayed about this for over 2 years and my thoughts are not changing. I thought God made it clear to me that I could lose the weight but it would be the hardest thing I ever do; I would have to be disciplined and have to stop eating when I am not hungry. Well… it’s not happening and I am very frustrated and I know I can’t do this on my own and don’t know what else to do. Thanks for any help you can give me! – Bete

Dear Bete,

First, let’s talk about the physical changes you have experienced. When you were in your twenties and thirties, your weights were actually on the low end for your height. In fact, your more recent weights have been well within a normal, healthy range. So from a health perspective, the amount of weight you have gained is not a concern. A good goal, however, is to stay within a healthy range and not continue a trend of gaining—by living a healthy lifestyle in a non-obsessive way. I sense from your letter, however, that your issue is more with how you look, than your health.

You are wise to seek advice and resources on dealing with your emotional eating. I can refer you to books and articles on nutrition and positive lifestyle changes, but until you get at the root of the issues that are driving your overeating, those just won’t be effective in the long run. I think you would get a lot out of the book Thin Within by Judy and Arthur Halliday, which will help you explore the emotional as well as the spiritual aspects of food and eating. (For the record, however, I don’t like the title of the book—we are not all designed to be thin.) If you are still struggling after reading this book, then it’s time to seek counseling with a professional.

It’s clear from your letter that you are experiencing much anguish, fear and frustration related to eating, your body and weight. Are you striving for unrealistic standards? Does it really matter that your body is not as firm as it once was? As someone who is older than you, I can tell you that it is exhausting to try and fight some of the natural changes in appearance that come with age. It is much more satisfying to try and live a healthy life—physically, emotionally and spiritually—that is free of obsession.

Regarding your friend moving away, I understand that you feel a loss, especially because she was a main source of encouragement and accountability in your life. If there is not another person who can replace that role nearby, perhaps you can keep in touch with your friend by regular e-mails or phone calls, and continue to seek each other’s support. Sometimes, just writing things out helps as you sort through your thoughts and feelings, set goals, and strive to follow through.

So it is my hope and prayer that you will find healthier ways to cope with stress than using food, continue to stay active, and eat for both pleasure and good health. Take good care of yourself, and let your weight naturally migrate to its healthiest level (which may or may not mean a loss of pounds for you). You will experience God’s peace in a new and wonderful way.

Blessings,

Ann

Dear Bete,

I want to speak to another part of your letter. You state that you struggle with “emotional eating” and then close with the following: “I have prayed about this for over two years and my thoughts are not changing.” I do not think, especially in the area of internal change, that we can simply pray about how we want things to be, because there is no end to our wanting.  We want to be strong. We want to be beautiful. We want to be thin. We want to age like we are not really any older. Get it? There is no end to our human wanting.

You wrote that you are a believer in Jesus. But what do you really believe is at the heart of your prayers to God? Are they based on a want for Him to change who you are? Or to know Him—His heart for you? If an absolute healing miracle occurred tonight and you no longer had a single thought about food, about weight, or about exercise, what would you be doing?  What would be different about you? And what would an observer notice that has changed about your prayers?

It is my hope that you can experience a level of relationship and peace with your body, with food, and with how God chooses to work within you.

May blessing and peace go with you,

Leanne