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Went from ‘Strict’ Eater to Compulsive Overeater

By December 11, 2012

I am a 47 year old emotional/compulsive overeater who has gained enough weight to put me in the overweight category and knocking on obesity’s door. In my younger years I also dealt with obsessive exercise, and while maybe not anorexic I was at the very least very strict with my eating. I am thankfully beginning to learn how to sit with my feelings rather than eating over them, but I wonder…how do I keep myself from getting caught up in the weight loss that may occur as a result from not eating compulsively? Where do I find the balance? – K.

Dear K.,

You are asking such an excellent question and are far from alone in your experience and concerns. With disordered eating, there is often a tendency to think in extremes—black and white, all or nothing. People swing from eating restrictively and/or exercising obsessively, to overeating and no physical activity. They bounce back and forth between dieting and eating carelessly. There is a sense that there is no middle ground—you are either very rigid, or lose all control. Sound familiar?

We have an article posted called “False Beliefs: Overeating,” which identifies some of the thoughts that fuel emotional eating. I think you would also benefit from the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole.

Regarding your concerns about becoming preoccupied with weight, first, I recommend that people don’t weigh themselves more than once a week. (For some, less often is even better.) Also, focus on the changes to your well being that come with healthier living—increased energy, improved stamina, strength and vitality. Enjoy improved moods and freedom from worrying about what the scale says. If you are still concerned and find yourself struggling, a trained therapist can guide you in the process of avoiding weight obsession.  See “Finding Treatment.”

Congratulations for the strides you have made towards dealing with your feelings and not turning to food. There really is a middle ground of balance, and even if you slip up on occasion, you never have to go back to the place you were before.

Keep pressing on!

Ann Capper, RD, CDN