Thursday, May 29, 2008

When losing weight means losing something else...

I admit it - I try to keep slim. But I still worry about the relentless emphasis on calorie counting that fills whole column yards in the media.

That's not only because too much emphasis on diet is counterproductive; time and again it's been proven that simply eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full is the best way to keep weight under control. My worry about the calorie counting brigade is also because I am firmly convinced that most eating problems are underpinned by some sort of emotional element.

Personally, I'm convinced by my own behaviour - quite simply if I'm under stress I mysteriously find myself opening the fridge door... for the seventh time that evening.

Professionally, I'm convinced by the behaviour of my readers - who in letter after letter reveal to me just how closely their weight is linked with their emotional state.

Scenario number one: eating for confidence. Low self-esteem, relationship abuse, under-achievement women in particular fill the low confidence hole in their lives by filling their mouths with food. If they feel good about themselves, the pounds drop off.

Scenario number two: eating for protection. If a woman feels vulnerable around others, particularly around men, she eats to gain weight and make herself feel invisible. If she starts to feel more in control of her relationships and her life, she doesn't need to be weighty.

Scenario number three: eating for anaesthetisation. If a woman is furious - or grief stricken, or afraid - and she doesn't want to show her fury or grief at those she loves, then she may eat to dull the sensations. Resolve the anger or the mourning and she won't need to over-consume.

Lesson here, for all of us. Next time you open the fridge door, ask yourself if it's really food you want. Or is it a confidence boost... an increased sense of control... comfort... a good cry... or permission to protest something bad that is happening in your life. Simply close the fridge door and go for it direct.

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