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December 20, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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Emotional Eating - How do I stop?

Question:

I am about thirty pounds overweight and in the past few years I have been up to fifty pounds over weight. I have lost those twenty pounds three times and gained them back every time except this. I have managed to create other habits to deal with my emotional eating, which I think is the main source of the problem. I am in a long distance relationship with someone I barely ever get to see. I have known him and loved him for about eleven years and he says about the same of me, however it took about seven years for us to get together at which point it meant a long distance relationship. We talk daily but see each other very very rarely as neither of us have much money to travel. Neither of us is willing to relocate because we would have to make sacrifices that neither of us are willing to make because we have hurt each other tremendously in the past and we feel the other should make the sacrifice. At times I say move or it is over, and he never does. I always back down at his request most often but occasionally for other reasons. He is very emotionally stressed right now because his father has just become part of his life. He is only 23 and he is not dealing with it as well as he could. He is one of my few friends as well as boyfriend so I desperately want to help him. For that reason and my love breaking up isn't really an option. There are ties that will always mean we can't avoid each other for terribly long periods. Whenever we get back together I always binge-eat because I feel such emptiness because of the distance.

What are some techniques to stop eating when I feel emotionally empty? I already exercise and engage in various hobbies for other emotional eating habits but can't find something effective enough for this feeling.

Erika (22 year-old woman)

Answer:

Dear Erika,

Usually when someone considers going into therapy in their mind they are asking and willing to make changes to feel better. However, they are also saying that they don't want to change and certainly don't want to hurt. This is really standard and it is also understandable. However, it is very impractical. When something isn't working there is usually a very good reason for it. Symptoms of distress often appear because we are trying to go against nature and do what is against our better judgment and well being. I think that that is exactly what is occurring here.

Your body is really telling you that you want someone close to you and your head is trying to adjust and accept it. In this case I think your body knows best. Long distance relationships usually don't work for a very good reason. They don't give anyone enough to feel good and safe in the relationship and usually it is worse than being alone. Therefore, when someone tries to make it work they eventually have an affair with someone in town, get depressed, develop an addiction, or break off the relationship. They are untenable in the long run.

However, I do believe that there is another problem going on and that is the desperateness that you feel. In a really healthy and mature relationship that desperateness should not be there. That would indicate that some dependence on your part is active. If you don't take control of that problem it will lead to a series of failed relationships, addictions, and pain.

Early abandonment or smothering by parents or circumstances is what causes people to search out what they cannot get, in other words intimacy. A vicious cycle often develops. When someone has a distant or unavailable parent they wind up excusing the parent and decide that they are the ones that are unlovable. That sets up a hot spot that turns into a self fulfilling prophecy. If I am unlovable I want to find someone who will tell me otherwise, but I will subconsciously pick people who are distant so I can continue to believe lousy things about myself because I think that is reality and what I deserve. More than that someone who does love me will seem boring and rather stupid because I know better about myself. I what I am really looking for is to find a parent who will love me and the parent was often distant to begin with. Therefore, people with this problem have radar for inappropriate people and devalue people who can love and get close. As you said in your e-mail you need to know what type of guy is capable of love, but the first problem you have is not the right guy, but self-love. As long as you are not emotionally in love with yourself and see your self as complete you will have radar for the wrong kind of guy. The only way to get that kind of self love is to go into therapy yourself. I would suggest Family of Origin therapy with someone who has a lot of experience working with grief. For a person to pick more appropriately they have to grieve whatever losses in intimacy they have had and learn how to reparent themselves, which completes the individuation process. Most of us are only partially adult and still very much children emotionally. Therefore, we search out our partners to provide two goals. We want them to love us as our parent and as our lover and that is incest. On a cellular level the lover will realize things are weird and will back away even if they didn't have their own intimacy issues, which is always the case.

After this part is done then the issue of how you tell health from immaturity is important. In general healthy people do not need much. They take care of themselves emotionally and in most other ways, but feel more than ready to get close to others. They are in touch with their feelings and can talk about them spontaneously. They focus on the other person a lot, but not to fulfill their needs. They seem genuinely in the moment and interested in the other. There is a sense of calm about them and they do not play games. You don't have to guess what they are thinking or feeling because they tell you. That is why it seems boring at first because people with intimacy issues both love and hate the games and see love as a desperate challenge. It confuses them that real mature, healthy love is so calm. That does not mean it isn't deep and passionate. It is, but still calm. It should build slowly; most people confuse love with overwhelming need at first and see the desperate type of love as real love.

I would suggest reading "Is It Love or Addiction" by Brenda Schaeffer. Also check out the books of Geneen Roth on eating disorders. I hope this helps.

Take care,

Jef Gazley, M.S. www.asktheinternettherapist.com

This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.

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