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Caught in an Endless Cycle of Emotional Eating and Dieting

By Michelle May, M.D.

I wonder if you’ve experienced anything like Connie, who feels trapped in a vicious cycle of emotional eating and dieting, leaving her feeling confused and hopeless.

Emotional Eating“My diet started with the best of intentions and a perfect breakfast: a half-cup of steel cut oatmeal with blueberries, a hard-boiled egg, and coffee with a quarter cup of skim milk. Before I left for work, I took the time to pack my lunch of mixed greens with cucumbers, tomatoes, and a three ounce chicken breast, with light vinaigrette. I even brought my exercise clothes so I could go to Zumba after work. I felt like I was finally back in control. If I stuck to my diet plan of 22 points a day, I would buy myself a bathing suit for my summer vacation.

“When I got to work there was an email from my boss asking me to stop by his office before lunch. I worried about that meeting all morning long and during it, my worst fears were confirmed: I had missed a deadline. I was humiliated. How did I let that happen?

“I was relieved when my co-workers asked if I wanted to go to lunch with them. I needed to get out of there. We ended up at my favorite hamburger place, but even a combo didn’t make me feel much better—just stuffed and almost out of points. I felt guilty as I passed by the refrigerator at the end of the day and remembered my salad. I’d failed again! I couldn’t do anything right. I changed my mind about going to Zumba. I’d already blown it today.

“On the way home I remembered that Ron and the kids were going to a ball game and I felt a rush of excitement. I would be able to eat whatever I wanted! I picked up a large pizza. I put on my sweat pants and turned on the TV to zone out for a while. No deadlines, no points, no summer bathing suits.

“I was vaguely aware of the pain in my stomach but I just couldn’t stop eating until the whole pizza was gone. I was stuffed after eating it, but I felt calm. Afterward I sat there feeling stunned and sick. I felt a wave of rage, then shame that I’d let this happen again. It was hopeless.

“Then reality clicked in; my family would be home soon. I gathered up the evidence and walked it down to my neighbor’s garbage can. I was in bed with a book when my husband came home. I turned out the light to hide the tears streaming down my face.”

A Common Problem

Although Connie’s story is the opening to Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating: A Mindful Eating Program for Healing Your Relationship to Food and Your Body, we’ve heard similar stories from people who have participated in our Am I Hungry? ME-BE Retreats.

Here are some of common themes we hear from others who struggle with emotional eating:

  • They are smart, accomplished people (some of us are even doctors!).
  • They are extremely frustrated that while they’ve mastered other areas of their lives, their eating continues to stymie them.
  • Most of them have tried a lot of different diets (or even bariatric surgery) and have experienced temporary success numerous times. That only adds to their shame and frustration.
  • Most harbor extreme shame about their emotional eating. Camerin Ross Ph.D., who will be leading the therapy groups at our next ME-BE Retreat, described her past experiences with shame: “Every time I unconsciously ate in solitude and hid the evidence, I built layers of shame over one of my basic human needs: eating for enjoyment. I learned to resent eating for nutrition and craved moments alone when I could eat whatever I wanted in the privacy of my own mind where I was safe and alone.”
  • As a result of the shame, nearly all have been very secretive about their struggle.
  • Nearly all of them dislike or even hate their bodies – no matter what size or shape they are! (I assure you people of all sizes struggle with their eating and you absolutely cannot know about a person’s relationship to food or their body by looking at them, as Nesha’s story shows us.)
  • Many of them said that they had all but given up on ever finding a way to heal their relationship with food and their body and some said the retreat was a last-ditch effort.
  • For some the ME-BE Retreat was a significant investment but they wanted more from their lives than the endless cycle of emotional eating and dieting.

Uncommon Results!

If you struggle with emotional eating and/or binge eating, there is hope! Here are some of the comments we received after our most recent Am I Hungry? ME-BE Retreat:

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I really, really, really, really wanted to say that to you. If I could put into words how you have helped take a load off my heart, mind, and body. You have given me hope when I didn’t think life had anything left for me. This retreat was life changing – the peace is priceless!”

“Thank you for the guidance. I enjoyed the practice applications of meeting the needs of my body, mind, and spirit. It was such a life gift!”

“I can’t even begin to put into words how satisfied I am that I came. Everyone was extremely knowledgeable and compassionate. It was beyond my expectations. This was the best gift of time to myself! Seeing myself and the other participants change over the course of a few days was priceless! Thank you very much!”

“It helps you make peace with food and live a life of your choice. Not a quick fix, but a sustainable process.”

“Mindful Eating is something I can do for the rest of my life. I had become so frustrated with the binge–restrict–binge cycle. This is something I can do for the rest of my life and be at peace.”

Claim the big life that is waiting for you!

Do you struggle with the endless cycle of emotional eating and dieting? Do you sometimes binge eat? Do you want to heal your relationship with food and your body? Do you wish you felt more in charge of your eating – and your life?

Learn how an Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Binge Eating Program or Retreat will help you:

  • Stop obsessing about food, eating, and your weight.
  • Learn how to interpret your needs through the language of your emotions.
  • End mindless and emotional eating.
  • Become the expert in yourself – knowing when, what, and how much to eat without rules or restriction.
  • Eat the foods you love without fear, guilt, or bingeing.
  • Never again exercise to earn food or punish yourself for eating.
  • Build your self-care buffer zone and nurture your body, mind, and spirit.
  • Feed your appetite for life!

 

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About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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