Dear Dr. Gould,
I have always had an eating problem and have used food as a prop for over forty years. I eat when I am happy, sad, anxious, contented or to procrastinate when I don’t want to do something and when I am bored. Also I have problems with potion control as it was always drummed in to me as a child to clean my plate and we always had big portions. Now that I am menopausal I am finding that not only am I an emotional eater but also I am hungry. Nothing I eat seems to satisfy me even though I do eat healthily a balanced diet except when I binge and in order to balance my hormones I eat every few hours.
Weight goes on much more easily and is mainly around the waist. It takes longer to come off and it is a real battle. I am probably at the worst I have ever been and I just think about food all of the time and it controls my life so much that it makes me miserable. I realize that I need to tackle the cause and not the symptoms and the course has really helped me to understand why I overeat and has provided me with the tools to help me overcome the problem. My question is how do I motivate myself to use the tools on a regular basis and is there anything else that I could do that would help for example hypnosis.
Thank you very much, this is an excellent course and I shall recommend it to my friends and family. It is the first time that I have found something that really helps to solve the problem and can be done confidentially, at times that are convenient without a referral from the doctor.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
You ask a lot of good questions. From all the things you’ve said it seems that there is a part of you that is asking you to mature and become an adult. This may seem like a silly notion considering you are a menopausal woman, but just consider it for a moment. Becoming an adult means leaving behind the parental voice that has been ingrained in you and putting an end to looking for comfort from a source outside of yourself. Being an adult is the best kept secret. It means you have the freedom and power to regulate your needs and the quality of your life. You deserve this kind of freedom. You deserve being free from the clutches of food and using your mind and creativity to find ways to give you a fulfilled life.
I found it curious that you said that when it comes to food, “nothing satisfies you.” I would ask you to consider if you’re feeling restless in your life. Is there a way in which you can’t get comfortable or are in a constant state of longing? Unmet needs lead to emotional hunger. That emotional hunger gets turned into physical hunger and that’s why you feel hungry all the time. Keep asking yourself what you’re really hungry for. Keep a running list of answers you get when you ask yourself that question. Let yourself be bold and limitless in your answers. Work with this list to find something new to try each week. Use this list to find sources of real fulfillment in your life.
To address the question of cleaning your plate—many people who were forced to clean their plate as a child carry that feeling with them into adulthood and it can contribute to weight gain. You share that in common with a lot of people. You’ll need to remind yourself that you’re not a child anymore. Each time you stop yourself when you’re full despite feeling like you have to clean your plate – you’ll begin to retrain your brain.
I would encourage you to take on the practice of writing five things each night that you’re grateful for or that you felt you did well during the day.
And finally, to address how you’re going to stay motivated, the answer is that you have to do it step-by-step. Stay on top of knowing yourself and your patterns. The more you can freeze frame the time before you’re about to binge, the better it is. In that moment, there’s a lot of information. Before giving in to the urge, find something you can do for about ten or fifteen minutes before eating (you should have a list written, you can even make a game of it, put choices on small pieces of paper and keep them in a Ziploc bag and pull one at random – things like walk around the block, clean something, balance your checkbook, take a shower, play a game of computer solitaire). This is not to distract you from eating, it’s to give you a period of time to consider, what is really going on for you, what are you upset about, what do you need. If a genie came out of a bottle in those moments when you’re about to eat, would you want the food or would you want something else. If you said something else, what would that be, and how could you take steps to actually having that thing in your life. You may find that you’re able to make a better food choice, or that you don’t need to eat at all. If you do eat at the end of the “time-out” don’t judge yourself, your goal at first should be just to observe yourself and what you really need.
Don’t view this as just another thing you have to do – view it as a game, a journey, a way to take the steps to feeling in charge of your life and fulfilled. Because, ultimately, once you have control of this pattern you will feel that way. It only takes not indulging in that urge a few times, to prove to your mind that nothing bad is going to happen if you don’t comfort yourself with food. But you can’t just stop, you have to replace the use of food, with something that is more effective. You have to trade up. This is the reason diets fail. Asking someone to take away a source of comfort without teaching them how to replace that comfort with a healthy source of comfort, creates so much anxiety and people ultimately fail when life presents stresses and strains. The more you learn to manage your emotions the less you’ll need to eat. Then any sensible eating plan will work.
We have five weight sessions under the Pocket Hunger Coach: Healthy Eating, Portion Control, Exercise, Feedback/Honesty and Bouncing Back which I think it will be very beneficial for you to try them and get help for each topic. After you add a behavior to your working on list, come back in three days to do a check-in and see if you are ready to move it to your congratulations list or if you need more time to work on it. Keep using the full ShrinkYourself program in parallel with the Pocket Hunger Coach to get better results, as you already know, modules like Zap My Craving, Fix My Mood, Master My Stress and Stop Procrastination are available for you to get more support on this weight control journey so you can tackle the cause and not the symptoms.