I have an issue with overeating. I live with my parents and they buy a lot of junk food. When I see food, I feel a compulsion to eat, and I do. I feel disgusted with myself. I want to change. I realize, though, that part of the reason I want to change is to look good on dates to gain acceptance from other people. The idea that I must change for others to accept me makes me feel pressured. What is the correct mentality to have to help a person accept themselves while still being motivated to change? Also, since our success is partially dependent on others accepting us, how can we deal when we have faults that others cannot accept?
Can’t control myself
Dear Can’t Control Myself,
You seem to be quite reflective, and raise such heartfelt questions. To begin with, your over eating may be your way of coping with some deep emotional pain. Over eating as a coping mechanism is not that much different than using drugs to escape painful feelings. They both often serve a similar purpose, that of numbing, forgetting, and avoiding the painful realities. The difference between compulsive drug use, and compulsive eating is that food is necessary for survival, which makes the recovery from over eating a bit more complicated. Yet there are thousands upon thousands of people who have been able to overcome over eating.
If I were to use a metaphor, I suspect that your desire for food is not due to physical hunger, but rather due to emotional hunger.
You might want to start by asking yourself what feelings am I numbing by eating compulsively? What is food replacing for me? When did I begin using food as a way of avoiding my feelings, or as a way of soothing myself? What am I trying to sooth?
It seems like some of the answers may be related to the rest of your post regarding feelings of acceptance. Acceptance is an interesting concept. What does it mean to you to be accepted? Are you really asking if people like you, and want to be with you despite your appearance? What is it that you think needs to be changed before you feel accepted by others?
You have not mentioned in your post whether or not you are overweight. I suspect, that is what you are referring to regarding motivation to change.
Sometimes the extra weight people put on unconsciously serves as a shield to keep others away from getting too close. It is not unusual to have ambivalent feelings about intimacy and closeness. So while you may desire to date, and be liked by others, you may also unconsciously be scared, and keep them away by your shield.
Feeling accepted should first come intrinsically. No matter how accepted you may be from the outside, you will not feel it unless you can accept yourself. In order to accept yourself, you might need to face your fears your pain, and all the emotions that you have managed to suppress by eating. You need to learn to be kind to yourself despite your limitations. We all have them. When you start this journey towards self-acceptance, you may appeal to your parents to support you by keeping a healthier nutritional household. But it has to start with you.
There are so many avenues for help. There is a self-help group called “OA” or Over Eaters’ Anonymous. The link is http://www.oa.org/. If, however, you prefer individual work, therapy with the right therapist would also be very valuable.
With Deep Regards,
Ask Your Therapists Team