How does the picture above make you feel? Chances are you get a comfortable, warm feeling when you see a cottage pie. The emotional connection to food is s a strong one, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Food is evocative, it’s enjoyable and part of our social being. However, for some people the emotional attachment leads them to overeat, food is their emotional medicine. Eating too much leads to fat gain, which in turn makes them feel unhappy, and the cycle goes on.
I just watched Welcome to the World of Weight Loss, a BBC2 programme following dieters on the top three diet programmes in the UK, Weight Watchers, Slimming World and Rosemary Conley.
It left me with a sense of doom, futility and sadness. Setting aside the flaws in those regimes (losing weight on a diet of Dolly Mixtures, spring rolls and biscuits…and “Healthy extras and sins, they’re there for you”) something that really struck me was the whole load of emotion attached to weight gain and loss. The way childhood emotional experience and example-setting influences adult eating behaviour; the use of food as an ’emotional-plaster’; using weight loss techniques as a diversionary tactic from more difficult life situations; thinking that being slim brings happiness.
It seems that in many cases attempts at weight/fat loss are ultimately set to fail unless the emotional issues are dealt with. Yes you can reset somebody’s food habits and get them liking healthier meals and practising portion control, and get them taking exercise but there may always be the danger of emotional sabotage. i.e. if something doesn’t go right for them they turn to overeating.
It’s something that I am not qualified to deal with, I’m a nutritionist but it needs a different sort of professional alongside. What I mean is that sometimes fat loss requires a team of supporters and not just dietary advice. Whilst we at fitnaturally can provide a caring and experienced ear we are not psychotherapists so our endeavours to fix people’s emotional eating may only go so far.
It was very thought-provoking and something I’ll be thinking about in terms of working with clients and building a team of support when it’s clear that is necessary.