Skinny Daily Post


Over the past couple of years, understanding the motivations behind my impulse to overeat has been one of the more arduous challenges I’ve faced. In the past, I would always take the sort of ‘devil made me do it’ approach. Since eating to excess is ‘bad’ then the forces behind that action must be ‘bad.’ By the same token, since eating in moderation is ‘good’ then I can’t be ‘good’ if I’m not practing moderation.

Of course, there really is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in all of this. Value judgement like that tend to be more harmful than motivational. Particularly since once I’ve determined that I’m ‘bad’ then there is no further reason for restraint and suddenly all bets are off in the eating department.

From examining my own circumstances and from talking to a lot of people about their own challenges, I’ve become more and more convinced that we always get something from eating. Even when we overeat, having stated an intention to actually reduce consumption.

So what, exactly, is it that we are getting?

In some cases, I think we are driven purely by the physiological – foods that taste great provide us with all kinds of pleasurable stimulation. And we can get stuck in that ‘if this feels THIS good, keep doing it!’ mode. I’m particularly susceptible to this at parties, especially if I’m looking at endless amounts of tempting foods placed immediately in front of me.

Another factor in overeating is the emotional. It seems to me that whenever I’m in any kind of heightened emotional state, I’m driven to eat because it either feeds that emotion or I imagine it will calm me down, perk me up, soothe me, etc. What I’m getting from that is the feeling of control – that I can use food as the tool by which I can reconfigure my emotional state.

Third, I think another major driving force behind excess consumption is one’s belief system. Sometimes some of us have buried somewhere inside us the idea that we ‘deserve’ to overeat. In that case, when we HAVE been practicing moderation and portion control, we feel we are not getting what we ‘deserve.’ The other night I came home from a restaurant meal feeling virtuous and successful for having limited my portions, focused on the people, and left feeling satisfied. The next thing I knew I was rummaging through the cupboards to eat anything not nailed down. A friend of mine reported to me that she achieved a major weight loss milestone this weekend, and then proceeded to have a snackfest in the kitchen.

What we get from eating in those situations is not completely clear to me, but it does seem to have something to do with reward and comfort. At some level, these are actions we are performing in order to take care of ourselves, based on deeply held beliefs. And while it might be tempting to say that the answer is to instill new beliefs in ourselves about what we ‘deserve’ (i.e. a healthy body, trimmer figure, reduced blood pressure, etc.), I think that’s a lot easier said than done.

The bottom line is that I believe I’m driven not by evil, satanic, dark forces when I eat excessively. I get frustrated with myself and disappointed, I feel perplexed by my motivations and unhappy with the results. But I do know this. It’s not about being ‘bad.’ Its about being me.

10 thoughts on “Believe it or not

  1. stretch says:

    we all have a dark side that doesn’t fully let us believe we are wonderful, that we can achieve great things.

    sometimes we get low, and just expect to fail. There is some comfort in feeling like “I have no control over this” at times.

    It is so deep in our sub conscious that often we are rummaging through a cupboard before we realize that we walked across the room and opened the cupboard… there must have been a thought process going on, but what was it? why is it often so automatic? such a mystery.

  2. Debbi says:

    Your example of the lady who had a weight loss milestone followed by a snackfest could have been me last night. And the only thing I can attribute the “cheat” to was a little extra time on my hands. I had about 20 minutes before I could go to a class, and a convenience store was nearby. I felt like I was in a trance or something. Next time I leave the house I’m taking my knitting with me. I can *always* find a place to park the care and knit if I have to wait somewhere.

  3. Tex says:

    I must admit that I think much the same way as Jonathan. I certainly have not changed my eating habits the way I know I want them to be. I am not always acting in my own best self-interests. However, I believe that I can change this, as I have in the past overcome many other poor life habits, like smoking, which I quit 19 years ago. I look forward to the prize to be won and try to not concentrate on the failures behind.

  4. Marilyn says:

    I had laugh when Debbie described her actions as being in a “trance or something.” I can certainly relate. Last night I didn’t get home from school until 11:00 p.m. which is late considering I get up around 5:30 a.m. I wasn’t hungry because I brought something to eat before my class started at 8:15. So why did I eat when I got home? Was I tired and not thinking clearly? Was I also in a trance? In any case, I went to bed having just eaten something I didn’t really want or need and frustrated. After over 4 decades of dealing with food issues and participating in a weight management program for over 20 years, I still believe sometimes that others do not behave as I do. It is good to hear though that others act in the same ways I do. Strength in numbers? Misery loves company?

  5. Andrea says:

    Again, another timely post on a subject greatly on my mind. After two weekends of overeating, I’m definitely trying to sort out the whys (parties, winter blues, self-sabotage, etc.), working hard not to judge myself as “bad,” and trying to congratulate myself on jumping back on the wagon of good habits the next day. I’ve managed to lose 50 pounds since August, part of 100 from my all-time heaviest, and I know I’m reaching a “dangerous” time as the weight loss slows down and the winter closes in on me, making it hard to be patient with myself and making those Valentine chocolates look very tempting.
    Thanks again to Jonathan, JuJu and Jane, who continue to provide us with daily motivations to keep going on this worthwhile journey.

  6. stretchy says:


    It is more fun to visualize kicking those chocolates around the street than it is to eat them. This will be my 5th year without a big box of chocolates for Val’s day. I get perfume or lingerie instead. lasts longer.

    PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK for what you have accomplished and go forth knowing you are strong! You can get your exercise indoors, day or evening all winter long. (even while watching a sitcom or film)

    Tempt yourself with nutrient dense foods, exotic fruits, colorful veggies in a salad.

  7. Pat says:

    Thank you, Jonathan. That clearly explains to me the feelings I’ve been having about eating and the “whys”. Very perceptive and helpful.

  8. Nana says:

    Well, Jonathan, you are the living example of “it’s not what you did, it’s what you do now”. Your continuing introspection, and sharing of your insights touches more lives than you suspect. And your willingness to reevaluate and put the lie to that ‘bad’ label encourages us all that we CAN do this and reminds us that it’s a process, not an event.

    Thanks for all you do.

  9. cOOkie says:

    So many times I have asked myself before, during and after a binge why am I doing this? Even when I would understand the answer my overall emotional state would be “I don’t care”. I still don’t know how to deter my actions when I get in this frame of mind but one thing is for sure, I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone in this.

    Over the years I have been aware of various eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia but never had to deal with them. I turned to someone once and told them that I wasn’t sure what was “wrong” with me, why I needed food as badly as a druggie needed their fix and I wasn’t even sure if anyone at the time could possibly relate. My friend said “as long as you don’t become anorexic, that’s all that matters”. This hit me like a ton of bricks. I was confiding in her something that has always been at the root of my daily existance and she just shrugged it off as me being a glutton.

    It goes without saying that, even though I wish we all had a balanced healthy way of dealing with food, it is motivation enough to read the entries and comments here each day to gather extra strength from.

  10. Judy says:

    “…Even when I would understand the answer my overall emotional state would be “I don’t care”. I still don’t know how to deter my actions when I get in this frame of mind…”

    Wow Cookie, this is just how I feel. And all the understanding in the world doesn’t seem to help me right then.

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