‘I’m losing weight but still comfort eating’
“I’ve been going to a slimming organisation for 10 months and I’ve lost three stone but I’m still comfort eating. I haven’t changed my behaviours. I still raid the fridge when I’ve had a bad day at work, or I’m feeling fed up. I still binge when I’m feeling down. I don’t know why I do it. Can you help me?”
Does this resonate with you?
Many hypnotherapists will recognise this state of affairs.
Why do we comfort eat?
We use food in a number of different ways. To:
keep us alive
build family and community bonds
reward or treat ourselves
help us feel better.
When we eat, particularly sweet tasting foods or foods with a mix of fat and sugar, we feel more relaxed and less ‘on guard’. We like that feeling so we want more of it.
‘Comfort’, ‘stress’ or ‘emotional’ eating is when we know we are deliberately using food to self-medicate; to dampen down uncomfortable emotions, to lift our mood and feel better. People don’t like to experience unpleasant or unhappy emotions and the physical sensations that accompany them.
How was food used in your family?
Food may have been used as a reward in your family for being a good girl or boy. Food may be associated with special occasions like birthdays. Perhaps you were from a family where food was scarce or felt you were in competition with brothers and sisters to get your fair share. Were you given sweets when you fell and hurt yourself? These start to make the links between feeling good and food.
But it starts earlier than that. We build a bond with our mother or father when, as babies, we are fed by them. We experience feelings of safety and security. When we comfort eat we are trying to recreate that sense of comfort we had as a baby.
Unfortunately, the extra food we eat adds to our discomfort by increasing our weight. We then feel guilty that we’ve eaten the cake or chocolate or just more of anything. We head into the cycle of feeling guilty because we’ve eaten and then eating because we feel ‘bad’.
Hypnosis, nlp, cognitive behavioural therapies and mindfulness can all help people change their relationship with food and deal with uncomfortable emotions. Sometimes it is just that people eat too much, but if comfort eating is present, even with gastric band or hypno-band hypnosis, this needs to be addressed. Otherwise, in the long-term things may not change.