Trauma, Emotional Eating and Weight Loss

The vast majority of people struggle with emotional eating from time to time. You might be asking yourself what trauma has to do with emotional eating and weight loss. Or, you might be very aware of the connection. For some, the occasional bout of overeating or emotional eating occurs on a pretty regular basis. Often this becomes what we refer to as a binge. Binge eating follows a pretty common pattern of symptoms including a preoccupation with food, eating to the point of discomfort, feeling guilt and shame, hiding eating from others as well as a few more symptoms. In my experience, when emotional eating reaches this level, there is usually some sort of trauma involved.

Trauma occurs on a spectrum. That could mean what we call the Big T traumas of war and abuse or Little T traumas of ridicule on the playground in school. Either way, if the experience created emotional distress and stuck with you to shape negative self-talk, it was a trauma. Think back to your earliest experiences with emotional eating and ask yourself:

When did your relationship with food take a turn to the dysfunctional?

How old were you the first times you called yourself names and sought comfort in food?

What was going on in your life when you began to feel like food was your friend?

What do you hope to feel when you find yourself eating and you know you aren’t physically hungry?

By identifying these earliest experiences, we can begin to repair your relationship with food. Facing the past can be scary, but eating your way through the feelings in an effort to avoid doesn’t seem to be working. I work with many clients who never see unresolved trauma as a barrier to weight loss. The reality is that it is the biggest barrier. If we resolve the events that have put emotional eating into motion, your body can get to its natural set point because you stop battling it with food. On the other hand, if you don’t resolve the trauma, you are likely to stay very fixed in your current patterns of self-sabotage in weight loss. Start living the life you want and deserve! Consider counseling to help you along the way.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.

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