WARNING: I've got some hard questions and some controversial thoughts floating around in my head. Although I'm not fond of riling people up, I also find it hard to be quiet when I see things that worry me. I honestly do care about people--be they strangers who are suffering from inner demons or children who are starving and suffering violence in far-off countries. So if I say something here that you find offensive, please be assured that that's not my goal.
There's a common denominator running through a lot (not all, but a lot) of weight-loss blogs: binge eating. I'm not talking about over-eating. Even thin people do that from time to time. I'm talking about stuffing; the all-encompassing urge to eat everything in sight; the inability to eat one or two, or even five or ten whatevers but rather to demolish the whole box or two at one sitting, no matter how physically sick that makes you feel.
I'm just describing what I've read on blogs out there. This is not an experience I've had myself, though yes, I know exactly what over-eating feels like.
I certainly admire the honesty these bloggers have shown--their ability to talk openly about their suffering, their painful self-awareness. What I don't understand is why the solution to binge eating seems to be first and foremost dieting: in other words, "wearing the diet-straight jacket" (I must only eat xyz...I must never eat abc...I must only eat at x time...I must never eat at y time...).
As an innocent bystander, I see dieting as putting the cart before the horse. In fact, I wonder whether dieting is a way of NOT dealing with the root cause of one's binge behaviour.
Self-awareness is a difficult, wonderful thing, but it is nothing but words unless we put it to use. Is the answer to never eat out, purge your home of every "offending" food, etc. etc. or is it to confront the demons lurking behind the disordered food behaviours?
We're all dealing with hard personal issues, though some of us more than others. Physical and mental abuse, especially spousal or directed toward children; illness; financial problems; deep-seated guilt, which is often totally unwarranted; feeling obliged to fit into a mould imposed by society, family, religion--all of these situations and more lead people to engage in extremely disordered behaviour. Sometimes this behaviour is highly anti-social (pedophiles who themselves were sexually abused as children), although more often than not, the disordered behaviour is turned in on oneself.
Binge eating is fundamentally a way to stifle emotions. It is a powerful control mechanism with powerful side-effects. But isn't dieting also a control mechanism? I must not, I will not, I cannot, I should not. And while bingeing can only make the pain go away for a limited time, straight-jacket dieting can only keep the beast at bay for a limited time. The underlying problems will still be there, festering, growing, unsolved, clawing to come back to the surface.
Binge eaters say that they cannot "do" intuitive eating. I can understand that. Following your intuition--your feelings--is seen as leading to a melt-down. Your feelings are telling you to eat, not your stomach, not even your taste buds. These feelings are so overwhelming that the food has nothing to do with eating.
For binge eaters, food is NOT just food.
So why are people dealing with emotional issues by imposing a food-based solution? Why are people using a bandage solution that can potentially add to the guilt and self-abuse when you go "off plan", as everyone inevitably does?
Eating a more wholesome diet is not a bad thing. Ceasing to rely on empty calories to keep your body going is a good thing. Appreciating a wide variety of food is liberating. That's what food's about.
It's probably much "easier" to engage in straight-jacket dieting than it is to go to couples counselling. leave an abusive situation, go into therapy, confront an abuser, consider new paradigms (you can be a good mom and work outside the home or conversely, maybe it's better to lead a more satisfying life with less stuff by cutting your hours at work, changing careers or taking a hiatus), etc.
Dieting is certainly a more "productive" short-term approach, but the statistics are there to tell us that it's a bust in the long-term. You can run, but you just can't hide. Isn't facing your non-food issues head-on rather than using dieting as a magic bullet precisely what you have to do to successfully deal with disordered eating and lose weight?