If you’re an emotional eater and have struggled with gaining and losing the same weight OVER-and-OVER-and-OVER again, I’m going to assume that a program like Weight Watchers may have been a part of your repertoire at some point in your life.
I was actually a 1…2… 3… no 4 time member of Weight Watchers. Why did I keep going back? The same reason everyone else does, because I lost some weight but it always found me again. Now don’t get me wrong, I know Weight Watcher’s works for millions of people, I just wasn’t one of them.
My memories of Weight Watchers Past goes something like this:
- Making the trek to my weekly meeting (held in a funky church that smelled like stale pizza and musty furniture).
- Line up to get on a scale for the weekly weight in. Think herd of women going to slaughter.
- Fumble to remove shoes and excess clothing (every ounce counts) before getting on the scale.
- Hand WW booklet to the scale lady. Step on scale.
- Scale lady records my weight into the booklet and hands it back.
- Scale lady gives me an ever-so-slight smile, or blank look based on the number I did or didn’t hit that week.
I still remember feeling somewhat objectified (which I signed up and paid for) by the entire process. In that moment all you are is a number on a scale. Yay! You lost a pound! You were good! Boo-shame-hiss if you didn’t. You were bad.
It’s in those moments of BAD that we tend to go inward. We secretly internalize feelings running the gamut of: I’m weak…I’m lazy….I’m ashamed….I’m the f (a-t) word.
In addition to Weight Watchers there’s also Food Addicts Anonymous. FAA is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model. I recently spoke with a client who went through this program. Her result? A substantial, yet temporary weight loss.
Here’s the FAA insider scoop:
- You have a sponsor (like AA)
- You can only eat a very limited amount of ‘approved’ foods.
- If you did this you were considered ‘abstinent’ and GOOD.
- If you were abstinent and good you are ALLOWED to speak at the weekly meeting.
- If you strayed and were bad two things happened.
- You must confess to your sponsor that you ‘fell off the wagon’
- You are BANNED from speaking at the weekly meeting because you were, well… BAD.
So my big problem with programs like Weight Watcher’s and FAA for those struggling with emotional eating? In my not-so-humble opinion I think these programs are shame based.
Here’s what the brilliant Brene Brown says about shame:
“Shame is highly, highly correlated to addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide and eating disorders.”
For more on Brene Brown and shame check out my post here.
Shame and emotional eating are the best of friends. One cannot survive without the other. They’re the ultimate “tag team”. If you turn to food because you’re experiencing uncomfortable emotions it’s shame that swoops in, in that abusive little voice and says: “you’re lazy, weak, messed up, not good enough, you will always screw up.” Shame keeps you in that VICIOUS CYCLE of self abuse by turning to food to temporarily escape that feeling of self loathing. So around and around we go, on a ride that we can’t ever seem to get off of.
So, how do you break free from this vicious cycle? For someone who was in it for so many years I can wholeheartedly advise you that the one thing you must learn to do, first and foremost is:
LOVE YOURSELF NOW. ACCEPT YOUR BODY AS IT IS RIGHT NOW. When you stop ‘beating yourself up’ and start ‘loving yourself up’ your world will start to shift and change… I PROMISE.
Here are three powerful action steps that you can try to begin to Love Yourself Healthy:
- THROW OUT YOUR SCALE. Connect and focus on yourself and your body, not the number on a scale. It messes with your head and your heart. Better yet? Take a hammer to the %$#@ thing.
- STOP DIETING. What?! I know that sounds kinda scary huh? Well let me ask you this, has the Diet-Deprivation-Binge cycle worked for you so far?! When you take the CONTROL (your good days) and SHAME (your bad days) out of the equation you can then focus on eating more mindfully for nourishment and pleasure.
- FORGIVE YOURSELF AND TAKE ACTION. You can’t stop emotional eating overnight so when you do eat emotionally (we ALL do from time-to-time) you need to learn how to be gentle and how to forgive yourself. When you forgive yourself you are able to take the power away from the behavior. Instead get curious around what you’re feeling and start finding other ways to cope (write it out, get creative, take your dog for a walk, get a pedicure, have a cup of tea and curl up with a good book/movie, take a deep breathe and allow yourself to feel).
So, what are your thoughts and feelings around this topic? PLEASE share. Let’s start kicking down those walls of shame and start building a community of support and healing.