Emotional Weight Gain

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New year, new resolutions. Has anyone ever seen a gym more crowded than in January? While many people resolve to lose weight each year, it is often harder than it looks. Some people use food as a means to cope emotionally, rather than to fill them up when they are actually hungry.

When people reflect on weight gain, they are often able to attribute the increase in pounds to a specific event: the passing of a loved one, a breakup, or another traumatic event. Instead of sorting through the emotions associated with the trauma, the person may turn to eating as a source of comfort.

Eating sometimes feels like the only activity someone can control: how much food is ingested (or, on the other extreme, not ingested) is always in a person’s control. With other often comorbid diagnoses, such as depression, the person may feel that he or she is out of control. With eating, the person always chooses what to eat, which may make the person feel better.

However, although the person may feel better, the fix is temporary: eating cannot solve other problems. Obesity has vast health consequences, and it is important to get the emotional aspect under control in order to focus on losing weight and getting healthy. Figuring out the reason behind emotional eating will help the person be happier, both mentally and physically.

If you feel like you are one of these people, don’t worry. You still have time to make yourself feel physically and mentally better.

Follow these Steps:

1. The first thing you need to do is admit you may have a problem with overeating.

2. It is important to keep track of your food intake: are you eating when you’re hungry, when you’re bored, or when you’re sad? What foods make you feel better or make you feel worse after you eat them? Do you tend to eat secretly or when no one else is around, such as late at night?

3. It is important to identify the triggers of overeating in order to work on resolving the underlying issues. Triggers are any thoughts, events, or behaviors that cause an emotional reaction (in this case, eating). Triggers can include the loss of a loved one, a fight, problems at work or in relationships, or even just a memory that stirs up emotions.

The best thing would be to go to a psychologist, if the overeating is tied to emotional issues, and a medical doctor who could set you on a healthier meal plan.

Rachel Rabinowitz

Rachel Rabinowitz

Clinical Psychology PsyD Candidate
Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Albert Einstein Medical Center
Psychology Extern at Yachad