Does there have to be a reason?

One of the many things I love about this blogging community is that what I read really makes me think.  And ask questions.  There have been many posts lately and many comments that have really gotten me wondering about something and I ‘d like to throw it out here and get your input.  This inquiring mind really wants to know!

There is no succinct way to ask this, so please bear with me as I work my way around what I am thinking.  I’ll start with this comment that I wrote on Peaceful Bird’s blog recently. 

The old saying goes… it’s not what you are eating, it’s what’s eating YOU. Sometimes there is truth to that. Sometimes not. Sometimes for me it is just about food and habit and boredom.

I have been wondering for some time now, if there is a reason why I overeat.  Now, and in all the yo-yo years past.  And I wonder if it matters.  I don’t mean a little emotional eating now and again or bad habits developed over time, I mean… a big haunting meaningful reason.  I have seen countless bloggers describe the foundation of their food issues, many stemming from childhood.  And, of course there is Oprah, who for years has been explaining that she finally realized her eating was not about eating at all.  She and many of you out there would surely tell me that there must be some reason behind my eating that comes from something other than habit and boredom.  And that until I figure that out and address it I will never really conquer this thing.

But I just don’t know if that makes sense for me.  I have asked myself, now and in the past, what might might be missing from my life that leads me to fill myself with food instead.  Or what I am afraid of that keeps me from staying thin.  Or if I don’t think I am worthy of something.  Or what other emotional or psychological issue might be behind it all.  And I never come up with anything that seems like it could provide my ah-ha moment.  So I have to wonder if there just isn’t any thing significant that really drives my relationship with eating.

If someone were to ask me why I have food issues or weight issues, I would say that I simply never developed healthy eating habits and that I fall, again and again, into my old habits.  And I would say that I eat out of boredom.  When I reflect back on my childhood, I was basically happy.  And thin.  And my parents were thin.  And my mom served healthy food.  Sure there was ice cream and snack cakes.  Sure I preferred their taste to veggies.  I could eat all the junk I wanted back then and not gain weight but I don’t remember eating all that much of it.  Then my metabolism changed.  And the yo-yo years began.  And I just like pizza and cookies better than veggies and lean protein.  Bad food choices became the norm.  Sigh.  I think my overeating got worse over the years as I dieted and reacted to being deprived.

But through it all, it seems to be about eating.  The taste sensation or texture that I want in my mouth.  The physical act of chewing.  Is there something hidden behind it all that makes me feel that desire, that craving, that need to eat?  I honestly don’t know.

Once I thought it did not matter.  That I could conquer my eating issues with good habits.  As recently as last month I thought I had figured it out, the whole lifestyle-not-a-diet-that-ends thing, the new good habits.  But with my recent bouts of overeating and all that I have read from others, I really do wonder.

So I ask you, wise readers, for your thoughts on this.  Does there have to be a big cosmic reason why someone has years of food issues?  Or can it really be simpler and more obvious – habits, boredom, taste buds that have been trained to love sugar, the occasional stresses of life that leads one to the food.  Can it be just about self control and willpower, or the lack thereof, and certain trigger foods?  I expect they’ll be some very different opinions here.  And I suspect that the answer may be different for each of us, that for some there is a big reason behind the eating, or lots of small reasons, but for others it is not about that at all.  And I know you really can’t give me the answer I am looking for – the answer as it applies to me.  But I would welcome your input as I think this through.



Filed under cheating/overeating, emotions/emotional issues

42 responses to “Does there have to be a reason?

  1. I really believe that the answer is completely different for each and every person. I think it can be a whole potpourri of things from the “big” things to smaller things like habit, boredom, lack of will power, being in a hurry all the time etc.

    I definitely eat out of bad habits and boredom..without a doubt. I also definitely am an emotional eater. It was only 3 weeks ago that I identified a 23 year old reason for stuffing emotions down. After 5 years and thousands of dollars spent on therapy, one would think I’d have figured out the “emotional” stuff! LOL

    It definitely does not have to be some big cosmic thing. I also really think nailing down new good habits is imperative. If something is a habit, we don’t have to think about it..and that helps a whole lot!

    Each person is on their own journey and will find what works for them.

    Hopefully we’ll all figure it out and be able to live the most healthy, vibrant versions of ourselves we can.

    • Karen

      Thanks for sharing that Julie. My new good habits are indeed slipping… so maybe I should focus on those instead of looking for mysteries to solve.

  2. sunnydaze

    Your comment tells it all: “But through it all, it seems to be about eating. The taste sensation or texture that I want in my mouth. The physical act of chewing. Is there something hidden behind it all that makes me feel that desire, that craving, that need to eat? I honestly don’t know.” …You are eating for comfort. I recently discovered the same thing about myself after reading “The Solution” by Laurel Mellin. That books explains why we emotionally eat and how to solve it once and for all. It def. makes sense. It’s exactly like Sunny and the book said – if we are eating past the point of being satified to the point of fullness (whether we are eating chicken and broccoli or chips and dip) we are emotionally eating. We just need to dig deeper and find out why.

  3. Karen, are we twins? Because I’ve had these exact same thoughts. For myself, what I have decided is it’s not so much the reasoning, but the end choice: no matter the reasons behind why I may eat, in the end, I still have the choice to make. Unless somebody is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to eat Dunkin Donuts, I’m responsible for my choices and what I choose to put (or not put) into my mouth!
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Silence =-.

    • Karen

      LOL. I think if I made that end choice more consistently, like I was not too long ago, I would worry less about any reasons, real or imagined.

  4. Sometimes I think you are inside my head. 🙂 I think we all have individual answers, and as you read on my blog, I think that many times we already have those answers somewhere inside us. For *me*, it was going through a similar thought process as you describe and discovering that there really wasn’t some huge emotional issue that explained why I was overweight. I’d spent so many years trying to conquer the wrong problem! It seems so silly now. But once I let emotional considerations go, I was left with an intellectual exercise and my entire focus shifted. As did my success rate. 🙂

    • Karen

      I am glad to hear that because I really hold you in very high esteem as a success at this whole thing and a role model to follow. And you have such wisdom. Just today I was drafting a post based on a comment you made and something you wrote in your blog. Maybe I need to go back and read more of you old stuff, before I found you, to learn more about this and how you did it.

  5. Very interesting & thoughtful (plus thought-provoking) post, Karen.

    Personally, I don’t think that there is one answer, and I think all the reasons you said, plus others, affect us over time.

    I turned a corner a few years ago when I stopped looking for a reason. I focus more on the behavior, and realize there are lots of behaviors I’ve successfully changed in my life, and I can change this one.

    The other major breakthrough I had was realizing that there is also a biologic role of fat & that drives the body to want to feed the fat & replenish lost fat. It sucks, it’s unfair, etc etc but knowing that BIOLOGY is playing a role made it seem so much easier. It’s not weak willpower, it’s overcoming my biology. My ancestors were Russian peasants. They survived famine winters. We’re good at stocking calories & hanging on to calories. On a 1200 calorie diet I will lose half as fast as most people. My body is very efficient at gaining, very protective against losing. It doesn’t change the effort I need to lose weight, it doesn’t make it impossible, it doesn’t give me an excuse to stay fat. But it does make me relax and accept that it will take time, be a constant battle against biologic urges to fill those fat cells back up & something I’ll need to be mindful about forever. Somehow realizing that brought me peace.

    I have plenty of emotional stuff I could drag up to “explain” it but I felt I got the best answers — and practical direction — for myself this way.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..The danger of the scale =-.

    • Karen

      “I turned a corner a few years ago when I stopped looking for a reason. I focus more on the behavior, and realize there are lots of behaviors I’ve successfully changed in my life, and I can change this one.”

      I would like to think I can do the same. But with all my yo-yo years and continued eating when not hungry, I do wonder.

  6. I think it depends on the person. Some people definitely have some emotional attachments to food – often forged in their childhood. Other people don’t know how to eat correctly and never learned proper portion control, etc.

    BUT, I have to say in my 12 years of teaching classes and working with people one on one, I’ve found the people who do not have any emotional issues with food to be few and far between.

    I guess for me it really boils down to determining the whys of our overeating. Rather it’s just the love of all foods, inadequate education, emotional issues, or whatever – knowing how to overcome it and fix the problem is key to success. Because if you don’t identify the issue, then your dietary changes may be focused on the temporary absence of certain foods to the exclusion of working on a lifestyle change.

    Just my two cents!!
    .-= Diane Fit to the Finish´s last blog ..Share What You Know! =-.

    • Karen

      See this is what I expected, such different opinions. Exactly why I am questioning. Just one more piece of this journey that is not easy. Sigh.

      Thanks for weighing in. (No pun intended.)

  7. I agree with what you said at the end of your post, there are different reasons for different people. For some I’m sure eating was a way to cope with a childhood trauma, for others obesity is a result of the excessive demands of living and working in capitalist societies where there is no time for self-care and an abundance of cheap, fat laden, poisonous food. For some it’s being completely ignorant of what constitutes good nutrition and the importance of exercise,for others it’s addiction to fats, sugar and carbohydrates and for others still it’s simply that they are gourmands and totally in love with food etc. I really do think the reasons vary but the cure is pretty much the same. 🙂
    .-= Nona´s last blog .. =-.

    • Karen

      But is the cure really the same? Is it just that we don’t apply it? Or is it that one size really doesn’t fit all and I (everyone) needs to figure out what we really need before we can find a solution? Just wondering.

  8. Wow, very thought provoking post. I’m wondering if it could be a combination of several things? I think we have a lot in common. I know my eating issues are a makeup of many different things that have snowballed over the years. It’s hard to undo a lot of that, but I think it’s possible. I do better now that I’m aware, know what I mean?
    .-= Anonymous Fat Girl´s last blog ..Should you exercise when sick? + Curried Bison Biryani & Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies =-.

    • Karen

      Yes. And I am really doing better too. But what gets me is that as much as I think I have figured out about how to live a healthy lifestyle, I still have not conquered things. So what am I really trying to conquer?

  9. Hmmm. I’m not sure why. I’m the youngest of 4. The others are all perfectly normal sized, even on the thin side. Our parents were wonderful. No junk food in the house growing up. I (over) eat for all sorts of reasons–sad, angry, happy, excited. You name it. I’m not so sure it matters why I over eat. I’m beginning to think that it matters more that I turn the corner and go in what I know is the right direction rather than trying to blame some misdirection (from someone or something else) in my past.
    .-= Tish Oliver´s last blog ..All Is Not Lost =-.

    • Karen

      So I saw Oprah today and she came up with a reason from her past, different from the abuse she had talked about before, as the foundation for her eating. It just made me think that I have nothing like that. But maybe there is some other something, like basic self-esteem issues. I just don’t know.

  10. I remember eating McDonald’s, Baskin Robbins, home made ice cream and basically eating sugar my entire childhood. I was a RAIL. Seriously, everyone thought I was sickly. So, I too had my metabolism change at around age 27. That’s when then weight came on and just kept coming. I’ve successfully lost it in the past, but as I get older, old tricks don’t work. I also think I just stop believing I can do it! Another great post! Thanks!
    .-= Diet Buddy´s last blog ..Workout Today! =-.

    • Karen

      I know you can do it! And the funny thing is that I thought I knew I could do it too. The optimist in me is going to say I am sure I can do it. Regardless of why I eat… I can do it!

  11. This is a great post, because I’ve wondered many of these same things. I know that they purposely make food so that we can’t stop eating it, so that way they sell more. Sometimes it’s simply that.
    .-= Carla´s last blog ..Raspberries and other treats =-.

    • Karen

      It amazes me that some people go through life just not thinking about food like I do. Just eating when hungry. Sigh.

  12. Genie

    I definitely don’t think that everyone has a “big haunting meaningful reason” for overeating. I think it’s very easy to form bad food habits in our society. Food is equated with FUN!!! It’s a social experience. It’s a reward. It’s a network. So forth and so on. So many messages!

    We have to eat anyway, why not eat chocolate turtle cheesecake? It’s so fabulous!

    I think we all have different reasons, some with deeper roots than others, but all of us have similar day-to-day temptations and battles with that fun, fabulous, rewarding substance that we call “food”.

    • Karen

      LOL. You are right. It tastes good. And we are so conditioned to have it be part of our lives as you describe. My son is coming home from college next week and I am baking him cookies and all his favorites meals. Hmm.

  13. What a question…. I think everyone has different reasons. Some people say they were never exposed to how to eat healthy, others say it’s because they were forced to only eat healthy, food can be a drug, it can be a backlash binge to deprivation dieting, numbing emotions, etc.

    I do wonder though why “food” is my issue and not alcohol, cigarettes, excess shopping, etc. You know my story…I was raised in a diet crazy household. I think my parents will be on a diet till the day they die…even though they bounce around in the same 20 lb range.

    For me…I feel like I’m trying to catch up on times when I wasn’t allowed to eat certain things…or rebel against the deprivation style of dieting I was exposed to for many years.

    Sometimes…I wish I could just switch the magic switch and get over it and eat like a “normal” person.

    Tough question….
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Oprah… =-.

    • Karen

      “Sometimes…I wish I could just switch the magic switch and get over it and eat like a “normal” person.” Me too. But as for the rest, my mom is one of the sanest eaters I know. I wish that had rubbed off on me.

  14. It’s funny isn’t it. I was always looking and looking and heavy. I stopped looking, started doing, lost the weight and found the reason. I was going at it backwards.

    I think at the heart of it, whatever it is, emotions, boredom, habits, whatever, we can’t expect to keep it off we we don’t figure out how to change something to make it stick. Doing the same thing and expecting different results, you know what they saw 😉
    .-= Rita @ The Giggly Bits´s last blog ..Flipper vs War of the Worlds =-.

    • Karen

      Which is exactly why I love Einstein’s definition of insanity – “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

  15. Where do I begin. I don’t know why I eat the way I do. What am i missing , I don’t know. I’m really hoping to discover that in myself.
    .-= Bringing Pretty Back´s last blog ..NOT so sweet 16 =-.

  16. Well, I certainly am a late responding to your wonderful invitation to spout my thoughts… I’m going to read the other comments AFTER I write mine.

    One big cosmic reason? No, not for the vast majority of us overeaters. Several reasons, plus habits that develop over the years? Yes, that’s it for most of us.

    In Overeaters Anonymous, the thought is that compulsive overeating is a progressive and incurable disease. For some it starts at a very young age; for others it’s adult onset. The cause? Partially genetic, partially psychological, partially circumstantial.

    For me, yeah, I think there are some reasons that go back to my childhood and youth. I also think that eating to numb lonliness, boredom and sadness is a habit that began in childhood. And to break the habit, I’m going to have to find other ways THAT WORK to deal with those feelings.

    I’d like to suggest that you get ahold of a copy of Holy Hunger by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas. It really helped me to look at the reasons behind my overeating and the huge risk to my spiritual and psychological welfare involved in continuing to overeat.
    .-= Peacefulbird´s last blog ..Progress Report #1 =-.

    • Karen

      Thanks, I will check it out. It is interesting how you say “eating to ‘numb’ boredom.” I think I eat out of boredom but didn’t thought of it differently, as just filling the time. Then I saw Geneen Roth on Oprah yesterday and she would certainly go with your way of looking at it. Ah if only there were easy answers. Your story is so different than mine but your blog posts often strike chords that I can relate to and that make me think about my own issues and life.

  17. You got some great comments here..a thought provoking post. I can only add a little…”all of the above”.and it’s individual, food tastes good, what really is normal? maybe “normal” people are few and far between. Maybe “normal” people are normal about food but are obsessed with hair products or their feet or correct pronunciation or their child getting in to the right kindergarden to track them towards the Ivy league. It’s what we choose to think about , enjoy, focus on instead of having a completely full and varied life.
    .-= Ms PJ Geek´s last blog ..Looking forward to……… =-.

  18. I’m like you in that I can’t identify some big emotional event that caused me to overeat. I am positive that emotions are part of my overeating … what better friend is there than food to comfort and make you feel better at least temporarily? But the reality is that there are always going to be things that affect me emotionally and I need to learn how to deal with them without turning to food. The other part of it for me was realizing being overweight was not just something that happened to me … I made choices along the way that made it happen. Until I took responsibility for getting overweight, I couldn’t take responsibility for losing it.
    .-= Siobhan´s last blog ..running just as fast as we can =-.

    • Karen

      The thing about me is that I have lost weight and reached my goal time and time again. But then I regain. That is what makes me really start asking, this time. So I can break that cycle. If there is something bigger than I realize that is keeping me from comfortably living with myself at maintenance… maybe I need to address whatever that is. Maybe. Sigh. I just don’t know. And the comments I got are so thought provoking and so varied.

  19. Karen, such a smart, smart post. For years I hyper-analyzed this issue, psychoanalyzed it, wrote about it, everything. And guess what? I was still fat and couldn’t diet. I think the biggest problem for me was that once I started my cycle of dieting/deprivation and then bingeing/gaining it back (from age 15 to 40) that was it.

    In my program (12 stepper) and in all 12 step programs, it doesn’t matter how or why you got this way, just that you get the obsession of craving. For me, there was no way to fix this without my program. And with it I’ve had ten years of maintaining a normal weight.
    .-= Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla´s last blog ..Happy Anyway =-.

    • Karen

      I knew you had been maintaining for a long time, but nothing really about how you got to that place and stayed there. I guess I need to go back through your blog, the posts before I discovered you and started reading, and see what wisdom I can learn from.

  20. I just found you and man this is what I’ve been thinking about for several weeks! How did you get into my head? Oprah and others say there is always “something” in your past that makes you overeat. I’m just not sure I believe that. I’m bad about trying to fit into the “box” and I just don’t think I’m going to be able to this time. Can’t wait to read the rest of your blog this weekend.
    .-= Terri´s last blog ..BYOC ~ my first =-.

    • Karen

      I don’t think there is a “box” when it comes to this weight issue stuff. Just as there is no one-size-fits all diet. It just makes it so much harder.

  21. For me, I don’t think emotions had a whole lot to do with it– maybe that makes me unusual. Not that I don’t eat out of boredom, distress, etc, but really I think for me it had more to do with bad habits (eating too fast, etc), an overly rich diet (though a fairly healthy, whole-grainy one) and the fact that 50 extra pounds is really only about 500 calories a day. It is not at all hard to eat 500 extra calories. For years I didn’t really diet and I didn’t really binge– I just ate more than I really needed, which I think is really easy to do in the food culture we have.

    • Karen

      Eating 500 calories is easy! And the older we get, the less calories we can eat as our metabolism slows. Which means we either cut calories, work out more, or gain weight.

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