Overeating

Brooke: What would your life be like if you could only eat when you’re hungry?

Client: Horrible. That would suck.

Brooke: Why?

Client: Because when it tastes so good it makes me happy.

Brooke: So, overeating makes you happy?

Client: Yeah. Sometimes.

Brooke: How do you know you are happy when you are overeating?

Client: What do you mean?

Brooke: Are you smiling? Laughing? Feeling joyous inside your body?

Client: Um. No. Actually I think I’m feeling guilty.

Brooke: While you are overeating?

Client: Yeah.

Brooke: So overeating makes you feel guilty? Not happy?

Client: Right. So I guess happy isn’t the right word. It comforts me.

Brooke: Overeating comforts you?

Client: Yes. Like when I am out to dinner with friends. Or after a long day of work.

Brooke: So what is comforting about it? Is it physically comfortable when you overeat?

Client: No, not physically. It is actually physically uncomfortable. Emotionally it is comforting.

Brooke: How does overeating emotionally comfort you? How do you know you are comforted?

Client: Well, it feels better than trying not to eat it. Let me put it that way.

Brooke: Ok. So it feels bad not to overeat and it also feels bad to overeat? Is that what you are saying?

Client: It feels bad after I overeat. During it feels good. It tastes good.

Brooke: So when you overeat food that tastes good, you feel good?

Client: Hmmmm. Well I guess not. No. I feel physically uncomfortable, guilty, and kinda anxious while I am doing it-not just after.

Brooke: So, what I hear you saying is that to avoid feeling bad, you eat and feel bad.

Client: (Laughing) Oh my God. Totally!

Brooke: Being unhappy when you aren’t eating, doesn’t mean you will be happy when you are eating.

Client: Seriously. You’re Right! I have been telling myself that the reason I am unhappy is because I can’t eat all of it-but that is not true. Because I am unhappy when I do eat all of it!! I am unhappy either way!

Brooke: So maybe overeating isn’t the solution. Maybe doing something that feels bad is not the solution to not feeling bad.

Client: But I can’t help it.

Brooke: But maybe the reason you haven’t been able to help it is because you have been believing the lie that overeating makes you feel good. And when I ask you to give up overeating, you are telling yourself that you will have to feel bad and give up feeling good. But really, you aren’t giving up feeling good. Overeating doesn’t really feel good to you. In fact, you know that if you start off feeling unhappy and you add extra food and weight to your body, you will feel worse.

Increasing the problem to relieve your feelings about the problem doesn’t make much sense, right?

Client: Wait a minute. So what you are saying is that the reason I overeat is because I have been telling myself it feels better than not overeating? AND THAT HAS BEEN A LIE?? I can see it’s a lie now, but seriously, how could I not see that before?

Brooke: You weren’t looking for it. You were overeating instead. Overeating pulls you away from yourself. It is the opposite of awareness.

Client: So overeating, in the moment I am doing it, feels as bad as not overeating?! And the only reason I didn’t know that is because I was lying to myself about it? I was not paying attention to the fact that I wasn’t feeling good as I was doing it. I was telling myself that it felt good and made me happy to overeat? And that’s why I couldn’t stop myself?

Brooke: Yes.

What would your life be like if you could only eat when you were hungry?