June 25, 2009

Today, my patient came to my office concerned about her recent weight gain. She is almost 200 pounds and has struggled with her weight for many years. She’s used Phen-fen, medically prescribed diets, and even starvation. She told me she feels a constant need to eat, oftentimes when she is already full. She eats “by the clock” or when it’s “meal time” and also when she’s around others who are eating.

When I asked her if she’s ever eaten when she feels like eating or based on her own hunger, she looked at me and didn’t say a word. It was obvious that this had never occurred to her before.

My patient’s style of eating is typical of a chronic dieter- one who is constantly trying new diets (diet pills, diet books, and other gimmicks). She also shows signs of being an emotional eater and a “disconnected eater”. An emotional eater is someone who uses food to cope with emotions, such as sadness, anger, depression, and boredom. While a disconnected eater is completely disconnected from their own internal need for food (example, hunger). Instead, their eating habits are dictated by external factors- someone of authority (example doctor), other people in their presence, what time of day it is, what they have read or heard how they “should” or “should not” eat, and others factors outside of themselves.

One of the first steps towards changing these negative eating behaviors is slowing down, tuning into yourself, paying attention and acknowledging that it’s happening.

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