The Normal Eating® approach is to figure out the reasons behind emotional eating, and then take steps towards fixing the real problem. So if you’re eating out of loneliness, you’d take steps towards enriching your social life.
The tricky part is figuring out the real problem. It’s not always obvious. For example, consider this question from a Normal Eating Support Group member:
What’s the solution for feeling a drab kind of emptiness at nighttime? Or feeling lonely? I do have lots of friends, and I see them regularly. But still I feel lonely when I come home at night.
I don’t think loneliness is the real problem here.
The clue is that no amount of social interaction removes her feelings of loneliness. If the problem you’re trying to fix with people is loneliness, then after satisfying social interaction you will no longer feel lonely. If the problem you’re trying to fix with people is something different, then you will still feel “lonely” after being with people.
This kind of “pseudo-loneliness” is very common, and strongly parallels the pseudo-hunger of emotional craving. If the problem you’re trying to fix with food is hunger, then eating solves it. If the problem you’re trying to fix with food is emotional discomfort, then no amount of food satisfies you. You eat and eat and still want more.
Other people can be a powerful distraction from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, a way to avoid being with yourself. In that sense other people can be used as a drug, just like food.
The solution, as always, is to figure out what’s really bothering you. That’s no small task for people who have been ignoring their true needs and feelings for years. But if you keep asking yourself the question using the Normal Eating® tools, you will eventually find the answer.
As I said in my book, Normal Eating® for Normal Weight:
The problem – the root cause of this insatiability – is trying to fill a need with something that can’t satisfy the need. So no matter how much you have it’s not enough; the need remains. If your foot itches and you scratch your nose, it will never satisfy.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them.