Dear Alan, I'm a huge fan and love reading the advice you give in your Ask Alan column. I don't know if this is something you can help with but here goes. I'm 46 and married with three wonderful children. But for the past fifteen years I've been a binge eater and yo-yo dieter. I must have tried every diet out there but sooner or later the weight reappears and I'm back to square one. I know it's not healthy but I can't seem to help myself. Can you tell me what lies behind my overeating?
Dear Vivian, emotional and spiritual issues manifest themselves in many ways. But they all have one thing in common. They all affect and impact the physical body. Indeed, I regularly assist clients in such mind-body connection matters.
In your case, I immediately sensed that your issues are emotional in nature and am happy to see what insights I can offer as the reading continues.
You didn't indicate just how much you weigh but I sense that you do fall within the obese weight category. And this is something you are well aware of. I say this because I've got you as the type of person who does her research. If you have any type of condition whatsoever you hit the books. And when it comes to weight, I feel as though you have numerous books that would not look out of place in a medical library. They are very technical, scientific and clinical in nature.
From your extensive reading, you understand precisely the processes the body goes through to process food and burn calories. You know how many calories are contained in what foods and you know how many calories have to be burned to lose a pound. And yet in spite of this knowledge, you are not losing weight.
My impression with you is that the issue is not biological or metabolic in nature. While there are effects of your weight on the body, your issue stems more from a situation that has triggered some very strong unresolved emotions.
I have this image of you and your husband meeting in an academic setting. It feels like college or university. He went on to complete his studies; with you it was different. You did not receive your diploma. It wasn't due to lack of intelligence or drive. I feel it was due to the support you were expected and required to provide to your husband to be.
I have the first child being born very quickly into your marriage - if not just before. And it's as if I've got you struggling to perfect the roles of partner and mother. And without going into it too much, the situation surrounding your husband's occupation has required that you portray that role of the perfect wife.
The initial weight gain appears to have started just after you had your first child. But unlike most people who put on weight during pregnancy, my impression is that you began to overeat only after the birth. This starting point became then somewhat of a rolling stone.
I sense that you have been dealing with an identity issue for as long as you've been married. More specifically, it began sometime after you met husband. The bottom line is that you have been required to make sacrifices on numerous fronts to be with him. And the children are only an element. The children have, however, contributed by adding an element of permanency to your situation. With their arrival, the die was cast.
What you have been longing for all these years is a return to the woman that you were before the children, before your marriage. I strongly sense that you want to turn back time because if you're completely honest with yourself you feel as though you've wasted so much time.
The real issue underlying your eating patterns lies then more centrally in control and identity. You appear to have ceded control of your life to your husband - even before you said, "I do." And "Vivian" was lost to the label "wife".
I have this sense that you are quite accomplished in a number of areas. I feel that when you desire to learn something you master it fully. You take control of it. And yet when it comes to your life in general you are still struggling with controlling it. And now you appear to have given up control of you food intake along with the other parts of your life.
Moreover, my impression is that by eating the amounts you do is that you are trying to make yourself whole - to return those parts of Vivian that have been lost along the way.
While food will make you full, it will not fulfil you, as you know firsthand.
As soon as you find an outlet to allow that woman you think you used to be to reappear, your weight will stabilise and then I feel certain that it will begin normalising once and for all.
I wish you all the best!
“Thank you again for the reading. It was very insightful and you gave me a lot of good, concrete advice.” NM
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