Compulsive Overeating: Part Two
by Ron K. Williams
The Vulnerability Factor
Growing up as men in a patriarchal society, we are taught to hold our emotions internally, never to cry, and never to display any weakness. That's why in extreme cases we become violent; indulge in dangerous unprotected sex, and substance abuse our bodies. In milder cases, we "cook" on the inside, allowing our emotions to boil, and we overeat. However, we gawk at the commercial with the woman on the couch watching soap operas and eating bon-bons. We're more like the commercial with the guys hanging out at the bar eating bar food trying to brush off our troubles.
So where did that pot belly come from, other than the beer? It came from all those calories you absorbed from all those times you dismissed what you were feeling and instead bury your troubles in food. So, if you're not ready to join a men's group (which I do strongly suggest as well) and air out your grievances, get out your journal and jot down each day, time and circumstance you decided to overeat. It is a decision, whether it's unconscious or conscious. It may feel like you were in a fog, but you did lift that food to your mouth, chew and swallow.
When it comes to our internal issues, our "personal demons" that cause us to run to those foods for comfort, however, we'd rather skip the subject altogether. It's the vulnerability factor, the one we try to avoid, and ultimately the one that kills us.
What's the matter? What's bothering you? Why are you reaching for the ice cream, cookies, cake, steak and cheese combo with fries and a soda? What? You don't think that your mood doesn't have any thing to do with it. Well, it's time for you to get out your journal and discover where and when, and most importantly, what precipitated you eating all those fattening foods. If you don't have a journal, I strongly urge you to get one. It not only can chronicle your day, but it can enable you to examine your "triggers" that push you to overindulge on food.
There are those of you who have been compulsive overeaters for the predominant number of your life, or you are a more recent food addict. It could have stemmed from experiences in your childhood, where you found food to be a coping mechanism for your problems. It could have been from all the emotional abuse you took during high school as a result of not fitting in, and you had to find a way of protecting yourself, so you added on the pounds.
It could have been after an injury and you ate whatever you wanted while being sedentary. Or it could have been a result of the "role" pressures you have been facing as husband, employee, manager, father, etc. However you got to this place, you're here now, and now is the time to identify your issues that surround your "dis-ease". Remember, compulsive overeating is not a cause; it is rather a symptom of a cause or causes.
Excavate all that stuff that you buried long time ago that's affecting you today, all the stuff that you refused to confront. There's an old African proverb that states, "you cannot fix what you will not face". You have to face it. If what you write in your journal brings to the surface a lot of things that scare you or make you feel uncomfortable, please, by all means, do not stop writing. Keep going, and while you're at it, you might want to seek a therapist to assist you in moving through your issues. It will be painful at times, but it's your choice as to whether you are going to heal and move on, or remain as you are and sink deeper into an unhealthy state.
Although the perception is that it's attributed mostly to women, and also from the fact that women talk about their issues more openly as opposed to men, compulsive overeating is a human condition, symptomatic of internal and/or societal pressures. There are support groups like Overeaters Anonymous as well as therapists to help you cope and find solutions, but first you have to acknowledge that you have a problem.
Next, understand that there's nothing wrong with you. There are many others like you who are compulsive overeaters. You are not a failure. You are not an alien. You are not inadequate. You just need to get control over this aspect of your life. Besides, it doesn't make sense to spend all that time and energy reading magazines, at the gym, and on the field when you constantly sabotage yourself with overeating. Get a handle on your overeating, so you can devote your time with what lifts you up, not what weighs you down.
Contributing writer Ron K. Williams is a certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer currently residing in Baltimore, Maryland. To arrange confidential consultations, please email your questions and comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.