November 17th, 2011

cooking, food

A cheeseburger is not a cry for help

So, this rant was touched off by a blog post that I ultimately decided not to link to. Partly because the author of the post was clearly speaking the truth about her own experience, and I didn't want to seem to be attacking her for doing that. And partly because she's hardly the first or the last person to put forth the idea that triggered this rant: The notion that extremely overweight people are using food as a way to deal with emotional pain. This idea is usually expressed as something along the lines of, "No one gets to be a hundred pounds overweight just because they like to eat."

Actually some of us do. I did. Though to be fair, it went a bit beyond "liking to eat." It was more along the lines of, "when I eat highly-processed high-carbohydrate foods, my appetite regulation goes haywire and I'm constantly hungry, causing me to eat more highly-processed high-carbohydrate foods." When I cut back on the highly-processed high-carbohydrate foods, I stopped being hungry all the damn time, and I lost quite a bit of weight. (More significantly, I got back all the time I used to spend wondering if gnawing on the corner of my desk would somehow help me deal with the fact that I was ravenous despite having eaten an hour ago. Being constantly hungry sucks.) I didn't need to confront my emotional issues. I just needed more protein and fiber.*

Now, I'm not trying to deny that there are people who struggle with emotional eating, and that some of those people are fat. But every time someone makes a blog post like this, well-meaning commenters announce their intention to reach out to their fat loved ones and help them confront the emotional demons that they are battling with food. Wanting to help a loved one is commendable; trying to help a loved one with the attitude that you understand what the problem is better than they do is...well, "unlikely to work" is the kindest thing I can say.

*You have no idea how uncomfortable writing that paragraph made me feel. I think because it feels like such a conventional piece of weight-loss narrative. I practically expect it to wind up with, "And if I did it, you can do it to!" Maybe you can do it too; maybe you can't; maybe you don't want to. I use myself as an example because I think I have a pretty good understanding of what made me gain and lose weight, and so I think I can speak fairly authoritatively when I say that deep-seated emotional issues were not involved.