Food and feelings: what’s eating you?

What does kindness have to do with weight loss? For most people, absolutely nothing. Instead, discipline and motivation are seen as important for following a rigid diet and getting into shape. When we slip again we blame and criticise ourselves for our lack of discipline, and turn to our favourite food for consolation. We torture ourselves over a number on a scale or a size on a dress when we’d be better off putting our energy into understanding our real selves. Our struggles with food cause tremendous stress, guilt, shame, and self-loathing. We’ve internalised a feeling of powerlessness and each time we try and fail, we subject ourselves to more of the same miserable feelings.

When we eat when we are not hungry, we are using food as a drug, grappling with boredom or loss or grief or emptiness or rejection. Food is a way of dealing with negative emotions, a way of making ourselves numb so we don’t have to experience emotions that are uncomfortable. But by overeating we create another problem on top of the emotional issues - a weight problem - another layer of pain.

Practice kindness and lose weight

Right now we need a fresh approach to our problems with eating because what we have tried in the past clearly does not work. After all, how can we possibly lose weight when we feel helpless, disheartened, and frustrated? How can we expect to change for the better when we treat ourselves to punishment, deprivation, and shame? So what can we do?

Kindness is the answer. While most people believe they need more discipline and willpower to lose weight, self-care and kindness should come first. Firstly, I want people to stop thinking about their ‘problems with food’ as a difficulty in their lives. It’s the issues beneath the ‘problems with food’ that need to be addressed. If you have triggers that are causing you to binge eat, stop, stand back from yourself, and ask yourself ‘What am I really hungry for?’, ‘What am I really craving?’ - and it’s not food. Long-lasting change must first occur on the inside through understanding and care. If you lose weight by depriving and punishing yourself, you will only lose it for a short while and then regain the pounds. The focus on food, dieting, and counting calories draws people away from dealing with the real reasons behind why they overeat.

In fact, recent research from Harvard shows that self-kindness is more effective than self-discipline in losing weight and results in less emotional eating. In the United States there is a growing trend towards self-kindness and self-care in managing weight. It is an approach that has been met with considerable success compared with conventional methods of weight loss.

Our 3-step program

Using this new approach of self-kindness and self-awareness, I have developed a unique 3-step program that teaches people to identify their eating triggers so that food and weight no longer control their life. It is a caring approach to out-of-control eating that helps people to overcome the cycle of overeating and lose weight permanently. The program looks at the reasons behind why you overeat, not just what you eat. You will learn how to move past your negative preoccupations with food and weight. It will help you create life-long changes in your eating habits that will help you lose weight and lead a more satisfying life.

From my own informal research I have discovered that losing weight permanently without self-kindness is a losing battle. I have seen that with a kinder attitude people are able to develop a balanced and healthy relationship with food. The program is structured to achieving client goals. It is short-term and cost-effective, and is a completely confidential service.

Clinics are held in Roscommon town in Vitae House. For more information call Bernadette on (087 ) 0681518, or email [email protected].

Dr Bernadette Rock holds a BA degree from Trinity College, and a Masters and PhD in Sociology from University College Dublin.

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