Emotional Eating As a Symptom vs. Cause of Behavior

emotional eater

What if it’s not your emotions, emotional triggers, or emotional history associations that cause your “emotional eating?”

This is a follow-up to my post yesterday and part of the emotional eating series for an ebook on the subject.

Changes in our metabolism change our personality. Metabolic dysfunction changes how we perceive our environment, including food. These changes alter how we, in turn, respond. These responses appear to deviate from our everyday behavior and often do not reflect our standards or goals. This is part of the addiction cycle, and eating is no different. 

One of the most precise and powerful illustrations of this process I have ever seen is on the reality show “Fit to Fat to Fit.” I had the Good Fortune of speaking at the same seminar as the host and originator of this show Drew Manning, and he and  I spent some time discussing this remarkable phenomenon that I’m about to describe.

The show “Fit to Fat to Fit,” was about trainers who have been fit all their life and work with others to lose weight who decided to put on 50 to 70 lb of body fat over four months. 

The show follows their process as they begin to eat junk food to gain weight. They eliminate all exercise and allow themselves to fall entirely out of shape. When they reach their highest weight and worst physical condition, they train with their client and together lose the weight over the next three months. That’s where the term “Fit Fat to Fit” comes from.

This process is repeated with about 20 different trainers, both men, and women, older and young. As the show unfolds, you could watch all the symptoms of what we consider obesity and ill-health start to emerge in these once fit, healthy people as they slowly lose their health and elite fitness status. 

They became irritable, lazy, indecisive, and lacked serious motivation over time. One trainer broke up with his fiance, and one suffered severe depression. Another trainer was removed from the show because of the health risks associated with the weight gain. They developed what they had known as the “overweight and out-of-shape personality.” 

As they reversed this condition and got in shape with her new clients, all of those symptoms faded away quickly and in the same pattern as when they had arrived.

 It wasn’t the low energy, brain fog, depression, food addictive behavior, or emotional eating driving their weight gain or inactivity. Their inactivity and weight gain caused all of these emotional issues. And as it got better, so did their emotional states.

Emotions are hormonal and neurological and a reflection of our health, physical body, and metabolic condition. Like a young preteen who starts to eat everything in your home as they start the most significant growth spurt of their life, these trainers began a significant hormonal change. These kids going through puberty get ravishingly hungry and eat everything in sight. A pervasive experience every parent witnesses firsthand. 

The question is, did they grow because they were eating, or did they eat because they were growing? 

If they grew because they were eating, the kid who ate the most would be the biggest on the basketball court. But it doesn’t work that way. They eat because they’re growing and growing because of a change in their hormonal profile called puberty.

The same thing happens to adults. It just looks different. 

As our hormones change, they cause us to grow, and this hormone change negatively affects our emotions. The difference is we can’t grow up, so we grow out, and as we do, our health deteriorates. And so do our attitude, motivation, and emotional state.

 I’m not saying there are no cases here and there that aren’t indeed emotionally based regarding eating and weight gain. There are, but I believe they are rare. The vast majority (to the point of tempting me to say near all of them) are metabolic responses to an unhealthy body. 

When you get that body healthy, those responses change, and those symptoms of emotional eating go away.

So if you’re ready to give back your membership card and burn that t-shirt that labels you as an emotional eater and start to have the potential to be free in a way that most Americans will never experience, then you’re in luck. 

You can experience the “Freedom from Hunger” and do it without going to a psychiatrist, a counselor, or therapist, and stop blaming yourself, your emotions, or your past.  

I am a fan of all those services. This just isn’t one needing them at the moment as our metabolic health and flexibility need to be mended, not our emotions.

I will get into more specifics in my next post about how to start improving your metabolic health and, in time, your emotional eating and state.

We can do better!

Dr. Don