Overeating Is an Abandonment Issue: How to Heal it

I love to eat, and then eat. It’s just the consequences I hate. What’s a potato chip but a prelude to the whole bag? What’s an M&M but a tease for a fistful?

I’ve watched people eat just one cookie and then turn away. I study them as if they are extra terrestrials. They must have cookie flavors lingering in their mouths, right? Then why doesn’t this make them grab for another? And another? I don’t get it.

What I DO get is that food is primal satisfaction. Sucking it down is a reflex, our first reflexive gratification. The flavors and textures of food hit the palate and create an instant sensation – mostly pleasure — quicker then any drug could do. Its succor and nurture help assuage abandonment fear, a primal human emotion that impinges from within whose roots tug all the way back to birth trauma.

As adults, we are supposed to be the CEOs of our lives, fully engaged in setting and achieving goals for ourselves, in charge of giving ourselves a good life. This involves the ability to delay immediate gratification in the service of achieving long range goals. If the goal, for example, is to become a doctor, lazing around all day instead of studying only may feel good in the short term, but defeats the purpose of getting through med school. Likewise, if the goal is to lose weight, gorging on pasta may feel pleasurable while it’s going down, but forfeits the more sustaining pleasure of being able to zip up our pants.

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