Releasing Aphrodite - Five types of emotional over-eating

What size do you think Aphrodite was? Size 10, Size zero?   

Aphrodite was not a size zero or a size 10 - in her existence she was who she was, size and weight were not concepts she thought about or even mattered. She was a Goddess and that was all anybody needed to think about. She was a WOMAN and her friends the three Graces were right there with her, focusing on beauty, happiness, good food and love.   

Many of us overeat - mostly for very sound reasons, even if we don’t always acknowledge or know what those reasons are. This applies to men as much as women and I think a key element in the rise of obesity today is as much about people being unhappy as it is about hormones in the food and fat genes. If you have a hole in your life, you will try to fill it whether it’s with drink, drugs, exercise, sex, work or food.

Doreen Virtue in her book, ‘Constant Craving’ identifies 5 types of emotional over-eating:

The binge eater

You are either a binge eater or you are not. 'Binge foods' trigger overeating, and are commonly made from refined white flour or sugar. Some believe binge eaters become anxious as a result of blood sugar fluctuations triggered by eating foods high in glucose. The anxiety leads to binge-eating to relieve the condition. Most find it helps to avoid their binge food altogether. This is also a useful therapeutic approach, because often the binge food keeps a lid on the person’s underlying emotional issues. When the binge food is removed from their availability, the emotions are free to come forward for resolution.

The mood eater

This person overeats in response to strong emotions. Often, they are a sensitive individual who is very compassionate and empathetic with respect to other people. They are sensitive to other people’s feelings and intuitively know when something is troubling another person. They are often employed in the helping professions; teaching, counselling, or medicine.

Mood Eaters are so engulfed by emotions that they’ve absorbed from other people, that their own feelings are sublimated or ignored. They may also feel overwhelmed by the prospect of adding their own strong emotions onto their all-ready full plate. So they eat in order to manage their emotional capacity.
Although they are highly capable caretakers of others, they sometimes neglect themselves. It can be upsetting when they realise they are doing all the work, and that no one is attending to their needs. They feel unappreciated and resentful. They take out their resentment in the best way they know how - by eating.

The self-esteem eater

This is someone who uses food as a friend, companion, and for entertainment. They may have difficulties in interpersonal relationships and often relate better to food, books, animals, and movies than they do people. They feel misunderstood and have been hurt by people who rejected or abandoned them. Many are survivors of emotional, physical or sexual abuse, learning in early childhood to distrust others. Much of the self-esteem eater’s struggle stems from three issues:

  • They can’t bear the thought of losing their closest friend - food. It makes them feel cold and vulnerable. Without food, who or what can they turn to?
  • They have little confidence in their ability to lead a healthy lifestyle despite being well read and informed about the importance of this. Many will consider themselves not to have the stamina or patience to consistently exercise. So they don’t even try.
  • They beat themselves up by going on eating binges. Self-esteem eaters struggle with shame. They question their self-worth, and deep down they wonder is something is wrong with them. They can punish themselves by eating to the point where their stomach hurts. They don’t believe they deserve the benefits of a having a fit and healthy body. They benefit most from seeking support from therapy- connecting to a non-judgemental individual.

The stress eater

This person overeats in response to tension which is often triggered by two areas in life: Unhappiness with their work like, and dissatisfaction with one’s love life. Both areas are difficult to change, usually taking time and effort to correct. Because we can’t just snap our fingers and ‘fix’ our love or work life, we overeat to ease the tension. A wide range of food cravings; alcohol to manage ever-taut nerves, coffee and cola to pump up enthusiasm and energy, chocolate for love life disappointments, bread and dairy to calm themselves down and crunchy snack food to control their anger.

Stress eaters are encouraged to add the following four essential ingredients to their life, which help with tension more effectively than food and drink:

  • Exercise - One of the easiest things to make you feel better, less stressed and more energetic. Exercise can also help control anger and reduce appetite. Put exercise into the same category as your daily shower and see it as something you simply need to do. 
  • Fun and recreation - The number one source of resentment is the feeling that everybody gets to relax and have fun, while we’re left with all the chores and responsibility. It’s a powerful residual emotion left over from childhood. Many people feel that fun is a waste of time or a sign of weakness. Yet, fun - like exercise - is a necessity, not a luxury. The important thing is for you to give yourself permission to relax and enjoy yourself every day.
  • Time outdoors -Stress eaters usually lead whirlwind lifestyles. They’re running at a dead heat from the moment they wake up until they go to bed. This hurried pace leaves little time for noticing the simple and beautiful things in everyday life. For an instant stress buster, stress eaters should consider making an effort to go outside during their lunch break and notice three things in nature. Take a walk near grass or trees, ‘stop and smell the roses.’
  • Spirituality - When your heart feels full of love and gratitude, very few things can get on your nerves. People who are spiritual or religious are usually less vulnerable to earthly stressors, because they believe that everything will turn out for the best. Spiritually guided persons are among some of the world’s most successful individuals.

The snowball effect eater

Think of a snowball rolling down a mountain, gaining momentum and size, and you’ll have an idea of the snowball effect eater’s style. This person struggles to find the determination to stick with a healthful eating and exercise programme. They usually exhibit inconsistent motivation levels because their weight-loss efforts are externally motivated. On a diet in response to some outer stimulus such as a photograph, spouse’s comment or too tight jeans; external sources of motivation just can’t provide the steady stream of inspiration necessary for permanent changes in eating behaviour.

Internal motivation is necessary with a focus on:

  • How much energy we have when we eat healthful foods.
  • How great it feels to have toned muscles.
  • How exercise eases our tension and worries.
  • How treating our bodies with respect leads to higher self. regard, and the fact that the only opinion that matters, as far as our weight is concerned, is our own.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bristol BS9 & BS14
Written by Jane Kershaw, MBACP
Bristol BS9 & BS14

Counselling sessions are offered in Sea Mills & Whitchurch* in Bristol. Zoom, phone and some home visits are available*.As a Person Centred Therapist I am non directive. Each person has their own motivation for positive change and if allowed to explore that motivation in a safe, non judgmental e...

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