09/12/2012 12:22 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST

Emotional Overeating Part 3: Be Aware of How You Eat


This is the third post in an exclusive three-part series of excerpts from the author's book Emotional Overeating: Know the Triggers, Heal Your Mind and Never Diet Again.

In the media, there's far too much emphasis on food, both positive and negative. It's an enormously charged subject. Our culture is as wounded around food as its individual members are, and this is a major factor in the current obesity epidemic. Becoming conscious will help you to let go of your confusion and learn to trust your own physical and emotional needs with regard to food and eating. You don't have to be a casualty of our society's craziness about food.

Consciousness will give you the clarity to see that because food is the only addictive substance that you need for your survival, your relationship to food will always be different from your relationship to anything else. Because you must eat several times a day, you can't abstain from food as you can from drugs or alcohol.

You can't ignore food. Even if you fast, or go on a liquid diet for several weeks, you'll have to go back to eating solid food. A food addiction is a blessing in disguise. Having to eat on a regular basis gives you the perfect opportunity to become conscious about food.

You can choose to look at what you're eating and why you're eating it. You can get to the bottom of the problem, once and for all. If you're overweight, it becomes hard to deny that you have a problem. If you choose to tune in to the real cause of the problem instead of doing the endless cycle of dieting, you'll have a real chance, not only of losing the weight, but of being healed.

If you're awake and aware, you'll see the truth about the proliferation of food images bombarding you every day on TV, online, in magazines and in restaurant windows. These images are representations of society's wounded, dysfunctional obsession with food. The media barrages you with information about the obesity epidemic, yet enormous plates of food are being served in restaurants and at fast food chains. Meanwhile, just down the street from the restaurant serving giant portions, people are lining up at the food bank.

With consciousness, you can see that you live in a consumer society that's driven by the childlike need to have "more" of everything, including food, in order to fill the emptiness within. However, as it promotes having more, it also shames you for wanting more. The parental elements of society, like our TV doctors, "diet gurus" and celebrity personal trainers who preach rigid adherence to strict diet and exercise plans are not giving the child within a viable alternative to over-consuming.

Waking up and becoming more conscious will show you that taking a balanced approach is a wiser alternative to being in a child-parent war within your psyche or in society. You can opt out of the craziness and just take loving care of your body and your health. You can enjoy food without being overly-invested in what you eat and you can put your attention on the other important things in life aside from food and weight.

Consciousness also means that you neither hate your body because it isn't "thin enough" nor hate yourself because you can't achieve some unrealistic weight or shape. It means accepting and loving your body as it is now while dealing with what's driving your compulsive eating and weight problem.

Consciousness involves understanding that you have a certain natural body type, and that trying to force yourself to become a smaller size is both physically and emotionally damaging to you. It means ruthlessly pursuing the deepest truth about your addiction(s), as well as dealing compassionately with yourself when you learn this truth. Ruthless compassion goes hand-in-hand with consciousness, and with it, you'll be empowered to choose a better way of dealing with food and weight.

Initially, it might be difficult to develop consciousness. It's not your fault. Our society supports an unquestioning, apathetic mind. It can be painful to be more conscious because you'll recognize your suffering and that of others, as well as all the injustices in life. Still, knowing the truth gives you the chance to take concrete action for the purposes of alleviating your own suffering and that of others. With your head in the sand of unconsciousness, you can't remedy any bad situation or recognize how unhappy or unfulfilled you might be. Nothing will change for the better if you remain unconscious, and it could easily get worse.

In general, despite some initial pain caused by finally facing some truths you've been avoiding, life will be so much better, richer and easier with greater consciousness. With consciousness you feel more, but suffer less, because you're dealing with things as they really are. This will help you to avoid the nasty surprises and disappointments that come from having your illusions smashed.

With conscious awareness, you can begin to follow the four-pronged approach outlined in this book:

1: facing the truth about your past, grieving your losses and letting go of your wounds;

2: loving, affirming and protecting the child within;

3: pursuing the things in life that will bring you true meaning and fulfillment, and

4: identifying and rejecting the negative messages of the inner and outer opponents. This work will bring the adult to the forefront of your psyche so it can be in charge of your eating and nutrition.

If you've been eating unconsciously out of apathy, ignorance or inertia, or if you've just been eating in the way that your parents showed you, it's not too late to become conscious and empowered. It bears repeating: Everything good requires work and time. The child within wants the quickest, easiest answer, but the adult in you knows that taking time to become conscious about what you eat will make you feel better, not just physically but in your entire being. 

Emotional Overeating: Know the Triggers, Heal Your Mind and Never Diet Again. Copyright 2012 by Marcia Sirota, MD. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC.