Compulsion

One very clear focus of our Treatment Issues in Weight Management explorations is emotional eating. This is because emotional eating urges  are often driven by a sense of urgency that activates eating regardless of its congruence with weight management.  One angle on understanding this emotional eating is to see it as a mechanism that achieves emotion regulation via compulsion.  To unpack that last statement, emotional eating can help you feel better (i.e. emotionally regulate by removing you from feeling something that feels bad or worrisome, or even by protecting you from feeling something that feels bad or wrong) by distracting you into a chain of behaving, thinking and feeling that becomes your focus.  This is how I view compulsion. Compulsion is a behavior that captures your focus and rescues you from thinking and feeling about something else.  The trick in really understanding this is to understand that the "feeling better" from the compulsion is a relative thing. In some cases the feeling better really is feeling good. In other cases, the feeling better isn't feeling good - but even though you are unhappy about eating badly and unhappy about being overweight, the familiarity of the compulsion loop is somehow better than what you would have been feeling without it.

So given the above, I imagine it makes sense to wonder what it is that people distract from with eating compulsions.  And the answer is clearly it is different things at different times for different people.  While that is true,  I still think it can be helpful to look at this specifically - to look at a specific state of mind or type of feeling that I have noted is frequently at root in eating compulsions.  So that's what we are going to do now.

I've chosen to focus us on the psychological state of wanting because I find this often at root with eating compulsion .   What do I mean by wanting?  I mean the psychological experience you have when you are wanting something you do not have - in many cases, it is wanting companionship or company. While this can seem simple and rather straightforward,  it ends up being very uncomfortable to sustain this feeling in the face of uncertainty there is anything promising you can do about it.  In my client group this can be for example from a view "I am too fat to..." and so the wanting has you staring at a brick wall.  Further, that there is a brick wall can also drop you into all sorts of shame and self denigration. I imagine you then quickly see how this would be a psychological state that would be uncomfortable, painful - something you'd want to escape.  Enter eating compulsion. The eating momentarily gives you a sense you can have what you want. It may even give you a sense of sneaking by the wall to grab what you want - producing dopamine - and you end up upset with yourself for eating (and rescued from being stuck in wanting company). 

More graphically, with escaping the wanting/brick wall as the driver, then the compulsion works by supplanting "I want company" through the switch to  "I want to eat".  In this way, the state of wanting is thereby transformed from the uncomfortablness of wanting something that is uncertain  into wanting something you can certainly have - where you get to  "have what I want."  I think this resolves the tension of uncertainty by you doing something you are certain about - "I can eat that pizza." " I get to have what I want!" And if you then are upset you had the pizza, you can activate your shame, negative self-esteem cycle - which further gets you away from the initial wanting - and furthermore, you may even have just proven to yourself why it is good you don't have company because then you couldn't eat like that or then you would be ashamed because they would see your disgusting eating.  Does this make any sense to you? I hope so. This is compulsion.  Simply put, you transform the shame of wanting something you are uncertain you can have into having something of which you've now certainly had too much.  Your problem is too much instead of too little.  This is compulsion. 

In the literature below, I've written links that kinda describe the content more than approximate the title. Take a look at a couple of these that seem interesting to you.  You might start with the ones about intolerance of uncertainty and go from there.
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Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:37 AM
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Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:37 AM
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Emotional Eating vs Mindful Eating.htm
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Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:37 AM
Ċ
Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:37 AM
Ċ
Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:35 AM
Ċ
Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:36 AM
Ċ
Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:35 AM
Ċ
Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:36 AM
Ċ
Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:36 AM
Ċ
Bill Picon,
Apr 21, 2016, 6:36 AM
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