When emotional eating results in weight gain it causes people to feel depressed, worried, unloveable and out of control. And so (you know how it works!), the emotional eater consumes even more unnutritious food in order to get rid of those feelings. Emotional eating is one of the most self-destructive vicious cycle's of behaviour that I encounter as a psychotherapist in Covent Garden and Waterloo (Southwark). These two quarters of London, located on either side of Waterloo Bridge and adjacent to the City, are packed to the rafters with professionals, who although very capable, have used food (particularly sugar) as a quick and easy method of dealing with the stress and enormous pressures they find themselves under on a daily basis. The good news is that emotional eating is one of the most simple cycles to break, because it is so obvious to everybody how it works. It does, however, take grit and determination - and it is for this reason that a psychotherapeutic approach to weight loss can be very helpful, as unlike conventional dieting, it deals with the emotional roots of the weight gain and has support and encouragement built-in to the programme.
Case Study: I had a client who painfully eased herself into the chair in my consulting room in Waterloo one afternoon. She was wheezing and had a bad back due to her weight. However, her physical discomfort was but a fraction of the emotional distress she was feeling inside. Her mind and thoughts were out of control and this was fuelling her disordered eating bigtime. She had a very good job and earned lots of money, but she was deeply unhappy. The place where she felt this unhappiness most was in her 'home', an undecorated grotty hovel filled with car-exhaust fumes, abutting the North Circular Road and its constant noise. Her six figure salary meant she could have chosen to live almost anywhere in London or the home counties. Baffled, she could not give me or herself one good reason why she had bought this property in the first place other than 'I had to find somewhere to live quickly and this was the first place I saw'. Neither could she logically explain why since moving in three years prior to our first meeting, she had never even bothered to to unpack her possessions. 'I'm just too tired to do it and there's too much on at work'. The only thing she would do when incarcerated in this miserable prison was eat - takeaways and sweets, as well as sleep. She claimed to 'love' her work: She was certainly very good at it, in fact totally brilliant, and was an expert in her field. However, as the course of therapy continued it became clear that actually work was a fear-filled environment: She was terrified of her boss, she was fearful of being sacked, she was scared of junior colleagues in case they usurped her role etc ... In order to neutralise these fears she would eat more and more. The ensuing weight gain would then cause her to become tired and under-perform or fall asleep at her desk and the fears about her insecurity at work would start all over again and require more food to be neutralised. We worked together for 24 sessions in order to:
- Discover and deal with the root of her emotional eating (fear)
- Build motivation and resilience to resist the urge to eat emotionally when unhappy or fearful
- Put in place alternative strategies to deal with negative emotions
- Learn Mindfulness skills to de-clutter and clean out a muddled and chaotic mind
- Replace fear with courage and confidence
- Design, deploy and keep to a sensible eating plan as well as keep a food-and-mood diary for the duration of the therapy
- Develop areas of life that had been neglected due to weight and emotional eating, specifically finding a partner and building social networks and sorting out her living environment
Length of therapy for Emotional Eating and Weight Loss: 24 to 36 appointments of fifty minutes each.
Fee: £75 per 50 minute appointment. Reduced fee slots are £45 but limited and based on demonstrated financial need.
Location: Southwark (Waterloo) and Covent Garden.