| Family Reflections |

Food Wars

Many factors lead to weight gain. Each battle needs a customized approach

There are lots of challenges in life, but some of the most difficult ones involve the struggles we have with ourselves. A particularly common battlefield is found in our eating habits. We all fight with food at one time or another. Unfortunately, our food struggles often give us serious grief, affecting our health and emotional well-being.

“I need to lose a significant amount of weight. I’ve tried every diet that exists. I’ve visited all the top-notch dieticians and nutritionists. I’ve gone on Weight Watchers, and I’ve joined gyms. And I continue to put on weight, not lose it! I’m so discouraged! I don’t even want to go out of the house anymore.”

People commonly feel despair when losing their food battles.

“My friend encouraged me to join Overeaters Anonymous (OA). She’d lost 100 lbs there and managed to keep it off for five years already, so I was impressed! When I got there, I met so many people who’d finally won their food wars and were living healthy and happy lives. But somehow, it didn’t work for me. I just couldn’t do it.”

When it comes to winning against one’s own body, each person must search for the unique path that will work for him or her. For many people, OA is the perfect path. Within that group of people, for some, OA with food restrictions is the only approach that will help. For others in the group, OA that carefully “works the 12 steps” — addressing emotional eating — is the only way that will help because by dealing with emotions, it allows them to successfully stay on whatever diet or food plan they wish to adhere to.

Then there are the numerous approaches that are altogether different from OA. There are, after all, all kinds of people struggling with weight issues and all kinds of solutions. Some people will lose weight using any strategy as long as there is some form of individual or group support. Others will do best when under the care of a doctor or a naturopath. Some will never win the food wars without surgical interventions that tame the power of the body.

No Comparison

Why is there so much variance? Why is one weight loss program wildly successful for one person and yet unsuccessful for her friend? Because weight issues are caused by a wide variance of factors!

For some people, overeating is an addictive response to emotional stress. Eating brings comfort that soothes tension, but it doesn’t actually address, release, or heal that tension. Consequently, a person who finds emotional relief from eating will need to rely on eating until he or she can deal directly with feelings. (Refusal to eat, a similar coping mechanism that numbs emotional pain, is equally ineffective for attaining actual wellness.)

For emotional eaters, no resolution will be attained without dealing with the underlying emotions. It will be important for them to use a strategy that addresses feelings along with diet, whether this is a group or individual intervention.

For others, poor lifestyle habits regarding food and exercise acquired in childhood created ingrained patterns that require re-education in adulthood. For this group, exposure to new ideas and environments is sometimes enough to make a lasting positive change.

For many people, biological factors within the body need to be addressed in order for food to be metabolized in healthier ways; medical and/or naturopathic support must accompany any dietary strategies in order for those dietary changes to result in enduring weight loss. Indeed, foods themselves can create compulsive cravings that won’t disappear until dietary changes are made, and of course, it’s hard to make those dietary changes until the cravings are gone!

To make matters even more complicated, people typically have more than one factor contributing to their weight challenges. It is understandable, then, that there is no one eating plan that works for every single body and there is no one style of intervention that can work for every single person.

Indeed, our battles to attain a healthy weight are so complex they still mystify the experts in all the healing fields. Therefore, we all need to be compassionate toward our food struggles and the food struggles of our loved ones. There are no easy answers at this time. Respecting the real difficulty of the challenge can help prevent feelings of inadequacy and blame. It’s not our fault; it’s our challenge.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 671)

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