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THE CAUSES OF OBESITY: EATING OFF SCHEDULE - USING FOOD TO CALM DOWN

Although the negative feelings associated with emotionally triggered eating—depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and anger—are probably familiar to us all, it seems that the use of food to suppress and cover up these feelings, especially feelings of anger, is most common among women. Throughout history, girls have been socialized into believing that negative emotions such as anger are unladylike. Even today, after years of "raised consciousness," there seems to be a double standard as to how much

expressed dissatisfaction is acceptable from a man versus how much is acceptable from a woman. So rather than talk back to a spouse or speak up to a boss who gives an unjust reprimand, many women will go home and head to the kitchen cupboard for cookies.

Sometimes the situation is a little simpler, and'food becomes a tool for procrastination. For instance, when we're alone, we might rummage in the kitchen and eat to put off tasks we really don't want to do. We might find ourselves saying "First I'm going to do something I enjoy," and often that enjoyment is eating.

Psychologist Judi Hollis, author of Fat and Furious: Women and Food Obsession, points out that we also turn to food to celebrate the happy things that happen in life, such as a promotion at work or joy in a relationship. Think about the social events that help us celebrate special occasions and bond with friends and family. At weddings, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations we feast on spectacular, rich edibles. Indeed, eating is central at all of these affairs, and if we dare to hold back, we risk the wrath of loved ones who, feeling offended, accuse us of not enjoying ourselves. "I've kept my weight off now for twenty-five years," Hollis says, "and I found out that people generally eat over the good stuff and that the happy times are often the most dangerous. When I'm having a good day is when I have to be the most careful about my food."

Facing your feelings, both sad and joyful, is the best way to overcome emotional eating. Working with a trained therapist may help, especially if you are confronting deep-rooted problems. However, there also are ways you can assist yourself.

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