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Compulsive Eating
Dear Emuna

Compulsive Eating

Help! I am sabotaging my efforts to control my eating and can’t lose weight.


Dear Emuna

I am a 52 year old mother of two adolescent boys. I have a compulsive eating disorder and every time I embark on eating properly and a moderate exercise regime, it ends within a few weeks. The minute it starts to go well – when I actually start seeing results, start to feel good and don’t resent what I am doing – something happens subconsciously, a trigger or whatever, to derail my efforts. I’ve tried to analyze this many times with no success. I had a lap band a few years ago and lost about 15 kilos. Since my eating is emotional, it has stopped me from incessant gorging, but I am unable to lose more weight, partially due to the lap band. Please help; I also have a history of high cholesterol.

Out of control

Dear Out of Control,

I feel very badly saying this but I’m not sure what help I can give you. It sounds like you need to get on a healthy eating plan and give up the emotional eating. But of course, easier said than done. If it were easy, you would have accomplished it already and you wouldn’t be turning to me in frustration!

Since you recognize that your eating has very little to do with hunger and since your own efforts at discovering what triggers the eating have been unsuccessful, you must consult with a professional in the field. Luckily for you, there are many. You can try an overeater’s anonymous program or some type of individual therapy. I think you recognize that until you discover the roots of the emotional compulsion to eat you will not be able to move forward. You need to understand what you are eating to avoid and find some healthier activities to replace the compulsive eating.

The advantage of an overeater anonymous type program is that you will discover you are not alone and that may be a source of encouragement and inspiration. The advantage of some type of individual therapy is of course the amount of time you will get to work through your issues. Either way you should avail yourself of one of these services right away. With a skillful therapist or reputable program, and with desire and determination, you should certainly be able to make significant progress in wrestling with and conquering this issue.

My Social Husband

Dear Emuna,

My husband is much more social than me. He loves to get together with friends – whether it’s a night out at a new restaurant or the theatre or a bar or a big barbecue on the weekends. I’m not anti-social but I prefer some more quiet evenings at home, especially after a long day with the kids. When we were younger and before we started a family, this wasn’t an issue because I just always went along with him. But now not only am I tired, I actually enjoy the quiet nights. I don’t feel as compelled to run out and do something or try something as I did in my single days. I can let him do without me but I’m not sure that would be healthy for our marriage. What should I do?

Searching for Peace and Quiet

Dear Searching,

It’s not uncommon for couples to have differing desires for social experiences. In fact, in many marriages, this actually provides a healthy balance. It is probably not good for your marriage (or you!) to stay in every night and the same is true for going out every night. It is good when you and your husband can balance each other out – as long as neither side becomes resentful.

It sounds like both of you are veering into that dangerous territory right now. You both need to take a step back. Firstly you need to remind yourselves that your first priority is your marriage. No friends or social activities, no quiet nights curled up with a good book are worth sacrificing your marital happiness for. Once you both recognize that you have lost sight of this goal, then you can work together to reevaluate how you spend a time and work out a schedule that thoughtfully accommodates the needs of both partners. Once neither of you feels put upon or taken advantage of it will be easier to participate in the activities your spouse desires.

This is a completely normal and typical challenge and you certainly shouldn’t feel discouraged. With good will and the desire to give to your spouse, it is easily resolved. Then it just becomes a practical issue of what to do when – which is why we have calendars on our smart phones!

My husband I don’t share the same vacation goals. I like cities and he prefers nature. We always try to go somewhere that is a combination of both – which means we both give a little – and we both gain a lot. Does that mean that there are some places we may never go? Yes. Does it mean that every moment may not reflect an item on our ideal itinerary? Yes. Unless we decide that the ideal trip isn’t one where I see everything I’ve always wanted to see but rather one where I give my spouse the ability to get the most pleasure.

Tornado of Grandkids

Dear Emuna,

I love my grandchildren dearly but whenever they come visit it is like a tornado whips through my home. It is never the same – something is broken, something is colored on, the mess seems insurmountable. I want them to enjoy coming and I want their father (my son) to continue to come visit but the noise and chaos are a bit much for me. Any suggestions?

(Trying to be a) Doting Grandmother

Dear Doting,

Take some comfort in the fact that you are not raising an issue that is unique to your family. Everyone I know has the same issue. And it is very difficult to set boundaries with our adult children. I think the secret lies in a parenting trick you must know by now: Choose your battles and choose them wisely. There are only a very few issues worth taking a stand over. For the rest of them, just bite your tongue and smile (and hire extra cleaning help!). Unless they are being deliberately destructive, you want your grandchildren to find your home warm and accepting. Unless your son is cavalier about your property, you want him to come visit – often. So the house won’t be as clean as you like but you have more important priorities – a solid and lasting and loving relationship with your son and your grandchildren.

Sometimes when my house is a very big mess (after a similar type of visit) I think, that, like Humpty Dumpty, I will never be able to put it back together again. And then, lo and behold, with a little help from my other children (and the aforementioned extra cleaning help!) it is back together quite rapidly. And, in the end, it’s only a house, only a material possession, never worth preserving at the cost of my relationship with those I love.

August 9, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 8

(6) Anonymous, August 14, 2014 2:18 PM

Try reading the Garden of Emuna by Rav Shalom Arush

Translated into English by Rav Lazer Brody. The physical eating is an attempt to fill a spiritual deficiency. This book might help you to fill that void.
It is helping me.

(5) Anonymous, August 13, 2014 6:23 PM

help for eating disorder

from one eating disorder person to another. There are great places for treatment. Also there are books to help one that i found good was Mindful eating and intuitive eating. Cognitive therapy is also very helpful and i found I related to Torah principles and that helped me understand it better. But having support is really essential; I could not do it on my own. The good news is it is doable and you can succeed. Also being none judgemental but curious as you learn is helpful.

(4) Rickismom, August 13, 2014 5:10 PM

must treat triggers of eating

I am writing as a person who used to weigh 150 kilos (330 lbs) , and today I weigh less than half of that.
Anyone who eats in such a fashion is solving some otheer problem with their food... whether boredom, a solution for tension, an energy boost when tired, or whatever. It is imperative to identify what the food is doing for you, and to find alternative ways to deal with the underlying problem.
Wishing the letter writer success.

(3) Shoshana Schwartz, August 12, 2014 9:27 PM

help is available!

An Overeaters Anonymous (OA) program is not just a "support group." It is a 12-step program - the first step of which is to admit we are powerless over food. Since we are powerless, we can then ask for, and accept, help. We no longer try to fight the urges. Instead, we acknowledge them and acknowledge that they are stronger than we are. We then give them over to someone else in the program. This is an important tool in any 12 Step program. There are many others as well.
Very often, these tools are not enough. Many people also need a good therapist who works WITH the program, and with their sponsor.
As an addictions counselor at Mifgashim (a division of Retorno, Jewish International Rehab Center), I have seen many people who have tried OA, AA, NA, GA, SA, SLAA, and CODA but who didn't achieve a lasting recovery. In my experience, a comprehensive program that includes step groups, therapy, and a sponsor is the best way to go. It gives you the tools to stay clean and get clean, while addressing the root of the problem, and while being supported by people just like you.
It should also be noted that many people who recover from a primary addiction develop a second one (such as shopping or computers as an alternative to food). A comprehensive program can provide the tools to handle any addiction that may develop during the recovery process.

(2) Maher, August 11, 2014 12:06 PM


Woman who is overeating is on a suicide mission. She needs to resolve her issues and what it is that food is compensating for her in life.Individuals who have an addiction to food and being overweight have a ton of issues that are not being rresolved.. This person needs to see a therapist and be honest. She is very unhappy. (I am a therapist I know).

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