‘How I got on top of my emotional eating’

I was grieving over my loss of connection. Source: Getty Images

For years, this woman’s weight fluctuated. Then she made a decision that changed everything.

Both of my parents had their own problems to deal with when I was growing up. Alcohol, disabilities, domestic violence and poverty. At 10, my dad and I experienced a terrifying road rage incident. There were no seatbelts in those days. I was hospitalised for two months, both my legs were broken (one in traction) and all my top front teeth were knocked out.

I settled into a routine in the hospital, watching the other kids come, and go. I was a little overweight, so the hospital decided to put me on a calorie-controlled diet. The food tasted like cardboard. Someone got me a copy of the pocket calorie counter by Allan Borushek. I became a walking encyclopedia of how many calories any type of food had, and my food obsession was born.

I’d eat what I wanted and then spit it out. I tried to learn how to throw up, but I couldn’t get the hang of it.

At 12 , I moved in with mum, who had gone blind after botched cataract operations. She put me on a diet when I got there. I went from a slightly chubby 12-year-old to a skinny 13-year-old. I was so happy with my figure - it was a dream.

To maintain my figure I would chop up a Mars bar into 10 pieces and have one piece a day.

Over the next 40 years I tried every diet, every exercise regime I could, to control my weight. I took up smoking, popped speed (prescription and illicit), did no-carb diets; protein diets; percentage of this and that diets. I became an athlete for a while. I did a very physical and totally exhausting 13 hour-a-day job which kept me trim for seven years!

How could I be this successful person and be so fat?

If I was successful in losing the weight, I would invariably put it back on with a little more weight. In retrospect, that worked out to be an additional 54kg. I had the usual dramas a 40-year-old has and I lost all hope. How could I be this successful person and be so fat?

I was contemplating another diet as I lay on the couch sick with the flu - something about the futility of it all made me look for something else. I found a group called Overeaters Anonymous (OA) on the internet. The website resonated with me, people’s stories were amazing nuggets of confirmation and hope. I found a group in the city and six months later I went.

I was very afraid to go. Once there, everyone ‘shared’ their story. I was agape at the similarities to my life.

People were so kind, much kinder to me than I was to myself, and the stories kept packing a punch. I knew I was in the right place. My weight stabilised and then started to drop. Still, I didn’t focus on the food. I’ve learned so much from the steps, I had no idea I was able to turn things around like that.

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Sam Ikin was relieved to know his overeating was the result of mental ill health rather than just due to a lack of control. He wants society to realise it’s not as easy as ‘just stopping eating’ for people who are overweight as there are usually other factors at play.
Sam Ikin was relieved to know his overeating was the result of mental ill health rather than just due to a lack of control. He wants society to realise it’s not as easy as ‘just stopping eating’ for people who are overweight as there are usually other factors at play.

I learned to be deeply honest about how my behaviour had hurt others and sought to make amends where possible. Whilst this was scary it totally undermined my self-loathing - that I didn't even know I had- because I'd been covering it up with my ego.

Turns out, I'm just like everyone else after all. I'd always felt so different and this was very isolating. I started to understand that my food issue was more of a widespread life issue. I'd used food to try to treat all my problems and it hadn't worked. It never occurred to me that my way of thinking might be why I had the problems in the first place. I worked the program and life started to improve noticeably. I was becoming a better person, a happier person.

I lent on my program more and more and started to trust life and the things that happened. I stopped controlling everything and life soon became incredibly easy - stress started to lift.

While it’s not for everyone, for me, it’s given me hope. My behaviours have changed so much. I had no idea I could do it, but it had nothing to do with dieting. It just worked. I now realise the damage I have done to my mind and body and I am healing step by step, day by day.

Insight has no affiliation to Overeaters Anonymous. It's recommended you consult a GP about what a healthy weight, diet and lifestyle looks like for you.

Source Insight

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