Be Honest About Your Eating
Nicholas “Dr. Nick” Yphantides, MD, MPH
Freshology Medical Director
Summer is coming! I wonder how that makes you feel – especially those of you who are still struggling with your personal fitness level and the excess body weight you carry around daily. I can still vividly recall my “big old days” – how I dreaded the warming trends of spring. It was very unsettling for me as it meant I would have to shed the layers of clothes that I used to find solace in and hide behind. When I weighed nearly 500 pounds, I often found comfort in trying to cover myself up by wearing over sized sweaters, baggy elastic sweats and other extra layers of clothing that I felt somehow protected me. The truth is that as a very large and out of shape man, there was a tremendous amount of painful emotional isolation that I experienced on a daily basis. A vicious cycle is often created as shame can lead people (including myself) to eat more and treat food as if it is Valium or Prozac on a plate.
Ample research has been done to prove the association of being overweight or obese and having feelings of shame, dread and depression. Furthermore, a person who is obese is likely to eat more in the effort to find comfort. Thus, the cycle commences. I myself used to eat for all the wrong reasons. I stuffed more fast-food wrappers and Jack in the Box bags under my car seat than I care to remember. No way would I ever let my family see me cleaning out my vehicle at home!
Often shameful eaters pig out in response to guilt or something shameful from the past. Some eat to mask the pain from childhood trauma such as sexual abuse. In fact, I’ve seen medical studies that suggest many victims of abuse end up becoming obese.
While alcohol may lift the spirits, it was never designed to be the sole coping mechanism with which one uses to deal with the anguish of past or present realities. So too, food was not designed to be a source of companionship, anxiety relief, or as a way of dealing with guilt. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the experience—and I’m so all for eating the highest quality, most delicious food and enjoying it in the process—food is nothing more than fuel to keep the body going. Author Marc David once said, “Eating is life. Each time we eat, the soul continues its earthly journey. With every morsel of food swallowed, a voice says, ‘I choose life.’ I choose to eat and I yearn for something more.” By overindulging we are depriving ourselves of what is possible, the liberation that is possible through healthy living, because a liberating and exhilarating form of living is one that is free of shame and dread.
I challenge you to face head on the irony of the vicious cycle if that is what you are experiencing. Seeking psychological and emotional assistance is often absolutely necessary and all of us have the opportunity to pursue appropriate support and encouragement towards a healthy way of life. I would encourage you to strategically open up and share your heart with others who are prepared to support you. Are ready to take off the layers that inhibit the way that you relate to one another, preventing authenticity and vulnerability?
It is time to be honest. Honest with yourself and those around you in order to experience the joy of thriving as a healthy person. The English author C.S. Lewis once said “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Prepare yourself for the warmer weather by taking off the clothes of your heart & feel more confident when taking off your physical clothes this summer.
Dr. Nick Yphantides, MD, MPH is the consulting Medical Director for Freshology and the author of “My Big Fat Greek Diet.” He also serves as the Chief Medical Officer for San Diego County. More information about Dr. Nick can be found at www.healthsteward.com