Overeating loss of control
Many of my clients come for weight loss. The seem to be as many reasons for overeating as there are people who want to lose weight. This client was obese. She told me that she had battled with weight all her life. The problem seems to center around issues of control. Right now she feels she is out of control. She just feels compelled to get into the cookie tin, even though she knows she shouldn't.
I asked her when all this had started. She said that it got worse six months ago. Previous to that she had lost 15 kg. Now she has put it all on again, plus more. I asked her "what happened six months ago?"
"Six months ago, one of my children dumped their four young children on me because they couldn't cope with them." I asked her why the children's parents couldn't cope. She said "The pair of them are into drugs and alcohol and just can't cope with the children."
The cause of the overeating
The result is that my client now feels imposed upon, but cannot do anything about it. She feels that this is so unfair. She brought up her own children and was looking forward to spending the next 10 years as an indulgent grandma to her grandchildren. And now she's back having a full-time job and looking after for young children. She sees no way out of it and no one else is offering to help.
She is beginning to resent the children and acting grumpy with them. These are classic depression symptoms. I asked her how she felt about the children. She told me she loves them, but they're not her children. She is done with children. Her own children are all grown up and gone. She had 18 years of motherhood and all the hard work that goes along with that. As soon as they got married she expected to have a lovely retirement, and it hasn't happened.
Overeating, loss of control and resentment
She feels at everything she planned for and worked for has gone wrong. The dream was of taking the grandchildren to the park on a Sunday and buying them ice cream, having a lovely time, and then handing them back. But instead she is now feeding and dressing four young children full-time.
She feels resentful of the children and their parents. She feels helpless. The children can't just be put out on the street. Somehow, she has ended up being responsible for them. She feels that there is nothing she can do about it. No one is helping her. Social Security will not intervene because the children are in a safe environment as far as they are concerned. None of her sisters are lining up to help. It has all spiraled out of control.
Getting your weight under control
The classic response to lack of control is either anger or despair. In her case she has just given up. She eats for comfort. And as soon as she's eaten it, she feels unhappy at putting on weight, gets resentful, and the whole cycle starts again. It's all getting too much for her and she is rapidly sinking into despair.
I investigated a bit more and confirmed that she has had symptoms of depression on and off most of her life. What was most apparent is that she has Categorical Thinking. People with categorical thinking believe that things should be a certain way, and if they are not then they reject them totally. In this case, her expectation was of an easy relaxed retirement, with the bonus of grand kids to play with. What she actually got was an endless amount of work, dealing with someone else's responsibility, and no way out of it. That triggered her categorical thinking, and so she has just given up. The weight gain is a direct consequence of the feeling of losing control.
She said that her weight had yo-yo'd up and down throughout her life. I think that a great many other people are similarly affected by loss of control issues.