Jennifer is a lifelong emotional eater who has tried just about everything to stop the munchies. She's been to Overeaters' Anonymous, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and counsellors to try and help her beat her food cravings. She has even tried fasting for long periods to attempt to break the hold food has over her.

While she has experienced periods of control, she is dissatisfied at the feelings of deprivation that she experiences when she goes to Overeaters' Anonymous, which encourages abstinence from trigger foods. For Jennifer this would mean a life without the whites - white sugar, white flour and salt. For her, this is a life without pleasure.

I believe, that for most of us our identity is wrapped up in the 'labels' we give ourselves. These labels can be anything from the job we do, to our relationships with others, our goals, our passions, our strengths or our weaknesses.

Are you a career woman, a mom, an accountant, a politician? Are you a failure or a winner? Do you think of yourself as a "fat girl", a "pretty girl", or a "manly man"?

Think about how you describe yourself to others and how you think of yourself.

With Jennifer, it soon became clear that her identity is wrapped up in her opinion of herself as a wife and mother. Any time that she perceives problems in this area, she reaches for food. For Jennifer the state of her house is a barometer of her internal health. When her house is spic and span she feels confident and in control of her life. When dirty dishes accumulate on the bench and washing piles up in the bath she feels like a failure as a wife, a mother and a person.
In short, Jennifer overgeneralises. When something goes wrong in the area of her life that she identifies with, she personalises this, and judges herself as a failure in all areas of her life. So if she’s a failure, she might as well eat, right?

You guessed it. When she doesn’t feel like doing housework, or is confronted with a messy kitchen she eats.

Here are some of her comments:

  • "If my house is a mess and I can’t keep up with the housework or I can’t get motivated to get it done I feel like I’m not coping in life."
  • "If my house is tidy I feel like I’m coping."
  • "For me cleaning my bench is a big deal. Some days I look at it and I have no idea where to start. Yet my daughter can come along and in less than five minutes she sorts everything out, wipes down the bench and it’s done. I don’t know why I can’t be like that. So then I start telling myself that I’m lazy, or that I just didn’t get taught right by my mother. She did everything for me as a kid, and I find it hard to do all this stuff. I don’t enjoy it so I put it off."
  • "I start feeling dumb and inadequate and then I need food to make me feel better."
  • "Even when I do clean the bench I feel like I should treat myself because it’s such an effort. I feel exhausted, so I sit down with a big plate of unhealthy food or a packet of biscuits and scoff the lot."

Jennifer's next step was to examine her distorted perceptions.

She has been challenging her assumption that an overindulgent parent who did everything for her has created a lazy monster who is incapable of doing housework. Jennifer is still having trouble convincing herself that her upbringing is irrelevant. She is very attached to her family and is having trouble separating today's Jennifer from the Jennifer of her childhood. She accepts logically that she's not the same woman, and that the way she is now is a combination of nature and nurture and that she can change her habits, but emotionally she's still letting go.

She's also working to not immediately dismiss positive feedback. When her husband and friends tell her she is a good wife, a good parent and a good person, she's too quick to find fault with herself. She admits that she tests people and keeps rejecting their encouragement because she doesn't believe it herself.

Finally, she's working on understanding that the state of her house is not a reflection on her as a person.

I hope sharing Jennifer's story will help illustrate the impact that your beliefs can have on your eating and help you understand why diets often fail.

Author's Bio: 

After a successful career spanning finance, marketing and management roles in Fortune 500 companies, Talia experienced stress-induced burnout, and left the corporate world to establish a consulting business.

Talia is a published author, professional speaker and business mentor. She is also a contributing author to 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life with Bob Proctor, John Gray and Jack Canfield.