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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Vanessa, Comfort Eating And The Gastric Band

Today Vanessa Feltz was on BBC radio 4 to talk about her gastric band operation which she ways is successful in helping her to limit her portion size.  Lots of people will be following her with her weight loss struggles and will be saying if it works for her, why not for me!

I saw Vanessa many years ago;  she was interviewing me just after having lost a great deal of weight. I quailed at the fact that I was telling her that 95% out of 100 people who try to lose weight put it all back on again in the end. I don’t think she wanted to hear that but the years have proved me right.

The gastric band is a reasonably safe operation but like all weight loss surgery it isn’t a panacea for overeating or comfort eating in the long run. Ultimately the person with the gastric band will need some coaching to address her emotional eating because it is all too easy to learn how to out-eat the band.

Most people don’t really know what emotional eating is. It is a common fallacy that eating food we want but don’t need, often compulsively, is “eating for comfort”.  Emotional eating is a catch-all term that means different things. Some people overeat to quell difficult feelings or even to reduce or soothe emotional excitement. In some people the feelings relate to bad events in the past and in other people they do not.  In some people emotional eating is about a difficulty in managing impulses “I have to have this or I will die!” and in other people, emotional eating is about unhelpful meanings and associations with food; this is fun, food is my friend, I deserve this, it is a treat!

In her interview on the BBC, Vanessa spoke about looking for the dessert trolley as soon as she goes into the restaurant. The gastric band won’t change that mindset in the long run because there are limits to how much it can be tightened and adjusted. What really needs adjusting is the brain, to tone down and muffle the core excitement that exists around food and eating.  We can learn how to enjoy food – all of it – without it having to rule our life.

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