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Happiness and Dysregulated Eaters

Dysregulated eaters tend to think they’ll be happy when this or that happens—when they find a life partner, become “normal” eaters, lose weight, land the perfect job, can slow down, or retire. But will these occurrences really bring happiness? If not, what will?

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California-Riverside and author of THE MYTHS OF HAPPINESS, “These things—marriage, family, wealth—do make people happy, but the effect is often not as long-lasting as people expect. And when the ‘thrill’ wears off and life gets back to everyday experiences, we think there’s something wrong.” (“What makes you happy isn’t what you might think,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/26/13) This sentiment reminds me of what happens when people lose weight. They’re on cloud nine for a while feeling triumphant, checking out their slimmer bodies in every mirror, buying new clothes, basking in the glow of compliments—until the newness of it all wears off and they face the same old life they had before their weight loss. They’re still in the same job, with the same friends, and still facing the same problems, whatever they are.

Lyubomirsky notes that “…happiness to a large extent resides inside us”…it’s our responses to life’s challenges that “govern their repercussions.” The article explains that “New research in the growing field of positive psychology—empirical studies of positive experiences and relationships—suggests that our levels of underlying joy depend more on how we react to situations, be they good or bad, than on the situations themselves.”

Dysregulated eaters don’t feel very happy internally. They feel unworthy and undeserving, worry a lot, second-guess themselves, and think they’re failures who possess some intrinsic flaw that’s unfixable. They project their unhappiness onto situations that are not necessarily downers, and depend on upbeat externals—weight loss, eating, new possessions, approval, and being loved—to feel “happy.” However, when these highs don’t last, they return to the stasis of internal unhappiness—and food.

How many of you keep yearning for a happiness that comes from outside yourself or is in the future? Does this process work? Happy people seek and find happiness in the present and accept that in spite of life’s low points, it’s their job to create their own happiness. Remind yourself that you are the creator of your happiness. By intentionally focusing on every day, small moments of happiness, you can bring joy into situations rather than rely on situations to generate it for you.