Oddly, many of you are more disturbed by how you look than about the questionable or poor state of your health due to excessive unhealthy eating. While over-focusing on what you and others think of your size, you under-focus on how large quantities of non-nutritious food affects your body, which is the opposite way to think to eat better.
I know this because I have a whole caseload of troubled eaters who think like this and because I run a Food and Feelings message board whose members talk a lot about hating their fat or overweight bodies, but not so much about how their eating is ruining their health and shortening their lives. I have clients who could spend hours telling me how horrid they feel going to a party because they’re not the size they wish to be, but are taken aback when I suggest that this might be the least of their problems, that they’re literally destroying their minds and bodies by their food choices.
Call me crazy, but it makes more sense to worry about diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers, and premature death than to agonize about how you look in a bathing suit or what your relatives will think of your 50 pound weight gain at a family reunion. After all, you can lead a perfectly happy life with people thinking you’re overweight, but you can’t shrug off unhappiness when you’re dying of cancer. And yet pretzel logic persists.
So, let’s figure this out—what’s going on with your thinking? Are you so scared of the grave dangers that could befall you from eating too much sugar and fat that your mind just can’t go there and you use disgust with your appearance as a distraction? Understandable. It’s terrifying to contemplate a failing interior or premature death, so maybe you fall into denial about them and find it easier to obsess about your exterior. Or do you truly believe that your appearance and what people think of it is more important than being healthy? Or do you not care about longevity, but only about how you look going through life? I don’t need the answers to these questions, but you do.
According to research, “to become healthy” is a better long-term motivator for wanting to eat better than “to look good” or “to weigh less.” So, maybe it’s time to visualize having a heart attack, tumors growing in your intestines, or diabetes causing you to lose a limb. Yeah, that’s yucky stuff to contemplate, but that’s the point. If you’re going to obsess about something, pick fears that have very real consequences to you and your family and that just might help you make wiser food choices. When you start to worry about how you look, try switching to how unhealthy food is destroying your body.