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Sometimes you think you’re ready to change your eating behavior, but there’s so much else going on in your life that takes precedence. Frequently you need to get other parts straightened out to free up energy to put into resolving food problems. If you’re struggling with difficult situations or they’re contributing to food abuse, you may have to step back from eating work until you resolve them effectively.

For example, maybe you’re really unhappy in your job. Day after day you dread going into work because you’re overworked and undervalued or bored silly. Or your boss is an ogre and belittles you at every opportunity. Or you don’t feel accepted and liked by your co-workers. Yes, you can change your thinking about these situations to relieve some of the pressure, but you’re still going to be consumed by work problems until you make changes. Make them and it may be easier to eat “normally.”

Or maybe you’re lonely and depressed and can’t seem to make friends or find a life partner. Trying to change your eating is only working on managing the symptom. Profound loneliness or depression needs to be addressed head on—then you can put your attention on eating behaviors. If you don’t, you’re placing the cart before the horse. You won’t be able to move forward until you take care of your underlying problems.

Perhaps you feel stuck in a bad marriage or relationship and eat out of feeling bitter, frustrated, conflicted, or full of regrets. It may be almost impossible to stop disordered eating under those conditions, that is, feeling terrible about yourself and your situation day after miserable day. If food is your response to emotional pain, it’s likely to continue to be unless you alter your circumstances. Plus so much of your energy is being used up in just getting through a day, how much do you really have left over to focus on changing your eating? Not much, I’d bet.

Take some time to consider the underlying situations which cause you to eat, particularly the chronic ones you aren’t addressing—having hurtful people in your life, your job, your kids, your partner, your living quarters, your neighbors, or your community. If you’re barely managing to tread water, you simply won’t have the commitment, fortitude, and focus you need to change your beliefs and behaviors around food. That’s tremendously hard work in the best of situations. As AA says, first things first, but in this case, that doesn’t mean eliminating the symptom. It means taking care of other business so that you can finally resolve your eating issues.