Being a Compulsive Overeater

Another participant (C): Marshall, can I share something that happened last night? I felt bad that my husband couldn’t be there for the second night of the partner workshop. I got home at 11 o’clock, and he called at about 11 :05 from his motel up in Button Willow, near Bakersfield. I related what happened in the class and what he had missed – the group had discussed eating issues, which were important to me because I’m a compulsive eater. My husband and I had gotten to the point where he didn’t even want to discuss food with me because he thought I was killing myself with food. It was so painful for him he wouldn’t even talk about it. So I told him about your suggestion and what had gone on at the workshop and he opened up for the first time in years. When he gets home from teaching, he eats an ice cream to deal with emotions that come from a bad teaching day, and so we were able to actually give each other a lot of empathy over eating as a way to hide from the pain. Then yesterday I got in contact… really in contact… I wanted an Almond Roca, so I just imagined the chocolate and the almonds and the crunchy stuff underneath and I thought, “What am I really looking for?” Love! It was just like a flash bulb going off in my head: what I am looking for is love.

Marshall: You were wanting some kind of connection with him, and not knowing how to ask for that connection, in the past it might have taken the form of candy.

Participant C: Yes, it was great! We talked for an hour long-distance. I think it was a first opening.

Marshall: So two nights in a row you’ve had a real connection! Now we have to get you talking Giraffe with yourself and away from thinking that there really is such a thing as a “compulsive overeater. ’’ You can’t say those words in Giraffe because there are no judgments in Giraffe. Remember, all judgments are tragic expressions of other things. Giraffe is a process. When we say anything about ourselves like, “I am a ____________,” it’s static thinking; it puts us in a box and leads to self-fulfilling prophesies.

When we think that we (or somebody else) “is something,” we usually act in a way that makes it happen. There is no verb “to be” in Giraffe; you can’t say, “This person is lazy,” “This person is normal,” “This person is right.” Let’s translate “compulsive overeater” into Giraffe. Use the four things you have already worked with tonight.

Participant C: “Whenever I eat out of my needs to be loved or to be touched….”

Marshall: I feel how?

Participant C: “I feel that the food is assuaging me in a way that…”

Marshall: “I feel discouraged…?”

Participant C: “I feel discouraged that I am not getting my needs met.

Marshall: “I feel discouraged because I really want to get clear on what my needs are so I can meet them.”

Participant C: Yes, right.

Marshall: “So I want to continue doing what I did last night with Bill on the phone. Now when I feel this urge, I want to stop and ask myself, “What am I really needing?” You see how we have translated the judgment, “I’m a compulsive overeater” into how I feel, what my unmet needs are, and what I want to do about it.

That’s how we speak Giraffe with ourselves.

Another participant asks: So the first three parts are…

Marshall: “When I eat because I am wanting something else…” That’s the first part, the observation of what she sees herself doing. Secondly she checks her feeling: “I feel discouraged.” Number three: “My unmet need is to be in touch with what I really want so I have a chance of getting it.” And finally the fourth thing is, “What do I want to do about this to make my most wonderful dream come true? When I start finding myself wanting to eat, I stop and ask myself, ‘What is it that I am really wanting?’ Then I get in touch with what I am really wanting.” Now she is not thinking of what she is; she’s more in touch with a process that moves. That may not solve the problem, but she’ll find out by doing it because she isn’t thinking of what she is: she is thinking of what she is feeling and wanting and what she is going to do about that. A Giraffe never thinks of herself as a “worthwhile person.” If you do, you will spend a good amount of time questioning whether you are a “worthless person.” Giraffes don’t spend time thinking what kind of person they are; they think moment by moment. Not: “What am I?” but “What is the life that is going on in me at this moment?”