TROUBLESHOOTER / I’m not stressed out, and yet I can’t stop eating

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female contract employee in my 30s. I feel uneasy about being a non-regular employee, so I work in the hope of becoming a regular employee, while also hunting for a job. I am bothered about not being able to control my appetite.

To maintain a slim body, I usually watch what I eat. However, once I get the feeling of wanting to eat, I become unable to stop the impulse. Then I become bloated and put on weight. But when my diet goes back to normal, my weight goes back to what it was, and I repeat this cycle.

I have tried to analyze the times when I get the urge to eat, but in vain. It seems that this habit has nothing to do with stress or discomfort.

I used to smoke but successfully quit on the first go. I’m the type of person who is all or nothing. I am good at quitting completely, as I did when I stopped smoking.

However, when it comes to my diet, it’s not possible to not eat. And it seems to be difficult for me to reduce how much I eat. How can I stop this impulse?

A, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. A:

Even as you face the impulse to “eat more,” your whole life is heading toward that impulse, just as you once focused on not smoking after deciding to do so.

People have an aspect of “what you are thinking about will become your whole life.”

I wonder what the fundamental cause is that drives you to eat. Even if you successfully suppress the impulse of overeating, the fundamental cause of the impulse should not be ignored. Otherwise another impulse will appear and you will get focused on fighting that one.

When you’re driven by an impulse to overeat, you may forget about your worries over being a non-regular worker or the desire to stay in shape. It seems to me that your impulse to eat is a shelter where you can be free from the anxiety that keeps bothering you.

It may be good to aim at becoming a regular employee. But people don’t become happy or free from anxiety just because they become a regular employee or are in good shape. What’s most important is to find something that helps you become satisfied and concentrate on doing it.

As for me, when I make an effort in my research, I sometimes feel that the effort is enriching me, even if it doesn’t directly result in profit.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(From July 23, 2018, issue)Speech

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