Skip to main content

Stop the people you love from making you fat

By Laura Day, Oprah.com
A friend's emotional problems and lead to you eating too much.
A friend's emotional problems and lead to you eating too much.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Author: You feel people's needs and they can create emotional or physical confusion in you
  • You may eat because of someone else's anger, depression, anxiety or hunger
  • If friend has hard times, practice experiencing them outside of you and not "in your heart"

(OPRAH.com) -- When a cashier makes change, the quarter she hands over could make you sick -- even 12 hours later.

The virus from the flu can linger without a host for up to 24 hours, just waiting for you to pick it up. And that's not even that long: A foot fungus can live for a month in a shower.

Did you know that emotions carry the same risk, even when the person is not in your presence? You can feel people's needs and demands, and they can create emotional and physical confusion in you, especially in close relationships and even if you haven't seen the person in ages -- like your mom, whom you've been meaning to call. I'm sure you have many stories of feeling uneasy, only to find out that someone close to you was in trouble or simply down.

Oprah.com: One-bite-at-a-time diet makeovers

You may be treating someone else's anger, depression, anxiety or even hunger by eating! Food is a drug. Long before we could go to Wal-Mart and fill a prescription, we gravitated to certain plants and foods to treat illness and discomfort. For example, a dose of starchy, sugary food will medicate your brain for depression -- the old serotonin boost -- while expanding your thighs. That's why we tend to crave these things when we feel low.

Oprah.com: Your emotional eating habits --take the quiz!

As children, we learn to have good boundaries and a clear sense of who we are separate from other people's feelings and expectations. However, while you may have had a healthy childhood that should have fostered these boundaries (I may have met this person once), most of you, like myself, are still human sponges for other people's feelings, expectations and needs. This can make you fat!

When you practice good boundaries, you can quickly reverse this problem. Here are 10 ways to do it:

• Notice when hunger begins. Not when it overwhelms you, and not mid-bite, but when you first feel peckish.

• Notice what else you are feeling at the same time. Notice who comes to mind and where your attention wanders.

• Stall. Drink a sip of water and imagine filling every atom of yourself with a healthy, happy you. If you don't even know what that feels like, it's time to start using your intuition to find out. Pretending you have what you envy in others is a good way to start.

Oprah.com: 50 ways to soothe yourself without food

• Put yourself on alert for those people and feelings that creep back into your attention and find methods that work to get them out!

If you know someone who's having a hard time, especially if it's your best friend, someone you love, someone you're romantically involved with or even someone you're related to, make a practice of experiencing them outside of you and not "in your heart." Not only will you be able to help her with more power and perspective, but you will stop reacting as if you were her (and stop medicating it with food).

If you live with a person who's in distress, make an inner space and an outer space (like a special chair) where you can go to repossess yourself.

Have you ever noticed skinny people and heavy people often team up in couples? One person is eating for the other person's hunger! Filling yourself with the feeling of being you is a good way to make a healthy energetic line, and it's good practice to maintain individuality in your relationships.

In Israel in the 1980s, an experiment was done to see if a group of people experiencing a "goal" could affect the outcome. The experiment was a success.

What does that mean to you? If you are part of a group that supports your goals, you're more likely to get them, even if you participate from a distance. That's why I set a goal every day on my fan page and Twitter account for the groups to work on together. There is power in numbers!

Your beliefs about yourself that were formed in early childhood actually become genetic and behavioral reality. Notice your feelings and memories as you set new goals and deal with them by challenging them.

Oprah.com: 15 new ways to think about food

The subconscious directs your actions long before you make the conscious decision to do something like eat that cake or watch "The Marriage Ref" instead of exercising. Have an action ready to battle subconscious, knee-jerk, belly-expanding impulses.

Oprah.com: Lose-the-last-10-pounds workout

Remember: History is not destiny, so make destiny now! If you can master your body with something as difficult as eating -- which, unlike many activities, you are programmed to do to sustain life -- you can master any relationship, audition, interaction or challenge. It is good training for life.

Subscribe to O, The Oprah Magazine for up to 75% off the newsstand price. That's like getting 18 issues FREE. Subscribe now!

TM & © 2011 Harpo Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.