09/11/2012 03:27 pm ET Updated Nov 11, 2012

Are You Eating Too Much to Blot Out Your Life?

There's a lot of talk about healing obesity in our country. I'm afraid that until we gain an understanding of what goes on behind overeating, it will be hard to create the healing that is needed. After maintaining a substantial weight loss for several decades, I've arrived at a few insights about the tendency to overindulge.

Most of us want to feel comfortable. In fact, many of us can't tolerate even slight discomfort. Personally, I found that overeating numbed the uncomfortable feelings I didn't want to experience. Trying to understand my feelings was so painful at times that indulging in excess food seemed like a better alternative. I was willing to tolerate a life of grayness rather than face the struggle and live authentically.

However, the price I paid was too great. I still remember what it felt like to smother my emotions with chocolate cake, candy and fried foods. At first, the taste would seem pleasing, but once I took my first bite, I would lose all control. Some people can enjoy rich foods in moderation, but I found it impossible to stop. I became obese, weighing 50 pounds over what is recommended for my height -- but more disturbingly, my spirit was killed off in the process.

I remember smiling a lot. When people asked me how I was feeling, I gave them a one-word answer: "Fine." I loved to ride in cars and on buses because they were constantly in motion, helping me escape the discomfort of getting to know the real me. Meanwhile, stuffing myself was how I coped with disappointment, anger, joy -- anything that created strange sensations inside of me. At the time, I was not able to stay with my emotions long enough to give myself another choice.

When I started to reach out for help, I realized that I was not alone. After hearing about how others had dealt with the same problem, I learned to identify what I really felt when I overate -- to admit when something (or someone) had made me mad or anxious or scared. With support behind me, I began to tell others the truth, even when I thought it might displease them. There were many times when I didn't know if I could go another moment without resorting to excess food.

But the more I stuck it out, the more I started to respect myself. I was learning a new way of being in the world -- a way of sharing my authentic self, not just someone I thought people wanted to see. My fat had served as a protective armor that kept people at a distance, and now that I had some tools for healthy living, I didn't need it anymore. As I began to have success in healing my own life, I realized I could help others who were struggling in the same way.

Are you numbing yourself by overeating? If so, know that there is help available. You, too, can learn to become excited about your life -- all of it -- both the struggles and the joy.