The Comfort Connection

Montel Williams was quite candid on The Dr. Oz Show recently when speaking about his struggles with emotional eating. He has a lot going for him: Emmy Award-winning talk-show host, a decorated former naval intelligence officer, an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist, yet something was tearing him apart. His depression has been talked about and his multiple sclerosis diagnosis has been documented but he still felt like a fraud. He could no longer promote a healthy lifestyle (Montel is also the author of New York Times’ bestselling wellness books) and be an emotional eater when no one was looking.

That’s right, when Montel gets anxious, sad, nervous or depressed, he turns to food. He even admitted to eating a box and a half of Girl Scout cookies before his last appearance on The Dr. Oz Show. Oh, do I know that feeling all too well. Sticking the Thin Mints in the freezer didn’t make me forget about them…it made them tastier and I wanted more and more and more and more.

A lot of people turn to food for solace; of course, that’s why it’s called comfort food. Montel made the point that once he started down this road, trouble wasn’t far behind. And then, as his life started to revolve around what he thought he looked like, it was a full-blown problem. Emotional eating took over. It’s ironic that for some of us who have a negative body image, we turn to food to dull the pain and suffering going on in our mind. What was it about those Swedish fish that I thought was going to give me the power to get to bed earlier, go to the gym in the morning and make me smarter?

Dr. Oz asked Montel about his negative body image. What was at the root of the bad feelings? Montel broke down as he told the story of being a 19-year-old marine; 6 feet tall weighing 142 pounds. People around him would joke that he needed to put on weight to be considered powerful so be began weightlifting. One day he worked out so hard that he tore a pectoral muscle and his chest swelled about two inches. He was taken to the hospital where doctors immediately thought he had breast cancer (this was nearly 40 years ago) and woke up eight hours later having had a double mastectomy, including removal of several glands and lymph nodes. Two weeks later he found out there was no cancer. He was so traumatized by this that he didn’t take his shirt off in public for the next ten years.

“If I walk by a mirror feeling a little down, my brain goes back to my 19-year-old self,” Montel told Dr. Oz. Montel has been able to gain control over his emotional eating and build his self-esteem by changing his diet, taking his medication at the exact time every day and working out daily. He no longer eats white flours and announced the next phase of his healthy eating plan was removing sugar from his food intake.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Montel Williams. I didn’t watch his TV show nor have I read his books. However, hearing another human being’s story of low self-esteem and a battle with food is heartbreaking for me.

Next week, I will write more about emotional eating and steps you can take to ensure that food is your friend and not your enemy.

Next Steps:

  1. How would you rate your self-esteem?
  2. Think about whether or not you turn to food for comfort.
  3. Notice if you feel guilty after eating certain foods.
  4. Write at least 20 attributes you like about yourself.

These steps will help you feel more confident and understand more about your relationship to food. If you are concerned about your diet or if your lifestyle is not supporting your health and well-being, Contact me or call 413-282-7286. At Bravo! Wellness, I work with my clients to create manageable lifestyle changes so they are able to achieve their greatest potential in life, health and business.

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10 Responses to "The Comfort Connection"
  1. Sara says:

    My comfort food is cheese. I have eliminated most all of dairy in my life – but I love my nuggets of Tarentaise, Beaufort.

    I usually take a big sip of water or tea before I allow myself to indulge. Just to check in with myself. A walk around the block usually helps.

  2. Jodi Graber says:

    Thanks for your comment, Sara. The water and tea before indulging is so key…as is a walk around the block, like you said. Does the cheese remind you of something or someone?

  3. Tanzie says:

    Wow, Montel Williams is so accomplished and yet he has/had low self-esteem. Also very interesting because you don’t hear of many men who eat emotionally or have low self-esteem. Glad he’s able to get a handle on it with changing his diet. It’s amazing how food affects our bodies!

  4. Jodi says:

    I agree, Tanzie, it is so unlikely or unnatural for a man to admit to low self-esteem. Food is really everything – the foundation of our being. It was really wonderful to hear how he has made the commitment to himself to eat foods that nourish his body and to take his medication at the same time every day. Even something like that, the same medication, can have varying effects if taken at different times throughout the day. Self-care really needs to be our #1 priority.

  5. Dylan says:

    This was surprising to learn about. I am impressed that he shared this – it will probably help a lot of people. I can relate to it too. I have made many changes to my diet (I gave up flour, white rice and most of my sugar intake), I excerise more regularly and I go to bed earlier. I feel so much better as a result, but every now and then, I still revert back to former states of mind and make those bad choices. I can feel it in my body and mind why this is not a good idea. I deal with it by letting myself just “Begin Again” so that I don’t go into feelings of guilt which only leads to giving up. But why do rainy days make me so tired no matter what I do?

  6. Jodi Graber says:

    Remember the Carpenters used to sing “…rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” There are issues related to the cloud coverage and then there’s just the absence of sunshine. You are not alone in feeling tired on rainy days. As you said about “Begin Again,” sometimes you need to acknowledge the reduced energy on rainy days and know that your energy will bounce back. Or, you can acknowledge it and recite an affirmation to support your body/mind/spirit on rainy days: I feel energized and am committed to my health and work today. And Bravo! to you for eating healthily and taking care of yourself.

  7. I’m fortunate that I don’t seek solace in food but I do sabotage my health with smoking. I had quit for many years but a very nasty divorce got me started again. I just can’t seem to handle stress without one self-destructive vice! Why do we hurt ourselves in order to cope????

  8. Jodi Graber says:

    I hear you, Antoinette. Thanks for writing and being so honest. I’ve told my story of self-sabotage…sugar addiction which lead to an eating disorder. Managing our stress is so important. Stress will always be in our lives, it’s how we respond that makes a huge difference. If you’d like to talk, I’m here for you. You can reach me at . Perhaps I can help you or recommend a colleague. Most importantly, I want you to be healthy and happy and enjoying a successful and fulfilled life.

  9. Carla says:

    I don’t know of anybody that in one point or another on their life haven’t turn to comfort food, but I think that the key here is to get to the root of the problem and try to solve it before it gets out of control

  10. Jodi says:

    Thanks for your comment, Carla. Absolutely agree – getting to the root of the problem and understanding the triggers is the key to solving emotional eating. It takes effort but the payoff is a happy, fulfilled life.

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