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Updated 3:00 PM October 12, 2005




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Spotlight: One woman's journey

Kristy Urbanski has tried every diet on the market: high protein, low carbohydrate, grapefruit, energy boosters, cabbage soup and starvation, to name a few. When she was in 7th grade, for one month she ate only bananas and orange juice and lost 25 pounds. But after battling with weight her entire life and constant yo-yo dieting she peaked last fall at 300 pounds.
(Photo by Lin Jones, U-M Photo Services)

One year later, after losing eight sizes and 135 pounds and keeping the weight off with the help of a University program, Urbanski says she is elated.

"It's not being afraid to put your jeans in a dryer; not being embarrassed having someone walking up the stairs behind you; enjoying company at the dinner table more than the food; experiencing joy every day," Urbanski says. "It's not beating yourself up every morning for how you ate the day before."

But it's taken a lot of hard work to get her there.

An outpatient office assistant in infusion at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Urbanski learned through a University e-mail bulletin of a 12-week program called "The Hunger Within." The workshop was designed by U-M Health System cardiovascular nutritionist Marilyn Migliore to address emotional overeating.

Participants meet once a week in a group discussion format designed to help individuals learn how to discover their emotional eating problems. A workbook written by Migliore, also entitled "The Hunger Within," corresponds with each discussion. Workshop members have homework exercises after each session that help with their self-discovery, such as eating in front of the mirror or covering up the numbers on the scale and writing down how the person feels before, during and after the exercise.

Urbanski says it took her a year before she found the courage to sign up for the workshop, but once she attended the first class, the rest got easier.

"It was like the light bulb started clicking right away and it was exactly what I needed," Urbanski says. "I always thought that I was addicted to sugar or carbs and I never thought I was an emotional eater, but as I progressed through the workshop it was obviously an emotional mechanism for me."

That was just the beginning. With help from the group exercises, Urbanski says she discovered her issues were deeper than food. She was attempting to solve core emotional beliefs—notions that she wasn't loved or she wasn't important—with a food addiction, similar to an alcohol or a gambling addiction.

Some of these core beliefs went back to childhood, a time when Urbanski says she was "a fat baby, a fat kindergartener."

One memory exemplifies the shame Urbanski felt about her weight. The family dog ate all the chocolate kisses from a candy dish and she was blamed for the incident until the dog excreted the foil. This recollection stuck with her until she went to the workshop and recognized the triggers for her emotional overeating.

Urbanski says once she realized she was using food to "beat herself up," she could stop the cycle. "Once you know reasoning behind it you're able to change it. To use food when I get upset now is ridiculous. It's not a thought that enters my head any longer.

"Self-realization is the best part," Urbanski says. "She [Migliore] doesn't tell you; you discover it yourself through class discussions and the exercises from her workbook and exercises you do in class."

Lately, she has received more encouragement.

"A woman at the gym who always passes me on the track told me that I was an inspiration to her because when she feels like stopping, she looks at me and keeps going," Urbanski says.

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