Emotional Eating: Healing My Relationship With Food

I’ve struggled with emotional eating for about 21 years – since the 7th grade.

I remember how it started (as if saying “7th grade” isn’t clue enough). Junior high was in full swing and I found myself in the most uncomfortable transition period to date.

I felt so exposed. I was trying to hide who I was by practicing being someone I wasn’t. What was considered cool? I tried that on (it didn’t fit). What was considered nice? Tried that on too (fit in some areas but was too tight in others).

I was becoming a pre-teen and trying out identities as if I had a Rolodex of them to go through.

It was exhausting.

And all I really wanted was a group of friends who I resonated with and who saw an authentic me.

But I was too scared to show the authentic me.

Finding something that felt good

I thought Friday nights were my saving grace. Not because of all the social activities I was doing (I wasn’t), but because I had found something to fill the void in my spirit: I baked cakes.

Not the amazing, made from scratch kind, but the box cakes my mom kept around for dessert emergencies. I did make the frosting though, and I dyed it a different color each week. Green, pink, blue… adding color made it feel even more special.

I shared my masterpiece with my family. Everyone loved it and their praise made me feel good. I would take my (gigantic) piece of cake back to my parents’ room and dig in. Friday nights were reserved for my favorite stream of programs, “TGIF”, and I would watch them until I was too tired to keep my eyes open.

A few hours and a few pieces of cake later, I’d go to bed weirdly full with an uncomfortable sugar rush.

I used food to help me cope with my emotions

Through the course of my pre-teen to adult life, I’ve continued to use food to cope with feelings. From sadness and loneliness to boredom and even happiness – I’ve stuffed my face in secret and it became my normal modus operandi.

I’ve known that I might have an unhealthy relationship with food for over two decades now, but I didn’t want to give it up. And my habits never seemed as bad as others I had heard about, so I figured it wasn’t such a big deal.

But then, a couple food habits intensified and it became obvious to me that my habit was more of a disability.

These circulating experiences kept reminding me that I was not in control of how I used food. Much like how an alcoholic isn’t in control of how she uses alcohol.

But you can’t quit food.

So, what can you do?

I can change my relationship with food. I can learn to be present with each feeling as it comes up instead of stuffing it down with handful after handful of salted cashews and spoonfuls of honey – Paleo treats that I thought would help me curb my appetite for emotional eating.

No such luck.

What changed?

I’ve been on the Paleo-inspired path for over a year and enjoy dedicating many hours of work each week to shopping for, and preparing nutritious, homemade meals for our family. I’ve felt strongly that this way of eating would bring an ideal palette of nutrition to all four of us.

And for some reason, something clicked two weeks ago. Out of the blue, I realized that my addiction to using food – even Paleo food – to not feel emotions was holding me back in a huge way.

My actions were sabotaging my nutrition goals as well as my emotional relationship with myself.

Straight to audible.com I went and bought a book about emotional eating. I’m committed to working through all of the assignments the author outlines for the reader. And now that the ball is rolling I’m in awe that it took me so long to get here.

Why is this coming up now? The universe has a funny way of timing things.

I have found that the fastest way to move through shame and stuck energy is to expose it and share your story with others. It’s uncomfortable at first but after that first step, it’s freeing… as though a weight has been lifted. One that I didn’t even know I had been carrying.

Kind of like a fast-track to owning your path.

I’m at the beginning of another journey into myself.

And I’m curious to see what comes up along the way.

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