As a start to my therapy to find out why I struggle so much with emotional eating, I have been journaling when I eat and I know I’m eating for emotional reasons and not because I’m actually hungry.
I am ok with eating when I’m just enjoying a moment where food is involved—like enjoying a s’more or a delicious meal with family. I know that these occasional indulgences are not the root of my problem—it’s the overeating, or perhaps the bingeing, that I do in response to emotions.
Journaling has been eye opening. If you’re a long time reader, you know that I used to journal my food every day via pictures here on my blog. I would talk about a lot of things that happened throughout my day and how I was feeling. But the type of journaling that I’m doing now is much different and it is helping me become aware of what it feels like when I want to eat/binge on chocolate. Chocolate seems to be my drug of choice.
Here is how I was feeling before I decided to eat whatever food I was eating for emotional reasons within the past week:
emotionally drained, tired, overwhelmed, depressed, exhausted, hormonal, anxious, frustrated, stressed, and feeling judged.
Now that I’ve been paying attention, I can literally feel it coming on. My entire body becomes tense, I feel tired, and the only thing I can think about is getting that sugar fix. Literally, I cannot get it off of my mind. And sometimes I feel better after eating something, but most of the time I don’t and it leads to a downward spiral.
This is certainly not something new and sugar/chocolate has not always been my fix. I can actually pinpoint exactly when chocolate became my drug of choice.
It began when I was 18 years old and was working a summer in Branson, MO and living with my aunt and uncle. I was working my first job. I was trying to come out of my shell and make friends, etc. It was so incredibly stressful for me, which now I understand is simply because I am an introvert (for the most part). I would have been better suited finding friends who enjoyed talking about literature and current events—but those are hard to find and I didn’t know at that time really who I was.
One day after work, I sat in the living room and I started eating Cadbury fruit and nut bites. Of course, I thought they were kind of healthy because they had fruit and nuts—ha. My aunt came home (she also has weight issues), and saw my pile of wrappers on the end table and asked me if I had eaten all of them.
I was shocked when I looked over and saw how many I had eaten. Probably 15 pieces or so. It was completely mindless. Maybe that’s why I felt like I needed it—it was like an escape from everything I was feeling. All I had to focus on was the rich, creamy chocolate melting in my mouth and sending my endorphins into overdrive. In those moments I felt better.
I remember shrugging it off and telling my aunt that it wasn’t a big deal. I believe she warned me about diabetes, something that she suffers from. But her attitude was judgmental and it hurt. I felt so much shame. After that, I would use one wrapper and crumple up the wrappers into little pieces and stick them inside the one wrapper so no one could see how many pieces I had actually eaten if they happened to see wrappers in the trash can. Now I see how that is disordered eating and probably considered bingeing.
Prior to those days, my drug of choice was anything that was junk food.
Middle school was incredibly stressful for me. Now I know that I have probably suffered from anxiety pretty much my entire life, but I didn’t know that then. Other kids made fun of me because I was larger than they were. I was awkward in my gym uniform and even less coordinated in sports. I hated changing clothes in the locker room. I hated putting on my swimsuit on my overweight body and having to swim with my entire class while we were in our swimming unit of the curriculum. I hated the laughs as the water splashed when I was required to jump off of the diving board. I was bullied by teachers. I could hardly fit in the small desks. I was painfully shy and would lose all train of thought if called upon in class, making me look like an idiot.
That’s a lot for a 13 year old.
I wouldn’t eat lunch at school because I was too embarrassed to eat in front of people. This meant I would be starving after school and usually have a headache. I would go home and eat anything I could find that wasn’t healthy.
I specifically remember a time when we had a guest at our house. I was sitting at the kitchen table eating and reading the comics from the newspaper—I yearned for this moment every day. I was eating an entire can of vegetable soup and eating bbq chips straight out of the bag.
I kept eating, and eating, and eating.
This guest took the bag of chips and closed it and put a clip on it, saying I had probably eaten enough. This made me angry and embarrassed. I reopened the bag and continued to eat them because well, she wasn’t the boss of me. But now I can see that she saw something that I was not able to see—disordered eating. I don’t know if she judged me for just eating too much, or if she really saw that I was eating for the wrong reasons. I don’t know. But I do know that it hurt. And I continued to feel ashamed.
These habits have never left me. When the going gets tough, I reach for food. When the mountain gets too steep, I stuff chocolate in my mouth. When I am sad, anxious, angry, stressed, or tired—I turn to food.
I have not talked about these events since the day they happened. I am doing a lot of introspection and am finally seeing the error of my ways and I want to change. Right now, I am just tracking what I am doing without really working through stopping myself quite yet. I want to figure out what’s triggering the eating first. I do use some self-control here and there, so it’s not like it’s a free for all. But I know my signs and I know when I’m eating for the wrong reasons.
I’m not quite sure what the overall point of this post is, other than to just express and admit some of my issues with emotional eating. There are so many emotions attached to food and it’s unhealthy for me. I hope that somehow I can get to the bottom of this and learn how to cope in a healthier way.
Can you relate to my eating issues? What has been your experience?