I fancy myself to have a wider range of emotions than most: excited, ecstatic, happy, amused, bored, mute, slightly annoyed, pissed, fully pissed and so forth. Of course, I am talking in jest, I am sure my emotions mirror the average person. I just seem to find a multitude of excuses to eat for every tiny thing that I feel. One of my favorite movie scenes is in Mean Girls, when the camera pauses on a group of overweight teens and the character says, “And this is the table that eats their feelings”. Welcome to my world.
This whole lose a ton of weight and get healthy thing that I am attempting to achieve requires introspection. Trust me, this is something that I am very good at because, as I have written about before, an early life of continual mistakes provides a plethora of material to inspect. In my brutal honesty, as much as my self-esteem is at a much healthier place now, I know that my emotional eating stems from a time when I didn’t think much of myself.
I won’t bore you with tales of my childhood and where things went wrong but I remember comforting myself with food after my Mom suddenly left my Dad. Clearly, I can remember how I didn’t know HOW to react and my dear sister, only 16 at the time, was left in charge of me. My Dad was struggling to provide for us and my Mom was working through her own issues. Nobody was talking about anything other than just getting by.
Once I started eating to comfort myself, it just snowballed from there. There was a time when drugs and/or alcohol took the place of food but once those habits were kicked, food was right there waiting for me. It’s such a forgiving friend, always there to take you back in. I eat when I am sad. I eat when I am happy. I eat to celebrate something good in my life. I eat when I am angry. Although I fully FEEL every emotion now, there is always food to accompany my emotions.
The question is now, how do I break this destructive habit? I look back at the journey that led to me kicking various drug habits and other horrible patterns and I wonder how I could do that but not learn to eat healthy. I think the answer is in the longevity. I have been eating my feelings for 32 years, pretty consistently. It’s what I know. The other bad habits had a life span of a few years. I say all of that to say this: change is hard!
As much as I advocate change, I know that at its core, truly changing life long, learned behavior is unlike anything else. First, I have to make sure that I learn to regulate my emotions. Did I mention that I am bipolar? When my emotions fluctuate so wildly, it makes it harder to disassociate eating along with them. More importantly though, I have to start making changes in how food interacts in my life.
Hence, this blog and my Facebook groups and my new-found interest in other creative outlets such as painting and pottery. It’s SO much easier to just sit and eat and allow my feelings to be washed away in sugar and salt. But, I have to do it. And I hope that in that process, I might even find something that I love that I never knew existed. And maybe, hopefully, food will become a merely a casual acquaintance.
What habits in your life are you trying to break?