Raise your hand if you consider yourself an emotional eater?
Did you just say ‘me, me, me’? I know I did. The interesting thing is that I never even had it on my radar that I was an emotional eater. It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I came to this realization. Food plays such an important role in our day-to-day lives. We gather around tables with an abundance of food at any celebration you can think of. Even a simple football party can turn into a plethora of food dumped on tables. Girls nights? Dinner and drinks. Date nights? Dinner and drinks. Long, hard workdays? Dinner and drinks. It’s a never-ending cycle for someone like me who can find a reason to emotionally eat pretty much at any meal.
I spent the majority of my early twenties popping handfuls of diet pills, running 8 miles a day, and eating very little.
Was there a problem? Definitely. Honestly, at that time I thought I was doing those things to be thin and look good. The shallowness of being twentysomething and caring about only one thing, myself. It wasn’t until much later that I started to understand the complexity of relationships with food and emotions. Imagine my surprise when I realized that those days of diet pills and running had very little to do with being thin and a whole lot more to do with control and lack of coping skills.
Figuratively speaking, the straw that broke the camels back was the birth of my second child. Up until that point I had kept my relationship with food pretty well. After my early twenties, I chilled on the diet pills, ate healthily, and worked out appropriately. My complete inability to cope or accept my daughter’s diagnosis was like throwing gasoline onto a fire. It was the perfect excuse to slide down the slope of emotional eating.
So, I did the thing that emotional eaters do. I ate.
For months I used food to make me feel better. And I use the term better very loosely, there was no feeling better. All I was doing was masking the real problem and truthfully making it worse. My mental health was struggling and food was making me feel worse. There was no healthy food in sight, ever. Taco Bell, pizza, Mexican food, and cookies that I would spend hours baking. Baking and eating was an easy thing that I could control.
I got pregnant with my third baby in 2017. My anxiety was sky-high during that pregnancy. Guess what? I used that time to eat McDonald’s almost every day on my way to work. In true emotional eating fashion, I would hide the bag and pay in cash. If you are an emotional eater then you understand the need of hiding food to eat it. This is not closet eating you do to keep your children away either, this is full-on making sure no one in your house finds out about your eating. I actually just told my husband that I used to do this a few months ago and the baby is 2 now.
Then came my cancer diagnosis.
A couple of weeks after my surgery and diagnosis, I decided the best thing to do was to drown my sorrows by baking. It was November after all, and there were Christmas cookies to tend to. I set out to conquer the insanely tedious task of making them homemade with my oldest helping (she was 4). I’m pretty sure I ate most of the cookies. This bout of emotional eating lasted for awhile. I had some lasting effects from the surgery and they took a huge toll on my mental health.
I imagine by now you see the theme. Something hard happens in my life and I use that situation to make excuses to eat pretty much whatever I want for as long as I want. Where do you draw the line in the sand with emotional eating? We should be allowed to have a bad day, order a pizza for dinner, and not feel bad about it. But, we cannot let these feelings and emotions overtake our whole lives. The balance is not easily achieved. The line is very thin.
Covid-19 has really made the emotional eating out of control in my house.
I have let the stress of everything affect our household diet. Not only is emotional eating extremely unhealthy, but I am also teaching my children poor coping skills. I am working hard on instilling positive body images in my children as they grow, this includes not turning to food anytime something challenging happens in their lives. Figuring out how to do that is a battle in itself.
Friends, if you find yourself in a similar mindset, know you are not alone. Unhealthy relationships with food are one of the toughest things to conquer. Try to establish boundaries with eating and the availability of food that may be an easy target. Exercise. Arm yourself with tools to succeed. Take it day by day. If you have a bad day, start over the next day. I certainly do not have all the answers, I have been fighting this battle hard lately. Some days, I’m winning. Other days, not so much.
Just remember, above all else, give yourself some grace and do your best to be leading examples for your children.