My Struggle with Emotional Eating
For as long as I have memories, I have memories of feeling ashamed of my body. Just think about that. When is your first memory? When you’re 4 maybe? From that young, I’ve thought as myself as fat.
Some back story… Like so many others, I grew up in a less than ideal situation and because of that, I carry some extra baggage around. One extra large suitcase labeled ‘body image’ and its travel companion ‘food issues’. I'm a firm believer that my childhood may have caused my issues, but as a full fledged adult (and wife and mom to boot), it’s 100% my responsibility to deal with them. One ongoing struggle that I believe I will fight my entire life is emotional eating
Sitting here, trying to pin point when this became a problem is hard. You see, my mother used to lock food up and was very controlling on what and when we ate. So I don’t think there was ever a time in my life where the idea of sneaking forbidden food wasn’t a thing. But, if I had to choose a specific event where emotional eating really reared its ugly head for the first time it would have to be when I was finally free - my first year of university.
For the first time in my life, I was the one in control. I went hog wild and gained well over the freshman 15 (and later so much more). The chains on food had literally been broken and I was free to stuff down all the trauma of my upbringing with a large pizza, or poutine, or chocolate, or, or, or… For a long time, I thought emotional eating was helping me. It helped me feel better, if only for a short period. It helped me feel like I was in control, but we all know I wasn’t. And this went on for a long time - sometimes worse sometimes better.
Moving to Calgary was a big step in recognizing just how bad my eating habits were. Suddenly I was alone. I didn’t have my eating buddies any more. I didn’t have my favourite restaurants to order from. I was alone with no friends and barely any family here. I was face to face with my demons and I really saw how much damage I was doing with my eating. I also had an ex boyfriend tell me that he never wanted to be serious with me because I was too fat. I really hit a low point - so I started to obsessively count calories, work out, and weigh myself.
I did lose weight and I did like what I was seeing. I felt healthier, happier, and lighter! I mean I was doing it! I was beating my demons. So many people commented on how good I looked. So much of my worth was wrapped up in how much weight I could lose. And then I started dating someone and I didn’t get to the gym as frequently and I had more and more days I didn’t log my food. And then I got sick and all my ‘coping’ mechanism came back. I gained back all the weight I had lost and then some! I was miserable. My relationship was suffering and I was hurting.
I could relay every instance in my life where my emotional eating was out of control, but then we would never get to the end of this post and I won’t subject you to that.
I know I'm falling down the rabbit hole when I sneak out to eat, when I lie about what I have eaten in a day, or when I take out the garbage so that my husband doesn’t see the wrappers from the treats I binged on. Even just writing this sentence has me feeling like I am being swallowed up by shame. Shame is the number one emotion I have after a binge. Its the same feeling I have always had around my body but can be so much more than that. Theres the superficial shame around letting Samir down - because eating well, exercising, and living a generally healthy lifestyle are extremely important to him. I feel ashamed of letting myself and Lola down - that shame hits differently. I feel ashamed for being another fat person who just can’t stop. I feel ashamed for the money I spend on food. The list literally goes on. But if I dive deeper into it, I feel sad, and hurt, and angry - all the emotions I am trying so desperately not to feel by eating. And then I feel like a failure for binging not to feel to only end up feeling so much more than I would have if I just didn’t gorge myself.
I had been on a smooth ride before March. I was working out, lost 20lbs., and was feeling amazing. I felt like I was just coming out of the fog of new mama hood and had a life outside of obsessing over baby sleep, food, or poop. Then, as we ALL know, Coronavirus happened, and well, here we are. Not going to lie, I spent many months of this pandemic hiding out in the car, stuffing my face with ice cream, and crying on the phone with my sister. You see, so many people can hide their issues. Maybe they drink too much, shop too much, spend too much time scrolling. But for me, I always feel like my emotionally eating is on display because I am plus size - like everyone knows my secret because there is no way to hide it.
But being able to even just write this post - to open a discussion around emotional eating - is a testament to the work I have put in and the progress I have tried to make. It took me over a year of being married to Samir before I even had a conversation around binging, why I do it, and what kind of support that I could benefit from. Having an open dialogue about my eating with Nicci, my trainer, has been amazingly helpful.
Essentially, not hiding it has actually taken away some of its power. I work out because it helps me feel better (and sometimes because I just want to get out of the house). I know I eat better when I am in tune with how I'm feeling and why. When I do binge, I know there's something more to it. I talk about it with trusted people. I try really hard not to punish myself but extend grace to myself, because I know I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't hurting in some way. I seek out professional help when needed - there are so many great therapists and programs that can help.
I by no means have it all figured out. Like I said, I will for sure be battling this for the rest of my life. But, I am 100% committed to working on this because I will be damned if I continue the cycle of emotional eating from my mom, to me, to my daughter. I know I deserve to be broken from the chains of emotional eating and Lola deserves to NEVER feel the weight of them,
My hope in sharing something so deeply personal is that by putting it out there, I am taking some of the power back. . I hope this starts a dialogue of support around how we can over come emotional eating, I hope this helps one person feel less alone in their shame. I hope this reaches who it needs to reach when it needs to reach them.