Posts tagged ‘binge eating’
What happens when a recovering emotional/binge eater no longer turns to food for solace?
Well, life pretty much sucks. For right now, at least.
The past few weeks have been a bit rough for me with my emotions rolling up and down. Suffice to say, I’ve been in a funk. We’re all human, this certainly happens, especially to a “glass is overflowing” type of gal like myself (which is why it particularly sucks)
But this time it’s different. My moodiness has a new edge to it. I’ve been racking my brain for the past few days wondering why I’ve just felt so, well, meh. More so than usual.
And then BAM, last night it hits me:
I no longer eat my emotions.
What does that mean? Well, in the past, when anything in life got tough, scary, or too much for me to handle, I’d turn to food. Sound like you? A piece of chocolate does not talk back to you, but it does make you feel better…if only for a little while. It’s way more fun to raid your pantry than focus on life’s issues. Although, the problems and issues were still there after you through out the candy bar wrappers. Except now you had issues AND you felt guilty and fat.
But I don’t do that anymore. Somewhere along the way with all my personal growth work, I’ve stopped (mostly) using food to comfort me. Which means I am actually experiencing my emotions to their fullest. Now I understand why emotional eating is so alluring. Feeling your feelings sucks.
Now that I’m not using cookies as a crutch, I’m left vulnerable, raw, naked (figuratively, people!). I feel wounded in a way, left with a whole mess of emotions, thoughts, and feelings for me to untangle. And this is hard work. This is what I’ve been avoiding for all those years when I was stuffing my face.
As I always say, The only way out is through. For any growth to occur, there has to be some uncomfortableness, some vulnerability. And that’s where I am now…feeling like I’m on the precipice of something BIG, although I’m not quite sure I know what that something BIG is. We’ll just have to wait and find out.
Do you turn to food when life gets tough? What does turning to food do for you? What are you avoiding?
And by dark side, I mean…the Dieting Side. Or the Cookie Monster side. Let me explain…
I’m in the middle of finals. One class down (actually, the final was cancelled, so automatic A!) and another one to go. I just finished a big project due today. I’m working full time. Matt is at a business conference in sunny Palm Beach and so I am taking care of the Gola Monster alone. It’s a lot, and I’m stressed. And when I’m stressed, I eat (I eat because I am unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. Movie reference, anyone?) How I wish I was one of those people who lose their appetite during times like this, but alas, not in the cards. Add to that the fact that with my hectic schedule, my workouts have gone from 5-6x/week to about 2x. I’m tired, burnt out, my clothes are tight, and I want a vacation.
So, given all of the above, people handle their stress load in different ways. Some, like many people I know, head to the nearest bar and drink their sorrows away (OK, sometimes nothing quite does it like a glass of wine…or a margarita). Others smoke cigarettes or pot to escape. Or gamble. Well, me? I *used* to exercise, so now…I just eat.
Mind you, I’m not binging like I was like last year. In fact, I haven’t had a binge in several months. But my weight is creeping up, and because I follow the principles of Intuitive Eating, I don’t diet either.
But I hear that Dark Side calling me.
“Come on, Amanda,” it whispers in my ear. “Go back to tracking your calories. You’ll lose the weight fast.”
“Amanda, you know you’re gaining weight and it scares you. How about a little diet to get you back to where you want to me. It won’t hurt, promise.”
People, I’ve been dealing with these inner taunts the past week or so and I’m remaining strong, but I tell you, it’s hard! It would be so simple for me to follow a meal plan, cottage cheese and carrot sticks when I’m told, to ignore my cravings for something warm and cheese-covered.
But NO! Like Luke Skywalker (sorry, lame-o reference) I will remain strong and RESIST the Diet Side!
I am working on accepting that in times of stress, my way of coping is to eat. I might always have this food-mood connection. But what am I doing to manage it? I’m cooking, stocking the fridge with healthy foods, and allowing myself to eat chocolate and soothe myself with food if I need to. I refuse to get angry at myself and my body. We’re a team!
I know this is a rant, but I just wanted to share what I’m going through, because perhaps you, too, eat when you’re stressed. It’s OK if you do. The key is to not get upset with yourself, and at least recognize that you’re doing this. That’s all. Information is power. Perhaps next time a wave of stress hits you, you’ll better manage it with a walk around the block or a bath. But for now, food will have to do. Again, it’s OK. Just be aware.
Nobody’s perfect, certainly not me. Even someone who knows about nutrition struggles with the same things everyone else does (Hello, that’s why we go into nutrition…to help others!)
How do you handle stress?
Ah, trigger foods. We all have them. Our preferences usually fall into two groups: salty and sweet. In times of high stress, you’ll most likely go for one or the other. Like the age old debate of chocolate vs. vanilla, you’re either sweet or salty. Chocolate bar vs. oil & vinegar potato chips? What do you reach for?
Me, I’m a sweets girl. Always have been, probably always will be. But the thing is, I’ve started to ALSO incorporate the salty…crackers with hummus, salty potato chips. So now I’m playing for both teams.
I’m bringing this up because I’ve been pretty stressed out the past 2-3 weeks. Starting with my Chemistry exam (which I aced, thank you very much) and ending today (my Diet Assessment midterm), I’ve been a little, how do you call it?..tense.
If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I’m an emotional eater (and binge eater, but no binges as of late). When I get stressed, I turn to food to comfort me. Some people drink alcohol, others run 6 miles, and other smoke cigarettes. Me, I eat.
I used to be OK with just dark chocolate. And then the chips and hummus snuck in.
I found I was eating all of them pretty uncontrollably, especially when I wasn’t hungry. I’d use food as a procrastination tool–after all, if I was eating, then I couldn’t be doing work. Staring at the bottom of a hummus container equally comforted me and made me feel like crap at the same time.
So, a wise woman (my mother) told me: “You’re setting yourself up for failure. You need to remove the triggers.” Light bulb moment!
So this past weekend I did. I dumped the chocolate, the hummus, the chips. Why is this OK for me? I’m not saying that I can never have chocolate, chips and hummus ever again, or that I’m “bad” for eating too much of it. It’s OK because I know if at any time I want chocolate (or whatever), I give myself permission to go out and get it (I do live near like 5 amazing bakeries). But in the house–nuh uh, not now.
And you know, it’s worked. I find myself turning to food less, because, let’s face it, it’s difficult to drown your sorrows in a pile of carrot sticks.
My question: If you know you have trigger foods, how you can you set yourself up for success around them?
Yes, I know I’ve neglected you since Thanksgiving. It’s been crazy hectic in my life, and I needed to take a little break and get things in order. I’d rather write when I’m feeling inspired rather than rush to put something together just for the sake of it.
Today, I have a VERY important annoucement. I am OFF dieting. Yup, you heard me. O-F-F D-I-E-T-I-N-G. No more. Nada. And guess what else is really shocking? I’ve been eating sugar. Yup. I’ve been eating sugar EVERY DAY for the past 2 weeks and it’s been AWESOME. Seriously, I LOVE chocolate. I forgot how much. Do you want to know how many times I’ve had a binge? NONE. Zip. And do you want to know how happy I am? Extremely. Immensely. So happy I want to run around nekkid. (not really, but you get the point)
The Universe delivered the book “Intuitive Eating” into my hands about 3 weeks ago. This book “spoke” to me, and related to me, in ways that were so spot in it was spooky. I started crying after I read the Introduction. I recognize, from reading, that my chronic dieting, and dieting mindset, has really held me back. At points, when reading, I was so shocked that I could let my thinking get so far off course. So, I have started my path as an intuitive eater, which means, in a nutshell, that I listen to my body for what it wants, and I give it exactly that. I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and give myself permission to eat whenever and whatever I want (there are no good and bad foods).
The most important factor, which is very strange to me, is that weight loss is NOT the goal. Rather, gently letting your body reach it’s natural weight is the goal. It takes time…months, maybe even a year. But your body knows best, (and if you let it have whatever it wants, it will naturally want healthy foods, which luckily I enjoy). I must admit, I have no clue what my natural body weight even IS. I lost a lot of weight in college (through proper diet and exercise) and then after college, spent the years dieting, restricting myself (and binging, too) and spending hours in the gym. I kept that up for a good long while..until I couldn’t any longer. Fast forward to now..after a very tough semester and turning to food to help me get through the stress, I’m heavier than I have been in years. So who knows. But the major shift, again, is actually NOT CARING. I am more in love with living a life peacefully with food than fitting into a super small size.
So, this is my new adventure, and I’m giving it everything I’ve got. I went to the grocery store last night and allowed myself to buy whatever looked good. In addition to my favorites (which are healthy), i picked up Salt and Vinegar potato chips, gluten free fig newtons, laughing cow cheese, chocolate jello pudding, and the most amazing chocolate ever–Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt. And now that I’ve been allowing myself to have these foods around the house, they kinda lose their allure. I had one square of chocolate, savored it, and I was satisfied. Imagine that.
So, won’t you please join me on my path to eating intuitively. If my journey is anything like other “IE” eaters, it’s going to be bumpy and rocky. Two steps forward and one step back. It will take time. But, for me, I see a shift already. I feel like a HUGE weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can stop putting pressure on myself to be the “perfect” eater. Now, I can just be.
Check out the website and feel free to ask me any questions about the process. For your reference, below are the 10 guidelines for Intuitive Eating, taken from the website.
Intuitive Eating Principles
1. Reject the Diet Mentality Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
3. Make Peace with Food Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
10 Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts
Tonight I came home from my shift at the co-op and after a small dinner proceeded to totally binge. And I mean binge like I haven’t done in awhile, since before I stopped eating sugar two months ago. Granted, my binge involved healthy foods, not ho-hos, chips, and ding-dongs, but nevertheless it was a binge (out of control eating). Of course this was all done as I was STANDING UP (another one of my personal no-no’s) in my kitchen as I was prepping for lunch tomorrow. It was pretty comical, actually, to see me stuffing my face with cacao cookies and simultaneously steaming broccoli. You didn’t know I was such a good multi-tasker, huh? I knew exactly what I was doing when I was binging. I could have stopped myself but the food tasted too good and I wanted to keep on eating, plain and simple.
Why am I telling you this? For a few reasons. First, it always helps me to “out” myself after a binge. It brings me back to reality and forces me to deal with what just happened. Usually I just tell Matt. Now I have the blogosphere. Second, I want you to know that even though I write a health and wellness blog, that I am a holistic health counselor and an NYU nutrition student, I have disordered eating at times. In fact, out of control and binge eating (especially with yummy sweet things) has been a part of my life for quite some time. As healthy as I might seem, and yes, I am very healthy, I certainly don’t have a halo around my head. And to be perfectly honest, nobody does. And lastly, I want you to know that just because you have a setback, or two, or three, it’s OK. Life as you know it isn’t over (Remember the definition of normal eating, too!) There’s always the next meal or the next day to get back on track. I can’t tell you how many crying fits I’ve had, so many nasty things I’ve said about myself after a binge like this. Of course that only made me feel worse and cause me to binge more. Talk about a downward shame spiral!
My dear friend Yiska of Redefining Diet likened our relationship with food and eating to being on a staircase. If all goes well, we hike up that staircase and make progress towards our goals, whatever they may be (losing weight or not eating dessert for example) However, there are times (like tonight) that we stumble a little bit and fall back a stair or two. But we never fall OFF. There is no “wagon” to fall off or get back on to. It’s just one big staircase that we are climbing, and sometimes we’re up and sometimes we fall. Sometimes we slip up and eat something we think we shouldn’t, and other times we’re right on track. But we always get back up and keep climbing.
I’m proud to say that this binge experience was different from previous ones. Yes, I fell down some “stairs” and ate an entire bag of these chips. OK, let me be honest. It was a bag and a half, also some kale chips, and almost a full container of raspberries. But afterwards, I called Matt into the kitchen, showed him the empty wrappers, and proceeded to smile (my mouth still full of food). “Um, I did something,” I garbled to him. He knew right away, smiled back and gave me a hug. Afterwards we talked about what had triggered the binge (If you don’t have someone to confide in, a journal can be a wonderful friend). In this instance, I think it was anxiety with starting up a school semester, the pressure I put on myself to excel, and the exhaustion I know will come from working a full time job and going to school at night (aka worrying).
But I feel good now even though I am totally addicted to refined carbohydrates again. I learned that just a few days of eating irregularly (filled with breads, chips, etc) can really throw me for a loop. I now know, absolutely and positively, how sensitive I am to quickie carbs and this is the motivation I need to get back on track in order to feel my best. If I learned that lesson from this binge, well, it was worth it. Am I happy that I downed an extra 800 calories tonight? Not particularly. But the fact that I came out of a binge with a smile on my face, still loving myself, is worth its weight in gold. Or, chocolate? No, gold.