Emotional Eater Not Anonymous

As I revise this post, I realize I am writing it to a couple of people I love very much and sometimes worry about. I don’t think everyone needs to drastically change their eating habits. I share my story with the hope that the people who do need to change, won’t wait until it’s too late. 

The Secret

Dieting and health resources don’t talk much about how extremely difficult it is to change. Many of them give you all these happy success stories, but they don’t tell you lunch may bring you to tears (true story). They don’t tell you that before you feel amazing, you often feel terrible. I think most people leave this out for two reasons 1) they don’t want to scare you 2) they block it out and forget.

I’m talking about this today for three reasons 1) realizing the terrible part is mostly temporary and totally normal motivated me  2) remembering the struggle keeps me on course 3) misery loves company.

As I mentioned, I radically changed my nutritional plan when I started acupuncture for health reasons. Over night I quit consuming processed foods, excess oil, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, beer, canned tomatoes, orange juice, dairy, and drastically reduced meat consumption. The first several weeks I was extremely strict so my body could heal and so I could kick my biological food addictions (now I am less strict with certain foods).

Food Addict

For long time, I was prejudice against obesity. I never understood why people couldn’t just eat healthier or eat less.

I thought as long as I maintained a certain body type, I was fine with food. I never thought of myself as an emotional or compulsive eater. Quitting unhealthy food made me acutely and suddenly aware of my addiction and my denial (read about caffeine addiction here). Refined sugar and fat were crutches. Quitting made me even more irritable, moody and frustrated. Basically, I was miserable. My reaction to something so simple as a change in diet.

What kept me from giving up? Seriously? I knew I would feel almost immediately sick. Maybe this isn’t true for you, but everyone who quits has their reasons.

Sickness saves me as I walk past bakeries, pizza parlors, the candy aisle, decline greasy appetizers, beer, etc. Now, I can eat small amounts of oil and sugar, but my taste for it has completely changed.

Mourn the Loss

It’s okay to scream inside when you pass your favorite bakery. Sit on your couch, watch sad movies, mope over your kale and sweet potatoes while you stare at your phone and think about dialing the pizza place. When your coworker or roommate orders greasy food, leave the room. Call a supportive friend. Splash cold water on you face. Go for a walk. Cry in the shower.

Relationships, deaths, jobs, moves, and all major life changes may require a period of mourning. Eating is one of the most intimate and integral parts of your life–of you. For me, finally seeing it this way allowed me to grieve over my food and the person I was with it.

New Life, New Love

When I was tired of grieving I found a new place to funnel my anxiety, my moods, even my celebrations. I meditate/pray and exercise. I cook and bake more than ever before. I read books and blogs, watch documentaries, and talk to everyone I know about health and food. I write this blog with Erin. I’m inspired by you.

What would you say to a loved one struggling with an unhealthy lifestyle? 

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3 comments

  1. Everyone’s relationship with food is a little different … so it’s a topic that can be almost endlessly discussed.

    For me, WHY I am eating is as important as WHAT I am eating. I tend to think more carefully about meals than snacks. I work in a fairly social, large office where there is food out almost every day — and sometimes it’s fruit, but often it’s cookies and chips. I would see it and grab it almost without thinking.

    I’m making myself think about it more. I have 100-calorie packs of almonds in my drawer so that if I’m truly actually hungry, I can get some quick energy and crunch that way. I have lost my taste for many chips and cookies and would much rather eat one high-quality homemade cookie than three Chips Ahoy. I still have a hard time saying no to that homemade cookie, though.

    But I don’t have health issues related to food the way you did. It might be easier for me to say no if I did. I have a friend who reacts to dairy, coffee, tomatoes and some other foods and can’t drink alcohol at all — they make her rosacea flare up to varying degrees and alcohol gives her hives. She actually pays for her occasional indulgence of a cup of coffee with cream. Me, I pay for my bowl of ice cream only with guilt.

    To answer your question … I guess it depends on the level of self-destruction. I try to encourage healthy eating habits in people I can influence but most people don’t like to feel preached at, and like I said, everyone has different food issues… so I try to work on myself and not get too involved with other people’s diets.

    (sorry for super-long comment:))

  2. […] a follow-up to Deb’s post yesterday, I want to chime in on the positive side effect of this delicious new lifestyle I’m […]

  3. No worries about longer comments! You have great feedback and an interesting perspective. I always enjoy hearing from you (long or short)!

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