Today, I am pleased to share the fourth guest post in my blog series on Eating Disorders. Each story that my guest bloggers have shared is unique, and I love that God planned it that way when I put out a request for posts. Today, Rachel from The Lazy Christian shares her story. While emotional eating isn't a medically recognized diagnosis, fellow emotional eaters will tell you it is real. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your story!
I eat my feelings.
It’s fairly common, especially among women. And it’s not something I realized right away. It was something that started gradually and became a lifestyle over the years. Only recently have I been able to put a name to this stumbling block: emotional eating.
When I was younger, my parents went out a lot. They might deny the term “alcoholic,” but four (or more) nights a week at the bar speaks to the contrary. When I was old enough to be home alone, I was often just that. In junior high, I would come home from school to find money on the kitchen table and a note that said, “For dinner.”
You see, there was a McDonald’s at the end of our street—just five houses away—and that was the perfect babysitter. No meals together as a family. I ate with Ronald McDonald.
The first source of my emotional eating was resentment. I remember thinking, “Well, I’m going to spend every cent of this five dollars. Just watch!”
And I did.
And I ate every bite that five dollars would buy.
Food was mostly revenge in my mind. It was getting back at my parents. It was taking their money and spending it all on me, the kid they didn’t want to spend time with. It was finding the cookies and other treats that were strategically hidden from me just to send the message, “I live here, too!”
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve used food to rescue me from many different emotions: sadness or depression, anxiety, fear. The only time I don’t really eat? When I’m happy. I eat to get happy, not because I am happy.
But you know what? The food never makes me happy. It’s never made me happy. It’s made me chubby. No, not just chubby—I’ll say it. Fat. It’s made me fat.
About a year ago, I found an emotional eating support group through the local hospital. The most valuable thing I’ve learned is to take a moment before I eat and determine why I’m eating. Am I hungry? Is there some physical need that is telling me to eat? If not, then why?
People eat for lots of reasons: hunger, boredom, habit. Those are easily redirected. But if I’m eating because I’m sad or lonely, those are more difficult to walk away from. When I’m feeling that way, I’m trying to redirect those feelings using food. Giving myself something to do. Trying to fill the gaping hole in my heart with food.
The only thing that does work is to feel. Allow myself to have those emotions and understand them. Sometimes that hurts. It hurts to feel lonely or sad. It’s embarrassing to talk to someone else about it. It’s even hard to journal about sometimes, just because admitting those things—even to myself—is difficult.
But you know what else hurts? My back. My knees. The weight I carry around in my heart is causing me to carry physical weight. And, honestly, that just adds back to the emotional weight.
It’s a vicious cycle.
All it takes is a moment to assess the situation and decide my reasons for eating. It’s hard to deprogram years of emotional eating, and it requires taking hold of each moment to decide if the food is a physical request or an emotional one. But it’s done every day, moment by moment, choice by choice.
I can’t control the choices my parents made for their lives. And I can’t change the choices I made 15 years ago. But I can make better choices now and work toward a better, healthier life for myself each day.