My Deepest Secret: I Struggle With Food

51 comments

“This time don’t need another perfect lie

Don’t care if critics ever jump in line

I’m gonna give all my secrets away.”

-One Republic

I can count on two hands the number of people who really know my biggest secret. I’ve kept this close to my chest, unwilling to share this deep and personal struggle. Unwilling because I’m ashamed. Unwilling because talking about this makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. Unwilling because I don’t want you to think differently of me.

The truth is that I struggle with food. I have had a complicated relationship with food since my early teens. I learned to use food to deal (or not deal) with life. Have a fight with my husband? I want a piece of cake. Feel lonely or sad? I want a big pasta meal. Feel overwhelmed? I want to binge on a big dinner while watching TV to numb my feelings away.

When I was younger I was able to hide this much better than I can now. Pre-parenthood I was really active, running and training for half marathons and a full marathon. I also had a decent metabolism so my overeating/binges were pretty much erased by all of the activity I did. But now I’m a working mom who never lost that damn pregnancy weight, who sits at a desk 8 hours a day and can barely find time to exercise. Now, I carry on my body the evidence of my struggle with food. Now, when you look at me, you know I overeat.

In my attempts to gain control over my struggle with food I have tried everything – Weight Watchers, a vegan diet, paleo, sugar-free etc. You name it, I’ve probably tried it (except for diet pills, I haven’t gone there, but I admit that I’ve considered it). That’s because my problem isn’t really about the food itself, it’s about using food in an unhealthy way to cope with my emotions, and no diet or way of eating is going to fix that. That’s why there’s part of me that feels so resentful when people say those of us who are overweight should just eat less and move more. It’s not as simple as that, at least not for me. I wish it was, my gosh do I wish it was.

My food issues have caused me so much emotional harm. As insane as this sounds, using food in the way I do doesn’t even help, it doesn’t actually make me feel better. I might feel better for the first 10 seconds, but then I just feel like shit about myself because there I am, overeating again. It feels often times like a form of self-harm. But I can’t seem let this behavior go – it’s all I know.

Now that I have a daughter of my own, I’m really, really worried that she is going to learn this behavior from me. I don’t want her to turn to food, especially because I know how incredibly painful this is for me. I want her to learn healthy ways of dealing with her emotions. But how do I teach her to do that when I don’t even know how to do that myself?

I feel so embarrassed. I feel so ashamed to admit this struggle in a public way. But I have a feeling I’m not alone. If we aren’t given tools to cope with our feelings in other healthy ways (and I don’t feel like I was), it’s easy to turn to food. Especially considering our culture sells us the idea that food can make us happy.

There’s so much more I could say about my struggle, like how I actually do eat healthy 90% of the time but when faced with an emotional trigger feel a total lack of control.  Or, how I oftentimes feel like a hypocrite for encouraging women to love their bodies when I don’t love mine. But for now this is all I can write because this is the first time I’ve ever let people see into this part of myself and I feel raw.

It’s so hard to talk about this topic without the fear of getting unsolicited advice or worse, judgment. Maybe by not letting fear stop me from hitting the publish button, by being completely honest about myself, I’ll be able to experience some healing and live in a more authentic way.

Unfortunately I don’t have any answers about how to have a better relationship with food, but to those of you who see yourself in my story, I can at least say, ‘hey, I’m here, I understand and you are not alone.’

51 comments on “My Deepest Secret: I Struggle With Food”

  1. This post made me cry…because this is the one thing I struggle with EVERY FUCKING DAY and I understand how difficult it must have been to publish this. You are such an inspiration. Thank you for being the wonderful, brave, BEAUTIFUL (inside & out) woman you are to share this and allow yourself to be vulnerable. I often worry about how my unhealthy relationship with food will affect my girls and that’s the one and only thing that actually bothers me more than my emotional eating itself. I’ve gotten to the point where I hate being in pictures and feel so uncomfortable in my own skin because I’m not happy with my body and the way I look. In fact, I’m not just uncomfortable… I hate it. I hope one day that I can get this under control. That SOMETHING will finally work or “click” with me. That I will have a healthy relationship with food and I will feel more in control. And that I won’t have to worry about passing along my bad habits to my girls or that they will be embarrassed about having an overweight mom. Thank you for writing something so honest and for reminding me that I’m not alone. XOXO

  2. You are so brave to put this out there. I know exactly where you are. I too have a daughter and I am so scared she will have these same struggles I have. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. I can totally relate to this post!! I keep on saying I’m going to get back on my diet or start exercising, and I do for a little bit. Then stress hits or my adhd or both and its all over. When I was pregnant both times, I lost 20 lbs (ugh morning sickness!) And after my babies were born lost the baby weight. But both kids had reflux and milk protein allergies and that was a huge stressor. You know what that means, eating while up all night. I’ve done weight watchers (too many times). People there would say just make time for to take care yourself . How? Not only do I struggle with emotional overeating, there is not enough time in the day to care for the kids, work fulltime and try to keep the house decent and laundry done. You know how It is, having barely enough time to go to the bathroom by yourself, let alone exercise and make meal plans. Sorry so long!!!

    1. I, too, use food exactly like you describe. Started in my teen years, but I never “showed”. I was “better” for awhile, but since having a baby, the emotional eating has returned and my body is now holding onto the fat- I’m no longer able to hide it physically like when I was younger. I’m the largest I’ve ever been, and no end in sight. Ah, the stress of motherhood. I wish I could have a healthier way to cope (something creative, perhaps). Actually, I was sitting here just now planning to eat a bowl of cereal to numb myself, when I came upon this post. In all honesty, I will probably eat it still. But, thank you for sharing. I completely relate.

  4. Michelle….you just described me to a tee. However, I need to add…that after losing 70 lbs with Weight Watchers I became a Weight Watchers meeting leader. And I was really good at it….telling others the right things to do, how to change and how to feel. However, once the stress of working and trying to continue to raise my family after having been a stay at home Mom hit me (and my husband), the party was over! I slowly started gaining…eventually quit Weight Watchers employment…and haven’t been back to a WW meeting..even though I know the program works….out of pure embarrassment. How can I show my face….that’s not how people see me. They see me as organized, well-spoken….someone who follows the rules and was successful on the program. Well, hate to say it, but….EPIC FAIL! But, I’m glad to see that you understand the root of the problem and wanted to concur that you hit the nail on the head. It’s not the food that’s the problem…it’s our emotional reaction to situations that is the problem. Good luck on your journey. I hope you find peace in your relationship with food!

  5. Michelle–I too struggle like you and it was handed down from my mother who had an unhealthy relationship with food but a metabolism to hide her struggles. She passed this right along to me–I feel your pain with every key stroke that you wrote and admire you for sharing with the world. You are an inspiration–good luck.

  6. You are not alone. I have eaten my feelings my whole life. I went so far as to sneak food when I was young so that nobody knew. Obviously they must have known, I mean how could they not notice that the entire box of ice cream sandwiches was gone. Every time I find myself “depression eating” it throws me into the spiral of hating myself for being a giant fat ass and then eating some more because I am now more depressed.
    I started trying to work out and “be a better me” but I can run around the earth and never loose weight because one bad day and boom, there goes the bag of chips.

  7. Michelle: Reading this is so raw and AMAZING and admire you for writing the words! That takes guts! I can completely relate to this as well, particularly the part about empowering others to love their bodies, when like you write, I feel so frustrated with my own. You are not alone, like you said, we don’t like to express it or even talk about it, too raw, too real. It must feel somewhat liberating to put it on paper, maybe just a little. I think it’s super easy for people to say “move your body, eat better” (as you say above), but when you haven’t truly struggled with weight or body image issues, you know it’s way way more than that. Love this!!! ((hugs)) every day is a new day…

  8. Great job with this post. You and I are somewhat alike – in fact, I have almost written similar posts in the past, but never got to the point where I felt anything was publishable. I never considered myself an emotional eater, but I have recently realized that I just love food … all of the food … it is so tasty, and I have always had a huge appetite, It was kind of funny back in my skinny days (when, ironically, I would never have thought of myself as skinny). The same thing happened to me after pregnancy: increased appetite, difficulty losing all the weight, lifestyle changes that make regular exercise and a controlled diet even harder. It is not as simple as “just eat better and exercise.” Someone who tells you that has never truly struggled with food and body image issues. And oh yeah, how much of a hypocrite did I feel like telling everyone on live TV to love your body, when I look in the mirror and I’m not so much in love with mine? That is totally normal as well. There is a lot more I could say on the topic … feel free to reach out any time to go in depth on food issues. Not “issues” because that sounds so loaded … I mean something more like the general topic of eating and how it makes us feel.

    1. I totally agree. People who think it’s as simple as just eating less and moving more don’t understand the struggles of someone who truly struggles with food. Thanks for your comment Mel.

  9. You are not alone. Your words could be mine too. And I am prone to being chubby to begin with. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves that our gremlins take over in those situations. You are enough just the way you are!

  10. Thank you for voicing this Michelle, so many of us just “deal” with our unresolved issues connected with food. It’s always nice to know we’re not alone in our struggles. Everyone thinks it’s still okay to give unsolicited advice to people with eating issues, no matter what those issues are. In my experience, I’ve also noticed that people have no issues with being mean to us. This was an important post and I’m very glad I read it! Thanks for writing it!

    1. Thanks for having the courage to share your secret. I think the hardest but most important step towards “recovery” is admitting the problem. I was a binge eater and still have moments of vulnerability when I could so easily slip back into those habits. For me, I know what my triggers food are and rarely eat them. Thank god I developed an allergy to potato chips! When I do eat the former binge foods I tread very carefully. If you ever want to talk about my journey I’d love to. Strength in numbers…

      1. I would love to talk to you at some point about your journey. I had no idea that you’ve had a similar struggle. I certainly feel a lot less alone in this than I did a day ago. Thank you Cora ❤

  11. Michelle, I echo the other comments here in saying that you are certainly not alone in this struggle. I am not yet a mother and have no idea how the possibility of becoming one can, and will, affect my struggle. But I offer you this piece of my story in hopes that it may be helpful to you in some way. I have been “heavy” since I was in grade school enduring many years of ridicule and self-loathing. I always knew that I had an unhealthy relationship with food, even considering entering Overeaters Anonymous for support. It wasn’t until I moved to Brooklyn a few years ago that I began to get my eating under control. In brief, I learned that healthy eating was not about deprivation, but moderation. I stopped feeling guilty every time I put a piece of food in my mouth and truly began enjoying food. I still self-medicate and eat my feelings on occasion, but I’ve developed an awareness that I didn’t have before. I don’t hate myself for over-eating. I stopped emotionally punishing myself and focused that energy on understanding and learning for the next time. It’s far from a perfect approach. I’m still striving to make better choices in my life and find a balance that I can live with. I wish you all the best in battling this demon. As hippie as it may sound, Peace, Love and Understanding can go a long way in dealings with the self.

    1. Thanks so much for this comment Melissa. I actually did try OA for a couple of meetings a few years ago and it didn’t feel right for me. I was amazed that no one in this particular group of OA had overcome or really reduced their overeating/binging and it kind of depressed me so I stopped going. I love your comment and hope that I can get to the point that I’m not incredibly hard on myself for overeating. I think I’ll ever be rid of the compulsion to overeat but it would certainly be nice to not hate this part of myself. Thanks again for this. xo

  12. Michelle, you are a kind, compassionate soul and a pillar of strength, not to mention an amazing mom, wife, and friend. Thank you for sharing your story and I’m sure you know by all the amazing comments, that you are not alone in your struggles. I am always here for you if ever you need help or feel stressed out about anything that life throws at you!

  13. Michelle,
    Thank you. For so many things- thank you for sharing, thank you for being honest, thank you for CTworkingmoms.
    You’ve truly made me feel like I am not alone.

    ***like Chris said: “You are a brave and courageous and vulnerable human being like all the rest of us.”
    Thank you. You’ve both made me cry 😉

    1. Karen thank you so much for this really supportive comment. I was so incredibly afraid to publish this piece so it means a lot to me that you were able to see yourself in what I wrote. xo

  14. Michelle, thank you very much for sharing this with us all. You are such a strong person, more than you realize. Your right, this has nothing to do with food, its just that food is your “outlet”, where for some its either drinking, depression, anxiety, etc. For me, its anxiety. Hugs to you for sharing your story and I hope that this year marks the ability to make a change for the better. We love you!

  15. You are not alone! So much amazes me about this, but I particularly love how watching our own children inspires us to take yet another look at how we use food. Please offer yourself the same compassion you would one of us if we wrote it!

    1. Thank you Sharlene. Seriously, one of my biggest parenting fears is that my daughter will learn this from me and then hate me for it. It’s overwhelming because I feel like I have no idea how to let go of this behavior but at the same time I desperately want to shield her from experiencing this herself.

    1. You aren’t alone at all. We all struggle in our lives and have some way of coping that may not be the best or healthiest for us. Thank you for sharing your story, it makes you an even better person than you already are. We all appreciate hearing other women with similar struggles like our own, it helps us relate. Thank you for putting yourself out there!! You’re doing great, Michelle. Lil is a lucky little girl. Xoxo

  16. You are amazing. You have so many supportive friends and “fans” that love you. You are an inspiration, a great mom and role model to the women in your life young and old. Keep fighting the good fight, sister.

  17. Wonderful piece, Michelle. Thank you. It takes a lot of courage to share the parts of us that hurt. I was able to identify with so much of your story. Our secrets make us sick and you did service for other women as well as yourself. Xoxo

  18. I feel the same way. I eat when I’m sad, stressed, upset, you name it. I’ve lost a ton of weight on the Ideal Protein diet but now and afraid I”m going to gain it all back with my binges. I need to let go because I don’t want my daughter to do the same either. You’re not alone! I hope you can conquer it and tell me how when you do!

  19. The Brene Brown ecourse has made me realize exactly this..I struggle with food too. I use it to NUMB instead of drugs and alcohol, I use nachos.
    I keep thinking that I can control it and will control it when I’m ready, kind of like how it took me years to quit smoking “because I didn’t want to quit.”
    Thank you for being so brave and posting this!

  20. You have many companions in this struggle Michelle. And it’s not only food that can become the demon. I have a similar problem with self medication. Red Wine. I joke about it, saying that I’m a high functioning alcoholic at this stage of my life and my husband (bless his soul) laughs and says,”You’re not an alcoholic, you’re just a lush!” I only drink it because it’s good for my heart! Yeah, right. I call it self medication… from an enormous amount of stress that we are all under these days. This isn’t to say that people like us don’t get up every day, do what has to be done (and do it well by the way), are great parents or grandparents, respected community personalities, giving volunteers, etc…. but we always have this little area of our lives that creeps back into play. I wake up in the morning saying to myself that I don’t need that glass or two or three, but many times by dinner time I start again. I know that I can stop if I want to because I didn’t drink for 6 months when I was on some medication. I also know that when the liquor store closes before I can get my little medication I don’t go into the DT’s or whatever, but I feel the same way you do about food when it comes to this compulsion. Crappy day at the office? Merlot is my Rx. Stressed out about the making the mortgage payment? Shiraz works pretty well. So I’m bearing my soul to help you understand that YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS! And yes, we beat ourselves up and yes, we try to do better. I guess I have to ask everyone, “Better than what?” You are a brave and courageous and vulnerable human being like all the rest of us. Believe me when I tell you that we all carry our skeletons. Thanks for sharing. It’s what we do here. And yes, I’m hesitating to push the post button.

    1. I love this comment Chris, and Michelle, I love your post. There is nothing more liberating and courageous than showing those skeletons, so others can also unleash their skeletons. Maybe we should just embrace those skeletons and dance with them awhile, just to see what happens. Right now I’m drinking about 3 beers a night most nights of the week. I actually don’t feel any guilt about this, as I know right now I need it. When I don’t need it, I won’t do it. I know that’s politically incorrect, but I don’t give a shit. We are all doing our best. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with a skeleton or two….

    2. Chris, thank you for this comment. I appreciate this so much that I can’t even form an adequate response. The comments today have made me cry multiple times, yours included. Thank you.

      1. Don’t cry Michelle, you should rejoice in the fact that your have a support team out there. Whenever you feel like you’re going to cave, give me a call. I’ll send you my cell phone, not on here…. You’re okay lady. Stop beating yourself up. Your daughter will be her own person. You will teach her to deal with stress in different ways. You know the pitfalls and will develop techniques to help her see things in positive lights. You are a great mommy! I’ll send you my cell phone via bloggers.

  21. I’m so glad you made the decision to open up about this- i’m sure this took a lot of courage and soul searching to do it. Even to just get that release by posting it, it is so important. Love to you!

  22. You are so far from alone in this. I could have written almost every word (except, I’ve always been heavy and never able to hide my “secret”). It is so hard. You are very brave, thank you for opening this discussion.

  23. Thank you for this post. As you said, Michelle, you are NOT alone in this. I think food issues haunt a lot of people (myself included). Many hugs to you. ❤

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