“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.”
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.’