This is the absolute hardest topic for me to talk about publicly like this. I’ve written a handful of posts about my struggle with food and each time I hit publish I basically want to have an anxiety attack. Letting people see this side of me is scary. I guess that’s because I feel a lot of shame around my eating disorder. I haven’t “solved” it or come to peace with it. I struggle with it every single day. It is very, very present in my life.
Having struggled with overeating since my early teen years, I’ve read pretty much every book about the topic, but the essence of one book sticks with me. It’s called When Food is Love by Geneen Roth, and as you can tell by the title, she suggests that compulsive overeating is used by people for their emotional hunger, not their physical hunger. I completely agree with her, as far as my own struggle with food. Another favorite author of mine on this topic is Karly Randolph Pitman, who writes over on her website Growing Human(kind)ness about sugar addiction, binge eating, body hate and overeating. She, too, believes that overeating is a reflection that something isn’t right on the inside — it’s not about self-control, as many people would lead you to believe. It’s something deeper than that (and I believe this is true with all eating disorders).
I started thinking about all of this again recently because of an email I got from yet another one of my favorite people who writes about food struggles, Isabel Foxen Duke. In particular, her recent blog post called Emotional Eating is Saving Your Ass really resonated with me. She says, in part:
“Emotional eating is an attempt to deal with a tough problem, feeling, or situation we don’t otherwise know how to deal with, and often don’t even know that we have without some kind of symptom to remind us.
That twitchy feeling that makes us want to go shove brownies down our throats, is like a genius alarm bell, that if responded to appropriately, reminds us to clue into what’s bothering us, before it becomes a more serious problem.
When we strip away the judgement of our emotional eating, and stop calling it a disease, a defect, a problem in and of itself;
we can finally see it for what it is:
An alert that something in our life needs our attention. Something completely unrelated to food or our weight.”
YES. I believe what she says to be true in my heart. But it is so hard to rewire my mind to react differently to emotional struggles when using food has been how I’ve coped for the past 20+ years (ouch, that was hard to type). I was able to hide my issues with food for a long time because I wasn’t overweight, but after having my daughter almost 5 years ago I was never able to lose the pregnancy weight so now I feel like everyone who looks at me knows about my struggle.
I want to explore the idea of listening to my body. What if I really stay with the food cravings and try to figure out why they’re happening and what are they’re alerting me to? I don’t believe there’s any kind of particular “diet”, other than reducing sugar consumption, that can help me feel more in control of my food choices. I feel in my soul that this is, and has been, an emotional & spiritual journey. And I need to prioritize making time for myself to do some internal work because as a single mom, I have very limited time to myself. But this is important and I don’t want to struggle with food forever. I’m tired of it, to be honest.
I have felt all these years like this is a curse. Why do I have to have this struggle? Why can’t I just have a normal relationship with food? Why can’t I just eat one cookie?
If I can switch my mindset, as all of the authors above suggest, to view this struggle not as a struggle, but as a gift that tells me when something is array, what a beautiful thing that would be. That feels so out of reach right now, but I’m letting myself consider that it’s true, because if it is, that could be my only path to healing my relationship with food.