I am an emotional eater, an overeater, a binge eater, food addict and general greedy guts. Morbidly obese (I might actually be super morbidly obese which is quite something) at 5ft 2ins and a size 24, I can’t even see myself anymore. But I think that is the aim actually, to be invisible, which seems ironic given how much space I now take up. I’ve written about my half-hearted attempt to lose weight in my previous blog, Finally Stuffed, and detailed my struggle to overcome emotional eating (which predictably ended in no actual action on my part to make the weight loss occur).
What is emotional eating?
For me, emotional eating means that I cannot conceive of an evening that doesn’t involve an edible treat at some point; whether my day has been good or bad I feel I deserve to treat myself with 2 pints of ice cream followed by custard creams dunked in tea. The thought of not having ice cream/biscuits/cake/chocolate (preferable in that order) to look forward to makes me feel panicky and almost desperate. I have been heavily reliant on food (not just any food but certain foods as listed above) to make bearable any even slight emotional disturbance for a very long time. Portion size is also a massive problem for me; somehow I feel a massive sense of depravation if my meal doesn’t touch the edges of the plate all the way around. Crazy huh?
So, how did it all come about?
I have thought back to my childhood and adolescence many times to try and figure out why my default setting for dealing with challenges is food. I know I was encouraged to finish everything on my plate and we always had pudding after dinner. As a kid we often ate in front of the TV with our meal on a tray and I remember lots of freezer meals rather than food cooked from scratch (sorry mum!). But as I’ve aged I seem to have used food more and more to either try and fill a hole that has just got wider and wider in proportion to my bum, or just to numb my feelings altogether. Yes, I am a busy working mum of two young boys, and there isn’t much time to peel and chop veggies and cook fresh food after the rigmarole of child tooth-brushing, weeing and bedtime stories has finished. But I don’t think that is the real issue, the real reason for my emotional eating. I think it is more that healthy food just does not fill that void as much as sugary/fatty/salty food does, albeit temporarily. They provide a warm comforting hug, whereas eating a salad is like cuddling the cold.
Things have worsened lately though; I have realised that I don’t even stop to think anymore before reaching for the bad stuff. It is as automatic for me as breathing or farting. On autopilot I rush to the naughty cupboard as soon as I’ve finished my meal, before any seed of doubt can be planted, any thought of the consequences of doing this evening after evening. I’ll even go well out of my way to get hold of something, anything, when the naughty cupboard is not sufficiently stocked. My addiction to these foods has cost us a lot of money over the years (I dread to think how much).
Any solutions please?
I have been trying in vain for a long time to figure out the answer to all this madness. This probably requires counselling really but I can’t afford it. I am always trying to figure out what the void is, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it. Low confidence and self-esteem, along with lack of fulfilment, are the boringly obvious choices, but I’m not sure that’s quite right. I do think, though, that I have a massive scarcity complex for some reason, as if there is never enough food/love/safety/certainty and I’m going to run out if I’m not careful, and then where would I be?
I would love to hear from anyone else who thinks they eat to cope with emotions, good or bad. Perhaps we can figure this out together.