Emotional Eating.

This is a topic of real importance to me, and it’s one I find that rarely (and this time back around, not at all, yet) gets addressed in WW meetings. Which is odd, when considering I know I’m not the only member of WW that eats to soothe emotions.

I thought about emotional eating tonight, because I recognized I ate beyond my points allowance and didn’t even try to stop myself because I wasn’t done soothing myself. Granted, I didn’t splurge on anything very unhealthy, as I’ve done a decent job to keep mostly healthy food in my kitchen, but it was still much more than I planned to or wanted to eat. When I find myself in a dark place, or sad, or stressed, or even just bored, I turn to food. And this has been the case for as long as I can remember. You don’t get to be nearly 100 lbs overweight because you really like food, you get there because of something much deeper, and overeating happens to be a symptom to a larger issue.

I know exactly what triggered this tonight, and it’s an ongoing personal issue I’m trying to work through, but when it arises my general afterthought is usually, “screw this, what do I have in my cupboards?” And then I succumb, and it’s awful, even when I’m doing it knowing I know better. I know a walk around my neighborhood would have been a far, far better and healthier option, and one that also would have allowed me to put my thoughts in order instead of shoving food down my gob. But rationale is always furthest away from the surface when you’re looking to soothe yourself. I imagine addicts to drugs, alcohol, self harm, and other destructive behaviors operate in much the same manner. You need the immediate release. For me, it’s food. I wish it wasn’t, and I know this is something I’m going to have to keep working at the rest of my life, long after I hit my goal weight.

What’s also hard for me is sometimes I just really need to talk about things with people who understand. And not so much a therapist, though I’m sure I could use one. But more just a sense of community, like I’m not alone in this, and there are others who have the same issues but they’ve been able to manage them. Every day is a fight for me to manage my emotional eating.

Since I live alone, I find I have a lot of time to myself with my own thoughts, which makes it much easier for me to dwell on them. So then to shut out all that emotional turmoil I turn to food. When I’m out hiking is when I feel furthest away from any destruction. I feel vibrant and alive and inspired by my surroundings. Everything is sharp and beautiful, and I feel focused and happy. But I’m not always hiking, and the moments I can slip away out of the city now that I’m back to two jobs is getting fewer and further between. When I’m hiking, even if I’m by myself, I never feel lonely. It’s when I’m shut up in my apartment and trying to deal with all this terrible crap in my head that I feel so painfully alone, and food is just a terrible, soothing, immediate, convenient companion.

I know I need to talk to someone going through similar experiences, and even though my WW meeting room is full of folks who are, we have yet to broach the subject. And I know WW meetings aren’t meant as a substitute for therapy, but sometimes I wish meeting topics were a little more honest than many of the usual, obvious, and repetitive ones. However, Sylvia is about the most real, genuine, and honest leader I have had the privilege of learning from. I have her email address, since she’s been kind enough to make herself available to anyone if they need to contact her outside of the meetings. I’ve been feeling tempted to write to her about my concerns with my emotional eating. I’ve also thought about coming into the WW center during its open drop-in hours to talk to her, but I have no idea if and when she’s there.

In the meantime, something really wonderful happened immediately after my meeting on Saturday that I forgot to mention. Since I have been officially pegged as ‘the hiker’ of my meeting group, Sylvia now asks me every week where I’ve been and how it was, which is great because it gives me incentive to make sure I have at least one weekly hike so I can share it with her. But right after the meeting, as I was walking out to my car, I heard a woman behind me ask, “Excuse me, Jen, right?” I turned around and said yes, and she introduced herself and told me she and her husband like to go on hikes in Forest Park and out in the Gorge, and if I’d ever like a hiking companion, she would be more than happy to be mine. She said I always seem to go on all these great, different hikes, and that she’d love to join me. I said I would definitely love that. Except I foolishly didn’t even ask for her contact information. I just said I would love that, got in my car, and was kicking myself the entire way home. The worst part is, while I remember her name, I only vaguely remember what she looks like. The first thing I want to do on Saturday is exchange contact info. I desperately hope I remember what she looks like. I really would like a new hiking companion, but most importantly, someone who likely has the same struggles and issues that I do. I do my best thinking on hikes, I can only imagine our conversations. I am extremely grateful to her for coming up to me after the meeting and making that offer.

Anyway. Thanks for listening to this. It’s just been a hard day.

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4 Responses to Emotional Eating.

  1. Shannon says:

    I’m sorry today was a hard one, Jen. Thanks for sharing your triumphs AND your struggles; it’s so real and inspiring. Email Sylvia! Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help; that’s what she’s there for. Also, don’t be afraid to bring up the topic during the WW meeting if she allows for “open floor”; you KNOW there are other people struggling with the same issue who are too scared to say anything. And, just my two cents, find a therapist or group meeting (that’s specific to emotional/overeating). I LOVE having a therapist to teach me new tools for coping with life’s dark side. AND REMEMBER TO BE KIND TO YOURSELF! One bad day does not equal failure! You are an amazing, inspiring person! I LOVE YOU!

    • actress1924 says:

      I love you so much. Thank you for that. I’ve decided to definitely talk with Sylvia about my emotional eating, preferably in person.

      And yes, being kind to myself is important. It’s a work in progress, and it is progressing, slowly but surely.

  2. veggiereader says:

    Your right about emational connections to food. For me, I think it was loneliness that led me to over eat and gain over 100 extra pounds.
    I was an only child and even though I had friends I always ended up alone at the end of the day and with nothing else to do I would eat.it didn’t help that in college I lived alone.more eating ensued. I think I’ve learner to enjoy my own company without turning it into an eating fest. Now whenever I have no one around, I just go for a run and feel a lot better.

    • actress1924 says:

      It is amazing how being alone/feeling alone is such an impetus for overeating. I understand what you mean about being alone at the end of the day. My junior and senior years of college I lived alone and that’s when I gained the most weight in college. Same with post-college: when I’ve lived alone is when I’ve overeaten the most. I’m trying to work on physical substitutes for eating. Evening walks are a good one, but here in Portland it rains 9 months out of the year, so I’ll be less inclined to head out in wet weather soon. A friend is teaching me to knit, so I’m hoping that will give me a hobby to keep my hands busy instead of using them to over-feed myself at night.

      Kudos to you for your runs. I’m working my way back to running. Those endorphins are definitely better than than overeating. Any day.

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