I grew up an anxious child.
There was always stress in my home, not necessarily obvious if you were looking in from the outside, but it was always there and I could feel it.
I had wonderful parents, lived in a nice home and was provided for. I believe the stress in my home stemmed from pent up emotional baggage from old issues that needed to be released, plus simply the stressors from every day life like work, money and marriage.
Regardless of what it was from, the unspoken emotional tension practically ran my life, and I allowed it to control the way I was living. I felt I couldn’t share my feelings with anyone, so I held them in. The only way I knew how to deal with them was to protect myself in some way.
As a young girl, the only choice I had was to use protection mechanisms to get me through my day to day. The constant anxiety, depression and utter fear I felt of life itself was in charge. As a child I did not feel safe in the world and therefore I had to take care of myself.
I had many protection mechanisms which I used to take care of myself and get through the day. One was to try and control the things I knew I could, such as my school work, and the house cleaning. When I felt frustrated and stressed, I would “take it out on” my school work by completing it with what I thought of as perfection. I got all A’s, and if I missed an assignment by accident I felt so ashamed and then tried even harder the next time to be even “more perfect.”
House cleaning was another way I tried to take control of my life. When everything around me felt like chaos, the least I could do for myself to feel better was to clean and organize my home the way I thought it should be, especially since my parents didn’t have time to do it.
Another protection mechanism I used was to eat my emotions. Yup, literally.
When I felt sad, I ate. When I felt mad, I ate. When I felt anxious, I ate. In fact, any emotion I had, I would eat.
And it wasn’t healthy food by any means. I liked to eat pizza, pop tarts, toaster strudels (remember those?), cookies, donuts, french fries, Doritos (sometimes half the bag on my own), PayDays, Snickers bars, M&M’s, and that’s certainly not all. I’m sure I could come up with some more favorites if I really thought about it!
(To be honest with you, I feel truly blessed to have skinny genes in my family because I really should have been overweight!)
We’ve all enjoyed some of these food items, but for me I didn’t eat them for pleasure (well, kind of ;)). I ate them instead to stuff down my emotions further when I was feeling bad. And those emotions stayed trapped for a very long time.
At the age of 27 when I went through what I call my Quarter Life Crisis, those same stale emotions that I held in for all those years and stuffed down with food started to come up to the surface. Needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable feeling but my body could not hold onto the junk anymore, and I got sick enough to start the involuntary process of getting well.
When we get “sick,” it is our body’s communication to us that something is not right.
Whether it’s telling us we are not eating the right foods for our body, or whether our body needs to purge old stagnant energy that is no longer serving, we need to pay attention to this communication system and follow suit, if we ever want to get well.
Fast forward to age 33, when my husband and I uprooted our entire life and moved across the country, just as we began to get settled in where we were living at the time. We planned on buying a home and getting a dog. Instead, we took another route and decided to try something new.
We were happy to do it, and knew that it was the right decision for us. And as it turns out, it was! But it didn’t come without its challenges.
The year 2015 was full of major learning experiences, healing and growth.
After my first Quarter Life Crisis at 27, I thought I had released that old piece of my past that cultivated my emotional eating. Turns out I was very wrong about that and had a second Quarter Life Crisis in 2015.
When we first moved to Seattle from Detroit it was an exciting time. I wanted to get out and do EVERYTHING. I wanted to sightsee, climb mountains, kayak, canoe, eat at every new restaurant, meet all the people I could, and so much more.
I walked around with the façade of being confident and comfortable, when in truth I felt neither of these.
I felt un-grounded, confused, lost and utterly scared of every day life, just like I had as a child. It all came up to the surface for me to release and to begin with, I reverted back to my old ways of emotional eating.
I found every excuse in the book to justify eating foods I knew were not good for me. Eating out went something like this:
I can have this dish because it’s vegan. I can have this cream sauce because at least it’s not sugar. I can have this dessert because it’s gluten free (even though I already justified the cream sauce because it wasn’t sugar!). I can have this glass of wine because they say one glass of red wine a day is good for your heart. This dish is mostly gluten free and I eat healthy most of the time so I’m cool.
And on and on it went. You can see how many stories we can come up with for ourselves in order to justify eating things we know are going to cause harm or have consequences.
Well I did this for almost an entire year. I was telling people to do one thing, and I was struggling to do the same.
When I had a rough emotional day I would have a glass of red wine at the end of the day. Not necessarily a bad thing until it turned into every day.
When I was too emotionally drained to cook, I’d eat out…crappy fried food and then justify it by finding something healthy about it. I always used the phrase, “Well at least it’s not…”
As a result of this 365 days of emotional eating, I began to really feel the effects...big time.
My digestion was suffering, my bowel movements were erratic, my periods were irregular, I lacked the energy, vigor and stamina I once had, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
At this point in my life it wasn’t about lack of discipline. Instead it was about old emotions rising to the surface that needed to be released from my being, and I was using food to cope.
Emotional eating is a thing. It’s real, and it can affect just about anyone.
I’m finally to the point in my journey where I have released what needed to come out (thanks to yoga and a drive and determination to get well), no matter what it took.
I am currently "re-healing" my insides and my spirit with food, and boy do I feel better than ever.
I’m still on my healing journey, and I feel like I will be forever.
Either way, this journey has lead me to my passion for raw foods, creating fun healthy recipes in the kitchen and helping my clients heal with food.
I still have moments where I want to reach for that sugary treat, or a carby pizza. Please do not ever think I’m perfect people!
I most definitely have my struggles too but the one piece of advice I can leave you with is this: When you are about to reach for that sugary treat, a late night snack, a yummy carby pizza, or something else you know is not serving you, it may be helpful to ask yourself: Why am I eating this? Am I having a craving? Am I feeling (insert emotion here) sad, mad, afraid, nervous, etc.? Or am I truly hungry?
Once we can become aware of how we are feeling around food, it is then that we can begin to truly heal.
Questions? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org