Emotional Eating: How to Not Devour That Bag of Uneaten Candy Corn
First things first, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve checked in here. It’s actually been a good couple of weeks on the weight loss front! On Friday, November 16, I weighed in at 228.0 pounds, which was a 1.3 pound loss from the week prior. Last week, I decided to move my weigh in up to Thanksgiving morning instead of Friday morning, so that I wouldn’t get discouraged by weighing in after the Thanksgiving meal. That weigh in on Thursday, 11/22 was 227.1 pounds, which is .9 pounds less than the week before. So 2.2 pounds lost over the last couple of weeks! Not bad.
I’ll be honest, I don’t expect to post a loss this week. Thanksgiving was a day of indulgence. I wasn’t so bad with the meal, but our family sweet potato casserole recipe is like crack – and like the addict that I am, I ate way too much of it throughout the day. I wish my body weren’t so sensitive to one day of high calorie eating, but it is. I’m already up from last week (yes – I weigh every day, “official” weigh in day or not), and I threw my back out on Friday, so exercise, while I’ve tried to keep it up, has been lacking. That concerns me a bit since exercise is already a struggle this time of year, but it is what it is.
And that leads me to tonight, sitting here after midnight, writing this blog while I drink a diet soda. Why am I doing this? Because frankly, this is what’s keeping me from burying my face in the leftover bag of candy corn from the fall holidays that’s in my pantry and hasn’t been eaten yet. You see, I’m an emotional eater. I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink to excess, and I don’t gamble. The fact of the matter is, I’m not even the least bit tempted by those things, no matter how bad my day or how much stress I’m under. BUT… find me at home on a Monday evening after a stressful day returning to work after a holiday break, with my back hurting still from injuring it last week, and combine that with the butterflies and such that go along with the beginnings of a new, albeit seemingly fantastic, relationship, and I just want to inhale that damn candy corn like a human dustbuster.
Since re-starting my weight loss journey in July, I really haven’t been tempted to eat emotionally. This is a huge sign of progress for me, since I used food to numb emotion for decades. But as my night began to wind down tonight, I felt that familiar longing for the first time in a long while. My new beau had been over for dinner and left to go home,and next thing I knew, my mind started wandering to how cruddy going back to work from the holiday had been, to how my back hurt when I moved, and to other various and sundry anxieties – both good and bad. Emotional eaters use food like an alcoholic uses whiskey – to numb emotions, good and bad. And all of a sudden, I really wanted to raid my pantry and fridge…particularly for that leftover bag of hardened, sugary candy corn. So what’s the difference? What stopped me?
Two things, I think, prevent me now from indulging in emotional eating. First is self awareness. My weight loss journey over the past few years has helped me become painfully aware of my patterns. When I started getting anxious tonight, I realized that my desire to raid the pantry was coming from feeling some emotions I really didn’t want to feel. It’s strange, because the emotions aren’t even all “bad” emotions. Some are very good, actually, but what they all have in common, at least in my experience, is they make you feel vulnerable. And vulnerability is an emotion that can be unsettling and hard to just sit with and let it wash over you. The reaction – at least my reaction – is to stop it. But now I’m aware that I have that reaction, and I recognize what’s going on and can stop it. Which leads to the second thing that prevents me now from emotionally eating.
Once I’m aware that I want to emotionally eat, I distract myself. First, I distract my mouth in a way that doesn’t add calories. Tonight it’s a diet soda. It could also be sugar free gum, brushing your teeth, having a cup of black coffee, chomping on celery or carrots, etc. Then, and perhaps even more importantly, I distract my mind. Call a friend, journal, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, or write a blog post. For me I tend toward the things that actually engage me with the emotions – so calling a friend, journaling, or writing a blog post addressing it – as opposed to the more passive distractions that just take you away from the emotions completely, but that’s a matter of personal preference.
So I’ve successfully avoided making that bag of candy corn mine tonight, and the next time I’m tempted, I’ll do it all over again. The thing is, we sometimes live our lives trying to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable, but allowing that vulnerability is where the growth can come – professionally, physically, and personally. Tonight, I’m going to bed feeling vulnerable, but also feeling confident that this vulnerability is representative of a phase of growth that’s in process right now. Of life changes that may or may not be what I envision, but that will make me a better person and could even lead to some really amazing things.