I’m a determined health nut until about 4 p.m. and then the wheels start falling off the healthy bus. In the midst of the rush of supper/homework/bath time/bed time/kid’s needing things/I need a dozen cupcakes for bake sale tomorrow…I turn from calm & zen to frazzled and tuned out. I lose my focus. As a result I’m not mindful of my eating.
Here’s the deal: I consistently exercise 4-6 times/week, I eat healthy foods, but I’m also an emotional eater. There are many terms for it: Over-eater, closet eater, binge eater, emotional eater. Those are just labels for an internal struggle that I’ve had for as far back as I remember (as early as 5 yrs old).
I know I’m not alone in this struggle, it’s just not easy to talk about nor to admit. It’s embarrassing (which is why there’s a term “closet eater”).
This isn’t a new pattern of behaviour for me, but it is one that through the years I’ve had varying degrees of control over. Even though I have lost the weight, the world of maintaining is one that is similar to the world of losing in that it takes diligence. I have to stay tuned in, even when I want to tune out.
That’s a tricky scenario for an emotional eater like me, because when there is stress in my life, my instinct is to turn to food. Believe me, over the years I’ve over-analyzed this phenomenon to death.
If the formula for long-term weight loss was to simply eat less, move more…then there wouldn’t be such an obesity problem in our country. Yes, that’s a big part of the formula for losing and maintaining; however, it’s so much deeper than that. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another. I believe self-reflection is key. Everyone has some sort of struggle within their lives, whether it’s financial, within relationships, etc. My issue with weight happens to be more visual than perhaps another’s struggle. It makes me feel misunderstood when I hear the words “overweight” and “lazy” used in the same sentence. I can assure you that through out my life, my struggle with my weight has nothing to do with being lazy.
As I approach my 8 year anniversary of being at my goal weight, I’m still finding ways to deal with emotional eating. So what am I going to do about it? The same thing I’ve had to do every time I’ve realized I need to deal with life in a different way…
“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” Henry Cloud
For every problem, there is a solution that will work if you figure out your personal triggers and you focus on your goals.
My 10 Steps to Combat Emotional Eating
1. Journal what I eat. I’m too proud to write one bag of M&M’s 😉 Lucky for me, technology is way better than the days of carrying a binder around with me. There are lots of great apps that track eating and exercise.
2. Pay attention to how I’m feeling when I get the urge to eat when I’m not actually hungry. Eat with intention. Eat slowly (so my brain catches up to my stomach signalling when I’m full). Actually taste the food I’m eating (the texture, the flavour). Minimize distractions around me. This means no eating away from the kitchen table.
3. There are two types of triggers for me: Emotional and Food related. It’s important for me to realize what my triggers are and then to minimize those triggers. Emotional triggers can come in the form of relationships, sometimes I have to pull back from situations and relationships until I can get back on track. The food related triggers come in the form of certain foods that make me want to eat more and more. These are foods with little nutritional value and are high in sugars. I would never binge on apples. 😉
4. Remember that momentum goes 2 ways! As fast as I can feel like I’m spiralling out of control, I can just as easily take the steps to get back in control and follow that positive momentum into each meal and then into each day.
5. There’s a quote I often think about: “Comparison is the thief of joy” Theodore Roosevelt. It’s difficult not to compare my progress with another’s; however, we are all different and our goals are different too. The only person I should compare myself with is the old version of me.
6. Look at food in a positive way: Food is fuel, it is not for comfort. I have to look at my daily food intake like an allowance so that my relationship with food is one of sustenance. I give my kids their allowance and it’s up to them what they spend it on. They can spend it on quality items, or waste it. That’s how my food allowance is. To maintain my weight loss, I must eat within a certain amount of calories. I can eat more calories if I add more activity to my day which is awesome. Exercise is important to this equation! I want to spend my allowance on foods that are high in nutritional value. I don’t want to waste it on foods that are low quality and that trigger the desire to eat more, and more. These types of foods for me are (my lovely triggers): Theatre popcorn, milk chocolate, and nachos.
7. Drink more water, at least 8-10 glasses a day. This flushes the toxins and salt out of my body and as an added bonus makes skin glow too.
8. Grocery shop once a week so my fridge is always full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Try not to shop hungry, that never goes well. lol
9. Take the well-meaning wishes and words of advice from others with a grain of salt. When I was obese, people would tell me how to lose the weight. Now that I’m at my goal weight I’ve been told that I focus too much on food and exercise, which is 100% true! I will tell you what happens when I’m not diligent with my food and exercise, I gain weight. That’s just how it is! Sometimes that pisses me right off that I have to be so diligent; however, I refuse to gain back 90 pounds. So yes, I focus on my food and exercise every day and that’s ok. 🙂 I try to do so in a positive way.
10. Be always mindful of what my goals are. Sometimes I write them on sticky notes where I see them everyday. My goal is to be healthy, strong, and fit with balance. My goal is not a certain number on the scale. I need to align my actions to fit into that goal. I am then successful every time I eat a piece of fruit, loads of veggies, healthy proteins, each time I exercise. This also translates into my interactions with those I love. Being healthy encompasses relationships, friendships, family time. It all goes together to build a happy and healthy Mom which my kids need.
Now it’s time to get to work…
On my reading list (again): Women Food and God
A must watch for all Women:
Thanks for reading what was actually really tough to publicly share. The reason I shared it today was because of a conversation I had last week with a wise friend. We discussed closet eating and she shared with me that this is an issues she knows many women struggle with. Even if we think we are in that closet all alone. 😉
I hope something I shared here will help another move forward. I know I’m ready to move forward.
From my heart to yours,
6 thoughts on “Confessions of a Closet Eater/Part-Time Health Nut”
I like #4. I’ve never thought of it before but it’s true that if I spend one day eating & watching SNL reruns, I feel that I am a failure & I feel hopefuless… yet if I spend one day active & working out I feel so hopeful & positive… it’s easy to forget that simple turn around when you are in the throes of a binge. It’s a good thing to think about next time I have set back. ❤
Thanks Haley, yup…#4 is pretty important. I lived both sides of the momentum. The positive stuff is way more fun. 🙂
I love this post you wrote!!
I just want to say that you are such a beautiful, strong and inspiring person because of your honesty and sharing with others!
I admire your ability to help other women and truly uplift and inspire so many people around you. There are unfortunately alot of women out there these days that need a supportive and friendly ear and so many aren’t like that-which is really sad.
What makes this post so inspiring is your honesty about your struggles with food. I think there are many women out there that feel the same. Some admit, and some don’t. And that’s okay!
I too call myself..an “emotional eater”. If I’m stressed out I reach for food. Sometimes it’s wine too. But food always follows. Mine is mainly chocolate, especially Reese’s peanut butter cups…my all time favourite. But really, any chocolate will do. I also love chips. Any flavour. And honestly, it’s anything I can find in the cupboard that usually consists of the kids special treats that I try and hide from myself, yet I know where they are when I’m craving something and feel lost in my emotions.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think I want to live a life of balance. Exercise, healthy foods and yes water is a great tip! I need to drink more!
I also like life’s little indulgences but in moderation. I want to learn to control the over eating after 4pm part. And having you as a great support person to talk to helps. Thank you for that.
And thank you for sharing this post of yours. It made my day!!
Ahhhh Megs, we are so much a like (right down to the Reese’s peanut butter cups) I admire you as well, and our time at the gym flies by. Very thankful to have such an supportive gym buddy! Thanks for the kick in the butt when I don’t want to go. xo
Check out the website rebooting with Joe. If anything it’s an interesting perspective on eating healthy. Kevin and I have been using our juicer only and detoxing our bodies for three days now. We’re walking and exercising along with. Can’t say it’s all been great cause you feel kind of crappy for the first bit.. Off coffee and detoxing our bodies from all the sugars and processed foods but our fridge look like a produce section and its been fun making all the different juices too. Chey really enjoys the fruit juices and last night I made her ” real pasta sauce from juiced tomatoes, fresh basil, parsley, oregano and garlic. Amazing how the tomato juice tastes without all the salt and stuff they put in the jars. Anyway looking forward to a healthier, happier life!!
That’s awesome Celena! You are such a driven woman, you can do anything you put your mind to. I will check out the website. And yes, making things from scratch always taste amazing compared to the caned crap. Thank you for commenting! Cheers to your happy and healthier life. 🙂