Breaking Habits & Being Honest

This time of year I usually find myself craving all things Easter candy – Peeps (gross, but I love them!), Cadbury Creme Eggs, chocolate coconut eggs, etc. On St. Patrick’s Day I usually want to get a beer or two and eat some corned beef hash and soda bread. Of course, I usually give in to those cravings with the reasoning that a few pieces of candy or a few beers and some salty corned beef isn’t going to hurt me in the long run. I still stand by that rationalization, but on Sunday I made a drug store run for my poor sinus pain-filled husband and found myself eyeing the candy near the check out counter with barely a tinge of longing. It was rather amazing. I realized that St. Patrick’s Day had come and gone without one sip of beer or bite-full of beef and I hadn’t even thought about it.┬áInstead I attended my Pilates class and had a delicious salad for dinner, never feeling as if anything was lacking.

I attribute this change to a lot of things. Physically I think eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, and drinking lots of water has helped curb all kinds of cravings. Emotionally/spiritually, I see the support of my husband and regular meditation, Reiki, and yoga as having important roles in regulating my emotions and keeping my anxiety in check.

More and more, as I think back over my past I see how much of an emotional eater I have been. All those forbidden foods that I snuck into my room to eat with abandon provided temporary relief from whatever I was feeling: anxiety, loneliness, anger, lack of security, lack of love, just plain old lack. I was in such denial. I vividly remember watching Oprah one afternoon when I was in high school. She talked about emotional eating and how people use food to fill a void, and sometimes use their weight as a way to protect themselves. I scoffed at that and said to my mom, “Well, that’s not what my problem is. I just have a big bones and a slow metabolism. It’s so frustrating.” Twenty-some years later I realize that it is exactly my problem (or at least a big part of it).

I don’t think I’ve ever really binged. Not in the way that it’s been described by others anyway, but I did eat past the point of being full regularly. I didn’t even realize that until my past few visits with my family this year. Pretty much as soon as I entered my childhood home I would head to the kitchen to find snacks. I snacked until dinner, ate more than usual at dinner, and snacked some more. I should point out that no one else was doing this, just me. When I went to bed I was so full and uncomfortable. I actually woke up in the middle of the night with raging heart burn and once even coughed up a bit of vomit (sorry for the TMI, but I think it’s helpful to be honest).

As I tried to fall back to sleep I pondered a few key questions: Why did I feel this way? Why did I eat so much? Why did I feel like I couldn’t stop eating the whole evening? When I got really honest with myself I realized it was a combination of anxiety and sadness that I was trying to tamp down with whatever I could get my hands on. The sadness was from missing my dad. The anxiety was an old feeling that has permeated my life for as long as I can remember. I no longer blame my family for that, though. I had a pretty good childhood. I just wasn’t really equipped to handle my parents’ divorce and other changes, and I don’t think anyone knew how to help me with that. Still, the feelings return the minute I walk in the door and if I don’t acknowledge them and sit with them, I end up stuffing my face to the point of getting sick.

Being honest about my feelings, particularly the “bad” ones, is a constant struggle. As a highly sensitive child I learned to keep a lot of my emotions to myself. I continued that habit into adulthood, only revealing my true feelings to a handful of close friends and my mom. Writing – fiction, journal entries, free-writing – was my steadfast refuge, but even that began to feel unsafe after I graduated from college. I worried that spending all my free time writing was keeping me from living my real life and so I slowly evicted myself from my one safe haven.

Luckily, after a bunch of failed relationships – some self-destructive and emotionally wrought – I met my husband. Even that relationship had a rocky start, but here we are in our fourth year of marriage. R has helped me in so many ways, but especially by not letting me shut down and hide from my feelings. He pushes me to have conversations that I would otherwise run from and to acknowledge not only what I feel, but also how I let those feelings overcome and undermine me. It’s not easy work, but it’s necessary work and I am so grateful for his patience and love. For the first time I can remember, I feel seen and loved for who I am, not who I’m trying to be.

So while I’m working on breaking habits like turning to food for comfort, and denying my emotions, I hope to re-ignite my old writing habit by posting here more often and keeping a journal again. Words can help us sit with uncomfortable things and see a way past them. If any of this resonates with you, I hope you’ll come sit with me from time to time.

Bridal Shower Fun and Victories over Emotional Eating

The bridal shower went off without a hitch yesterday. We all had a lot of fun!

Here are those favors made by my cousins that  I mentioned in my last post:

favors

We had some cute accessories for the bride to wear. Those are sunglasses with the words “Bride to Be” at the top, and a crown with a veil.

brideaccessories

And here is the delicious cake I was saving all my extra calories for. It had chocolate and vanilla layers with chocolate and vanilla mousse filling. Yep, it was an amazing as it sounds.

cake

After the shower, I high-tailed it back to NYC to relax and revel in the fact that I don’t have any more traveling on the agenda until the actual wedding at the end of September. Phew! It’s been a rather hectic summer with all of this dress buying and party planning.

Reflecting on the weekend, there were a few moments of food choices that I am really happy with. Often when I visit my family I instantly revert back to the insecure, out-of-control emotional eater that I used to be. No matter how much I would coach myself on the way there, it seemed like all of the motivational quotes, mantras, and plans just flew out the window. This time, however, I was able to stop myself from falling down that slippery slope before I even crossed the state line.

While waiting for my train in Penn Station on Saturday morning, I decided to buy an iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. As I got closer to the counter I started thinking I should get a doughnut, too, even though I had already eaten a healthy egg-filled breakfast. The internal dance of reasons for and against a doughnut began. After a few minutes, I caught myself and recognized that I only wanted the doughnut because I was feeling anxious about the shower and all of those feelings that can come up when spending time with family. I reminded myself that a doughnut was not going to help the situation or make me feel better. On the train, with only my iced coffee in hand, I was proud of my decision.

That night we went out to dinner which is usually another time when I let old habits and emotions get the better of me. Not this time! This time I ordered grilled chicken, baked potato, and a salad. I was actually satisfied with my choices and happy that I was able to ignore the fried food beckoning to me.

The meal at the shower was another victory of sorts. I decided ahead of time that I would choose the roasted turkey breast sandwich over the cheeseburger. Even though, many of the people around me ordered the burger, I was once again happy and satisfied with my choice. And I indulged in a piece of that delicious cake without one twinge of guilt.

These little victories are not so much about the calories saved, but more about not letting my emotions affect my eating choices. Those “comfort foods” never really leave me feeling comforted. In fact, they usually lead to some half critical/half joking comments from my mom (even if she just ate the same thing!) which leave me annoyed and wanting even more of them. It’s an ugly cycle that only I can break. I can’t control how the people around me treat me, or what kind of emotions/insecurities re-surface around them, but I can control how I react to those emotions. This time around, I think I did a pretty great job!