Continuing the subject from yesterday of what contributes to a food addiction, today I’ve been thinking about emotional eating. “Emotional eating is a form of disordered eating and is defined as ‘an increase in food intake in response to negative emotions’ and can be considered a maladaptive strategy used to cope with difficult feelings.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_eating)
Growing up in my family we didn’t really have effective coping mechanisms in regards to our emotions. Basically if you weren’t happy then my mother didn’t really want to hear about, mainly because she didn’t know how to react to it. Anger was met with punishment, in relation to my mother you’d mostly get the silent treatment. Sadness was ignored pretty much entirely or openly mocked. Very rarely were you actually consoled if openly emotional about something. She grew up with an occasional physically abusive mother, which I’m sure had something to do with her emotional maturity. My dad knew how to talk through things, and as I reached older teenage years and beyond he began to show more of his emotions to us, but growing up he bottled them up with the best of them till they blew up. And thus my brother and I grew up learning to bottle up our emotions if they weren’t positive, and never really learning how to deal with the more intense emotions that are perfectly normal to everyone else. If someone needs consoling, we are at a lost a lot of the time. If someone has a death in the family I often actively avoid talking about it, not because I don’t care but because I’m emotionally awkward and don’t know how to without feeling like robot.
My husband comes from a family that is very big on therapy and talking about their emotions and talking through everything. This was very new to me when I first met him. I didn’t know what to make of it. As our relationship evolved and he learned how to interpret my emotional retardedness for what it actually was, he taught me what he learned from therapy. We took what he learned to better our communication and thus our relationship. He sees when I close myself off and works to pull me out of myself, to force me to recognize what I’m feeling and talk through it if need be. I truly do love him with all my heart and soul. He keeps me sane.
Emotional eating and bottling one’s emotions goes hand in hand. Not knowing how to deal with negative emotions drives one to seek out something to improve the situation, other than dealing with the actual situation at hand. This ties back to yesterday’s post about sugar/food addiction. When eating sugar the brain gets washed in dopamine, the feel good hormone. It stimulates the same areas of the brain that are stimulated by heroin and cocaine. Feel something bad? Eat something yummy and feel better. Only problem is it’s temporary. When the feeling wears off you have a choice: deal with your emotions or eat some more. If you don’t know how to deal then the choice is obvious, to eat some more yumminess.
I fully admit and own that I am an emotional eater. Recognizing that fact is the first step to stopping the cycle. I definitely have more work to do though. I’m starting to acknowledge the beginning of an emotional eating cycle and thinking of ways to stop it before it starts and spirals. With less than 2 months till my surgery this is still a work in progress and I’m not perfect by any means, but I’m working on it.
I very recently “came out” on facebook about my impending surgery, and thus to all my friends, family, and co-workers. As word has spread around work the amount of support expressed to me has been tremendous. I’m finding that having the people around me know makes me more aware of my choices. I know they’re not actually judging my food choices, but seeing someone look at me while I eyeball that donut, or that cookie, makes me take a second to consider why I even want to eat it in the first place. They don’t actually say anything though, which is good. It’s weird. If someone, usually my husband, says something along the lines of “Are you sure you want that fudge?” it makes me want it all the more, and I’m more likely to eat it to prove something stupid to him/myself. I realize he’s trying to be supportive, and I don’t even know what I’m trying to prove. Maybe that I can still make my own choices even if it’s a bad choice? I don’t know. Another thing to work on. Realizing that I do this helps me to recognize when it’s happening and to make a better choice.
Like I said, I’m a work in progress. This surgery, the sleeve, will provide me with a tool to help me on the journey. It’s not the end all be all. I still have to do the work, both physically and emotionally. It’s kind of terrifying to be purposefully shifting your entire thought process and how you react to things. I’m excited though to be healthier, to deal with things healthier. I think this is going to help me obviously physically, but I also think the emotional health rewards I’ll receive are going to be tremendous too.