Confessions of an emotional eater.

Emotional Eating.  So many of us do it, right?  In fact, who doesn’t?

4:00 in the afternoon.  I’m sitting with Abby.  She’s having a snack.  I’m sitting with her silently worrying about something I cannot control.  I’m carrying the burden for a loved one.  I can’t take away this loved one’s pain.  I can’t magically make things right.  I can’t give my loved one a do-over.  I can’t make everything right and happy.  I can’t do anything.

I decide to pour myself a bowl of cereal, I didn’t eat much lunch… I’m thinking about how nice it is to have a baby.  No judgement.  She isn’t judging my bowl of cereal at 4 in the afternoon.  She’s actually excited about it.  I share some with her.  I’m not really enjoying this bowl of cereal. I continue with my worrying.  Now, I pour myself a second bowl.

Waaaait a minute.  I’m not even hungry.

Abby’s still not judging me.  I reach into the cabinet and get Sophia’s leftover Cheetos.  I share some with Abby. If Sophia woke up from nap right now, she wouldn’t judge me either.  She would just join me, thinking we were having a party.  Isn’t it nice being alone with the kids?  I can do whatever I want… and, no one will judge me.

Except for there’s this tiny fact that I’m teaching my children with my actions.  I’m teaching them to reach for food to comfort them when they’re worried.  I’m teaching them that eating is a good way to try to make yourself feel better.

Dammit.

I roll the Cheetos back up and put them in the cabinet before Sophia wakes up. I know I don’t need to go hide away in a closet to “emotionally eat” in order that they won’t see me…  That’s hardly satisfying… and I’m not THAT kind of emotional eater.  I’m just a normal emotional eater.  I eat when I’m worried.  I eat when I’m bored.  I eat when I’m lonely.

My babies are always eating. ALWAYS.  It’s so hard to tell when they’re actually hungry or just bored or just wanting comfort.  Sometimes Abby rolls all over the floor crying with one hand in her mouth because she’s SO hungry.  Sophia will eat 3 breakfasts for an average person and turn around and ask for a snack not 2 hours later.  I’ve been constantly saying “yes” lately.  Ya know, “choose my battles.”  Keep them happy so that when I really have a point to make it will be heard.  Help Abby sleep all night. (Overfeeding her at dinner really helps with that.)  I keep limitless snacks in my diaper bag for outings.  But now, outings are turning into a 24/7 snackfest.  Right when we get in the car, the kids are jonesing for the next carb load.  Abby’s hollering, pointing to the floorboard at the empty containers, and Sophia’s hollering about wanting candy.   I’m rewarding with food.  I’m pacifying with food.  I’m stuffing, stuffing, stuffing.

My girls don’t have a weight problem.  They’re babies.  They’re perfect sizes.  Sophia eats pretty well.  She eats some vegetables.  She eats fruit like candy.  But, when I tell her it’s time for lunch, sometimes she’ll yell at me: “I DON’T WAAAAANT LUNCH! I want a SNACK!!!!”  Hmmm.  She seems to know the difference.  And, Abby… well…  she’s had a hard life.  And, I’m coming to terms with the fact that re-training her spoiled little brain is going to be difficult.  And as soon as I feel a little less pity for her, I’ll give in less and stop giving her animal crackers for dinner…

Shew.  I’m being hard on myself.  I realize this.

I’m not, though. I realize what’s going on.  I’m aware of my personal struggles with food.  I understand the potential problems that my daughters will face.  I realize that my children are little imitators.  I realize that (almost) every drop of food that goes into their bodies is food that I’ve paid for and chosen for them to consume.  I AM responsible.

There’s a bigger issue here.  Food.  This is no new issue to our culture.  As a society we struggle with emotional eating, with feeding our emptiness and our anxieties and our multiphrenia with something sweet, salty, oily and quick.  The bigger issue isn’t food, though, it’s the hunger that we’re feeding.  And, the food that we’re feeding that hunger isn’t going to make us ULTIMATELY satisfied.  We may be satisfied for a few moments, an hour if we’re lucky.  But, ultimately that snack, those Cheetos, wasn’t what my body craved.  It craved a meal. Not an actual meal, but a metaphorical one.  In this case I needed to lean on the Father.  I needed to trust Him that my friend would be okay.  That, though I couldn’t take care of my friend, I could trust that He will.  And, I can trust that He will take care of my friend in just the way that He sees best.

I want to teach my daughters to lean on the Father.  I want to teach them to lean on Him for comfort.  To trust Him through difficult times.  I’m not sure I know how to do that.  But, I do know that thoughtlessly stuffing my worries with food is no shining example.

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4 Responses

  1. “The bigger issue isn’t food, though, it’s the *hunger* that we’re feeding.” What an insightful and challenging idea. I’ll be pondering that one for awhile.

    It makes me think about how in my life sometimes I fail to have good nutrition because it takes time and energy I claim I just don’t have. (But its the stuff thats really good for me…so am I saying that I’m not worth the time and energy?)

    And this is so true of my metaphorical hunger too…the things that are truly nourishing sometimes take time, intentionality, and energy. And I feel like more often than not I’m too tired, lazy and/or stubborn to choose what will truly nourish my soul.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts today…just the thing I needed to hear.

    • Hey Rachel. Miss you, girl. Thanks for your thoughtful response. You bring up a lot of great questions. I think it’s such a great question for me to ask myself, “Am I worth the time and energy it takes to feed myself well?” I know that if I’m the only one eating, I don’t spend the extra time to cook something nice, I just slab on some pb and j and slam it. There’s a great book I wonder if you’ve heard of. It’s called, “The Pleasures of Cooking for One” by Judith Jones.

      The notion of asking ourselves what we are worth is a big one. Am I worth taking the time and energy and money it takes to invest in myself, to truly “nourish” my body and soul?

      Rachel, I say YES you are worth it.

      I don’t practice this, but I want to. Case in point: exercise. Thanks, Rachel. I’ll be thinking about this a lot more.

      • Oh, don’t even get me started on exercise! 🙂 I hadn’t heard of “The Pleasures of Cooking for One” but I just looked it up on Amazon, and now I’m seriously considering purchasing it.

  2. I hope you do. 😉 i watched an interview with the author–I think it was on CBS Sunday Morning. Just fascinating and inspirational.

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