Raising Emotional Eating Awareness: It’s About Damn TimePosted: September 16, 2014
I’ve contacted Geneen Roth and Kris Carr recently to help me raise awareness on emotional eating. Neither one was on board.
It seems to me we’re living in this world where other people’s problems are the money makers. If the problems are eliminated, there’s no more projects needed to fix them. And that’s when things go out of business.
Since I don’t make any money off other people’s problems, and I am an emotional eater myself, I decided to step up and say something.
Am I qualified to say anything about emotional eating? After all, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a psychologist. But I did live it. And I think in this case, first hand experience is all the education I need to speak up about it.
Emotional eating and food addiction are often directly intertwined. An addiction is something most people use to fill a void. Where they feel lost, overwhelmed, depressed, angry, or confused, alcohol, drugs, and sex can temporarily erase those feelings. An addiction can numb us for a brief time, but the pain always comes back, and this is how addiction becomes a painstaking cycle of abuse.
Food addiction is much the same, only it’s the fuel for our bodies, and creates a gray area that no one is talking about. No one can give up food cold turkey, and this is where the problem lies when seeking therapy.
Emotional eating falls into that food addiction gray area for the same reasons. For me, emotional eating came through at any time I didn’t know what to do. If I was waiting for the next audition, or I had a day off, or I got cut from work early – I would eat. You know how they say in all the fitness magazines that most people eat out of boredom instead of hunger? Well for once, they’re right. But for me the boredom was an overwhelming feeling of not knowing what to do next. Eating was the catalyst that would get me from one event to another. I ate to fill the void of confusion inside.
Emotional eating is perpetuated by the media all the time. I remember watching Knocked Up and longing to break up with my boyfriend just so I had an excuse to sit in bed with my bestie and slurp up melted Ben & Jerry’s. We see it in movies, we see it on Friends. We see it in magazines. A recent ad for Lindor Truffles (in a fitness magazine, mind you) said: “Feel the day melt away. When you need to escape from a busy day, take a moment to relax and indulge in a delightfully delicious Lindor Truffle.”
Right there is the trigger. “Escape”. That’s what emotional eating is. It’s a temporary escape from the emotions wreaking havoc on our lives. It’s an escape from reality, from the issues we don’t want to touch today, from society’s pressures to be perfect.
Because in a way, emotional eating is a protective bubble. Both women and men have told me that they are terrified to address the emotional eating or their food addiction because they’d lose all their self-depricating humor. They’ve also expressed to me that something happened in their younger years that makes them want to protect themselves with “a layer of fat” or “an unhealthy look” so that no one feels the need to abuse or harrass them ever again. All of those things are natural for a traumatized person to feel. And using to food to comfort or protect is something that no one seems to want to diagnose. Obesity, unhealthy habits, and “lazy” are all diagnoses that seem to come a lot easier to doctors, nutritionists, and the average judgemental human being.
Because of those very popular diagnosies, seeking help for an eating disorder has an extra negative glow around it. For me, addressing my problem with professional help meant so many things. It was a bittersweet event where I could no longer hide behind my crazy little secret. It was sick and sad how much I wished I could go back to eating a jar of Nutella without being aware of why I was eating it. It was terrifying to enter into a recovery where I could no longer joke about my bingeing, my yo-yo dieting, my obsession with chocolate.
There are still days where I almost wish I could go back to that world of unawareness. Where food was comfort and it was always waiting at every bodega in New York City. My emotional eating habit gave me an excuse to leave parties, an excuse to skip auditions, an excuse to feel sorry for myself. Now that I’m in recovery, there are days that are so hard – so hard to accept my body the way it is because I’m not starving it every other day – that I just want to go back to bed cuddling my half gallon of mint chocolate chip.
But then there are the good days, where I can write about it. Raise awareness about it. Bring women out of the dark so that they know there’s nothing wrong with them. They didn’t mess up. They aren’t failures. They have an issue that no one has taken the time to talk to them about, because no one is talking about it.
So let’s talk about it. Let’s. Talk. About. It. Let’s talk about the money spent. Let’s talk about the possessed binges. Let’s talk about the depression. Let’s shed some bright ass light on emotional eating and speak up for those who don’t have any idea there is an answer.
As an emotional eater, I spent $40,000 on food in the past three years. I wouldn’t bring ice cream into the house because I was always on Weight Watchers or some heavily restrictive diet, so I would spend $9 on Pinkberry while I was out and about. I would eat two dinners, or three breakfasts, or order dessert twice. And of course as you and I both know, Nutella is very expensive.
On top of that, I spent over $10,000 on personal trainers, fitness programs, gym memberships, Weight Watcher memberships, and fitness magazines just in the span of 2011 and 2012.
I was the diet and fitness industry’s wet dream. I had no idea what drove me to do all those things other than the fact that I was sure I was a failure, destined to yo-yo and struggle for the rest of my life, and I thought my life’s purpose was to master those things. My to-do lists read “get back to goal weight” and “just count your points Amanda, just do it”.
Weight Watchers, Women’s Health, Equinox Fitness personal trainers – not a single one ever talks about the possibility of eating disorders or body dysmorphia in all the hype they’re putting out. So how was I to know?
A friend finally called me out. Yep. A friend. My personal trainer never said a word, nor did the nutritionist I was working with. But my friend noticed right away after living with me for a month. She handed me When Food Is Love and said, “I think you need to read this when you have a chance and also I love you and you are worth more than you’re weight and your resume.”
Self-help books and therapy became my lifesaving devices for the next year, and still are to this day. My therapist works with me on overcoming the bittersweetness of recovery and the fact that I’m 180 pounds but healthy and sane and how to be thankful for that.
Let’s be honest. Seeking help for binge-eating and food addiction is scary and overwhelming. But you need to know a few things. You are not alone. You have done nothing wrong. You deserve a second chance at a life that isn’t run by guilt, calories, or compulsive eating. And although being patient sucks, it will pay off in the end.
If you feel lost and food makes you feel found, or if you know a friend who seeks comfort in food, help is out there. There are books (I recommend Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing From Addiction and When Food Is Love to start) and there are eating disorder hotlines (National Eating Disorder Association: 1-800-931-2237) and there are therapists and experts specifically for eating disorders and emotional eating. They are few, but they are mighty.
If you are in recovery, you can find some tips on dealing with friends, significant others, and your new healthy body in the mirror here.
Emotional eating has been sitting in a dark corner waiting to be introduced for far too long. I see the money making strategies, and I raise them awareness and power to the people who want their lives back. It’s time to talk about it. It’s time.