Comfort eating is something that most of you will probably relate to on some level. We all have those days where a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate is the only thing that will make us feel better. I’m not talking about that kind of thing though. I always talk about the fact that I believe food is there to be enjoyed in life. If you can find a way to enjoy it and still be conscious of your health, well even better.
I am talking about comfort eating as a coping mechanism. Bingeing on food to make yourself feel better. Or because you think it is going to make you feel better. I’m talking about disguising the amount of food you are eating. Secret eating.
I am writing this because until now I was never really willing to admit that I comfort ate. It was pointed out to me a few times and naturally I just reacted in a really defensive way. But deep down I knew that they were right. It’s taken me until now to actually speak about it though. It’s crystal clear when I look back now, as it often is. It’s very difficult to see things as they are when you are the person living the reality.
Someone once described it to me as eating so much food that you’re physically pushing the emotions further and further down in to your body. Covering them with food and burying them so deeply to make sure that they don’t ever surface. Running away from your emotions basically.
If I felt sad I ate. If I felt anxious I ate. If I felt scared and alone I ate. I also ate when I was hungry like everyone else. I don’t even think I really felt genuine hunger though. I didn’t let enough time pass between the times that I ate. It was like one oblivion of comfort eating. It was constant.
Food was my drug of choice. I have no problem admitting that. I never have or will do drugs but the way I behaved around food was the exact same way a drug user does. I self-medicated when I felt low by consuming as much food as possible. I was doing damage to my health because I was eating far too much and generally all unhealthy fat and sugary foods. I was also causing harm to myself in the form of my mental health.
Comfort eating is a vicious cycle. I used to think to myself that maybe I was just happy being a couple of stone overweight. Who was I kidding. I definitely wasn’t. I was happy in the moments that I was eating the food that I wanted, snuggled up in my pajamas away from the world. I was depressed beyond words when it came to getting dressed for an event or party, having my photograph taken or looking in the mirror. I was not happy.
I had a moment of realization this week where I realized that comfort eating is no longer a coping mechanism for me anymore. I actually deal with my emotions now. I had a really really low day on Monday. I felt anxious, depressed and just weak in myself. There were moments where the fear and the confusion I felt was totally overwhelming. It scared me. I spent a lot of that day crying. I also spent a good chunk of it talking about my feeling to my Mam, boyfriend and anyone that would listen. I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling like a different person. I felt heaps better. Not perfect but a lot better. That is just something I’ve had to accept about myself. I do suffer from anxiety and in recent months it has gotten worse. It’s probably time to consider getting some more counselling. There can often be a thin line between anxiety and depression and I just have to expect those days every now and then. I have a really good support network and that is what it’s all about isn’t it?
On Monday, in the midst of my darkness, I ate exactly what I planned to eat. A normal Slimming World Day. Fruit, Oats and Yoghurt for breakfast, Soup and Salad for lunch and then roast chicken and vegetables for dinner. I drank green tea, water and had a coffee at one stage too. It was a normal “on plan” day for me.
My point is that when I woke up on Tuesday it hit me. Food had not even entered the equation for me the previous day. It wasn’t even on my radar as a tool to help me feel better. I had a plan for the day and I ate what I set out to have. Healthy delicious food within the Slimming World plan. At no point on Monday did I consider binge eating or filling some sort of void with food. I didn’t let food push the emotions down. They came out. They were ugly but it’s better out than in.
I still have my cheat days. I enjoy the weekend and I really look forward to having treats during that time. But it’s not comfort eating. It’s keeping me on the straight and narrow. It doesn’t make me feel emotionally better. It helps me psychologically stay on-plan as many people will say about having a cheat day or however they like to do it.
But as a former girl who used to eat a hot chicken roll, packet of crisps and a bar of chocolate at 11.30PM on the bus on the way home from work…. I can safely say that I’ve made big changes. Kicking the habit of Comfort Eating is a huge Non Scale Victory. I may have my low days but in the grand scheme of things I genuinely feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life.