How can something you do for comfort be hell?
I know lots of people like me who struggle with their weight. For some it is just post-holiday excess or baby weight – a blip in an otherwise healthy lifestyle. But for others like me, it is a struggle that is much deeper than the level of diet and exercise, it is known as emotional eating.
When looking online, I don’t want to read factual medical analysis about weight loss or tips on how to stop nibbling. Their advice is often along the lines of ‘Ask yourself if this is actual hunger or head hunger!’ – Not helpful in my case. I knew the difference, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry but it didn’t stop me from doing it anyway.
I want to read articles of people’s genuine experiences so I could relate. I want to feel that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t just a freak with no self-control. There was nothing. Of all the resources on the Internet, I couldn’t find a website that I liked the look of – that I could see myself visiting regularly, to find words that would speak to my soul, which was where the real problem was. I wasn’t taking care of my basic needs, looking after myself properly because I hadn’t been taught how. Eating was the only way I knew to show myself love and comfort and give myself a hug.
How it all started
I grew up in a household of grief and pain. My parents had an unhappy marriage from the start, made worse when tragedy hit with the death of my baby sister when I was just a toddler. Losing a child is one of those things that goes against the natural order — parents should go before their children — so a loss like this is incomprehensible. My parents tried to make it work, having another baby (my brother who is 3 years younger than me) but it would prove to no avail.
My brother and I were provided for on a practical level. There was a roof over our heads and we had clothes to wear, but I have no happy memories of the time our parents were together. It was a home tinged with sadness and whilst I know my parents loved us, that kind of environment is confusing and lonely for a child.
Dieting in the family
My mum was always on a diet. Her 9-stone-something body wasn’t good enough in her eyes. My dad would tell her not to gain any weight or he might ‘go off her’, so she would eat very little. Then her hunger would scream so loudly she would binge before resolving to try to ‘be good’ the next day. I grew up watching this.
Eventually when I was 10, my parents split up and the next few years saw an acrimonious divorce with custody battles, courts, social workers, staying at one relative’s house then another, until we finally got a council house. This coincided with the time I entered puberty. My body was changing and I had no control over it. I had no control over anything. But I did have a friend in food. It was always there for me, it made me feel safe. When my belly was full I felt satisfied and cared for.
Unfortunately I didn’t know which foods were healthy and which weren’t. I snacked on crisps and biscuits forming bad habits that would take me the best part of 30 years to shift. I still struggle to this day with a compulsion to reach for sweet food when I am feeling discomfort, although I am getting much better.
These days I recognise and acknowledge my feelings, and I can detach enough to observe the struggle within myself to reach for the sweet stuff. Sometimes I am able to allow the craving to pass over me and sometimes I give in to it but each time at least I know I’m doing it. This is a big improvement on the mindless bingeing I did before.
Over the years, blogging about my weight loss troubles and emotions has been cathartic. Part of healing is to get things out, say what you have kept hidden. Dig up those old beliefs and give them a shake to see if they really still stack up for you today. Much of what drives us as adults is the operating system we installed when we were children. We didn’t install it purposefully, we just accepted things as the ‘way things were’ and ‘normal’ and didn’t question or filter our beliefs before letting them in to take hold. How could we? We were children.
But our core beliefs and values, installed as children are what create our current reality – as 20, 30, 40, 50 year olds and beyond. If you are happy with everything in your life, you are probably living true to your core beliefs and values – that’s great. But if you are not, then some inner work could help you to figure it all out. This is what I have been doing for the last 9 years, since I gave birth to my son. Having the beautiful family myself that I’d always seen in other homes helped me to start to heal. I had my husband, my daughter who came along to teach me about motherhood and my baby son. I finally had a happy family.
I hope that my story has inspired you but at the very least, help you know you are not alone.
Can you relate to my story and do you have any insights about what you have read? Please share in the comments below.
Cover image photo credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock