The hell of ‘comfort’ eating

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

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About Nadine Hill

Nadine is a marketer, digital creator and ex BritMums Editor who started blogging in the mid 2000’s whilst working from home around her young family.
Her blog JuggleMum won an award for video and covered many lifestyle subjects from fashion to food to entrepreneurship whilst also inspiring content creation for her YouTube channel @MrsNadineHill.
Nadine loves hanging out with her teenage children who keep her (mostly) current – although apparently no-one says ‘hanging out’ any more!
When she’s not with her family she’s at the gym or in a coffee house in Yorkshire somewhere (she’s been to most of them!) – photographing her cappuccino for the grid.
You can find Nadine on Twitter and Instagram as @Businessmum

15 Comments

  1. 05 February 2017 / 15:29

    Ohh I love this new idea Nadine. How fabulous. I’ll be really happy to come over and support you wen it launches. Mich x

    • 06 February 2017 / 12:29

      Ah thanks so much Mich! This website has been a long time in the making but I’m very proud of it! x

  2. 05 February 2017 / 18:25

    This is such a positive step for you. I really hope it helps you and many others as well.

    • 06 February 2017 / 12:30

      Thank you Ness, it really has been positive for me and if it can help anyone else then that will be a blessing.

  3. 06 February 2017 / 07:56

    You are so brave to share your story. Your new site will be a great help and comfort to others x

    • 06 February 2017 / 12:33

      Thank you Susanna, and to you and Jen for lending me your platform to tell my story. Hopefully people in the BritMums community who would benefit most from knowing about my site will find it through this post! x

  4. 06 February 2017 / 09:06

    Its’ hard…I am guilty of comfort eating…I am going to read on the site and maybe I can someday get rid of this ugly habit!

    • 06 February 2017 / 12:36

      It is really hard Otilia, so I hope that you find something that speaks to you on the Love Yourself Slim website. It’s early days yet – I have a few posts on there that I think people will be able to relate to but there is still so much I want to say! Over the coming weeks and months I plan to get more content out to help people who share my struggle. Thanks for commenting. x

  5. 07 February 2017 / 20:47

    I love this ad can’t wait for your new site to fully launch – it’s going to be a great help to people to understand how to make that change xx

    • 09 February 2017 / 13:29

      Thank you Cass x

  6. 09 February 2017 / 09:08

    Can’t wait to join you on this journey – I also grew up with a mum who was constantly dieting and so I swore I never would… but maybe I just use that as an excuse for not losing weight…. Love your website idea xx

    • 09 February 2017 / 13:30

      Thanks Steph. Food can be such a complex issue for many people – I think this site will help but thank you for your support. x

  7. 16 February 2017 / 14:37

    Huge congrats Nadine, site looks fabulous and the emotional side leads to the physical, the endless cycle. I wrote about my relationship with food most candidly a few weeks ago and how pcos has affected my life, body and perception of my body. Thank you for sharing your story and creating a platform that will help many, myself included x

    • 16 February 2017 / 15:00

      Ah, thank you for your support Vicki. It has been a long journey to get to the place of being ready to talk about my emotional eating and actually share it online but blogging really helps as I’m sure you have found when talking about your own issues with pcos. I’m proud of the website and the words it contains and have got so many stories planned for the future… Thanks for commenting. x