Peace with Food

I read a lot of weight loss stories. I’m always interested to see how others have gone about their journey. More than the path they chose and the foods they ate, I’m looking to see introspection. Not the diet, not the will power, not the tips. I want to know the ‘why.’ Because at the end of the day that is the only question that matters. Why did carry those earned pounds? Why did you decide to let them go? Why won’t you pick them up again? Confronting the ‘why,’ confronting the truth behind each ounce of flesh, with eyes wide open, is the answer.

If you read healthy living blogs then I might assume you also read magazines geared toward health-minded individuals. You read Shape, you read Health, you read Self and Women’s Fitness. You could probably be the editor in chief at this point. When you really think about the articles, the studies, and the advice that you read each month, you might realize that it is all the same information reissued over and over again. It feels vaguely familiar to read that study about the link between eating breakfast and consuming less during the day overall. Hey, haven’t you heard that getting more sleep could curb the constant sugar cravings you’re having? Or that people who exercise in the morning are more successful at developing a routine fitness program because they get it over with first thing? My point is that you know most of this information. If we can agree that the health focused magazines tend to rehash the same diet and fitness information each month (give or take a few great contributing articles), then I wonder what I hoped to get out of these monthly issues while losing weight. I know that I buy them now because I like the motivation they provide me with. I like to read about topics I’m interested in and I feel supported and encouraged to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But I realize that for years I paid $3.99 a pop for an answer to my weight battle that didn’t exist within the pages of a magazine.

The main reason I used to buy these health focused magazines during my weight loss was because I was seeking the plans, the recipes, and the research about how to feel good, look good, and be happy. I believed that just reading about nutrition and exercise would make me as bright and vibrant as the pages themselves. My best friend wouldn’t be Count Chocula. He’s a drag anyway.

The problem with my reasoning here was that I was treating compulsive eating and emotional eating as a physical problem that can be remedied with tips, advice, and weight loss plans. If I’m to be honest with myself, I know that this information, no matter how many times I read it, will never cure me. If there were real answers to why I have always felt like I need a Reese’s Blizzard and a large fry from Wendy’s to get me through the night, then maybe I wouldn’t have to write this now. But the magazines, the top selling books, the TV shows, and the national campaigns don’t have the answers I need. Because my compulsive eating is a problem of psychology. It is deeply rooted in my emotions and it will only be “solved” when I allow myself to feel the things I run away from. The magazines did help to motivate me to sprint to the finish line in my weight loss race, they left me hangin’ when I found myself thin and still unhappy.

Throughout my lifetime I developed what Geneen Roth calls “the inclination to bolt.” She is the incredible author of such books as “When Food is Love,” “Feeding the Hungry Heart,” and her latest, “Women, Food, and God.” She has a keen understanding of emotional eating and her writing has made a world of difference to me. Her book, “Women, Food, and God,” deals in part with this “inclination to bolt” as it refers to the intense desire to leave yourself, to flee, when life becomes difficult. It is the wanting to be anywhere but where you are. To escape boredom, anxiety, sadness, fear, and loneliness. Food is the place I go to escape. Many people do this. Obsession, in any form- be it with food, with schedules, with the future, with alcohol or drugs, is an avoidance of the present. It is a way of passing time, a way to “get through” life. Not to live life, but survive it.

Since I didn’t confront my emotional eating until I had lost all the weight, I met it at a time when I was sober from food. I was a thin person reconciling with two decades of compulsive eating. It’s like drinking yourself into an oblivion at night, getting sober by morning and having to clean up the house party you didn’t realize you threw. I came to understand that ending my emotional eating meant resisting Roth’s “inclination to bolt.” I had to stay here, to sit with myself. Just as I wouldn’t turn away from a friend who needed me, I had to love myself as much. I promised the little girl, the teenager, and the adult versions of me that I was going to stick around for the hard parts and that I was willing to feel. I made an agreement to fully live in the present moment. Because if I leave the moment when I feel uncomfortable, I am missing the opportunity to grow, to learn, to be strong, and to be loved.