How many of you relate to this scene. A woman has just experienced some tragedy (breakup, job loss, etc.). There she is, sitting in her pajamas, unwashed, hair disheveled, crying and eating Rocky Road Ice Cream straight out of a carton. Does this describe you? I know my “drug of choice” when sad or stressed is a heady combination of savory (usually bbq corn chips), sweet (dark chocolate with chili peppers), and red wine. I also know that there is always something to be sad and stressed about if I let life run me, rather than the other way around.
I had a real BFO moment the other week (blinding flash of the obvious). It was one of those self realization moments where you not only see what you are doing, you actually shift something inside of you. My mother passed away on October 4, 2014. She was 88 years old and spent the last 5 weeks of her life in a hospital. The last 24 hours of her life were the most difficult moments of mine as I stayed with her, holding her hand, seeing to her comfort, singing to her and just being there. I was on my eating plan, fully intending to stay on it. My daughter had packed some healthy snacks for me to keep me going. Finally, at 1:30 in the morning I lay down for a nap. I awoke at 3:30 am to find my mother had just slipped away. With 2 hours sleep under my belt, I packed up her things, called the funeral home, had security walk me to my car, and went home to tell my children and organize the funeral. At that point, the last thing on my mind was diet.
I then did what I have done for years to cope with difficult situations. It started with going out for breakfast and having whatever I wanted and just continued from there. This time, however, there was something different. I pulled out my calendar. I gave myself exactly 3 days after the funeral to get back on track. No excuses, no delays. I put it in my calendar to start again on October 14, the day after Thanksgiving.
The only problem with this is I gave myself permission to have a 2 week free for all. I would eat what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted, health be damned. By the third day in I was feeling sick and exhausted. Then on Thursday evening I had my BFO.
I was sitting on my bed, stuffing my face with BBQ corn chips, in my pajamas, when the huge wracking sobs came spilling out of my being like some type of emotional tsunami. I had lost so much in the last 3 years, my mother was the last straw…I was empty, spent and hollow. Corn chips spilled out of my mouth as I sobbed, messing my bed and my pajamas. I was probably the most ridiculously pathetic sight. Make up running, nose dripping, damp corn chips strewn about. Yet in that moment, something profound hit me. Something I always knew but never managed to truly connect between my mind and my heart. I realized that I could eat all the corn chips, chocolate and wine the world would ever produce, and no matter how hard I tried, they were never going to fill the bottomless pit of my sadness. My mother wasn’t coming back just because I stuffed my face. My losses would never be replaced by my creating ill health and consuming a poor diet. I would never feel good no matter the frequency, quantity or tastiness of the food I ingested. Nothing I was doing in that moment was ever going to take away the hurt and pain of loss. The only thing that was going to take that hurt and pain away was living, and I mean really living in the moments that make life beautiful. The hug of my daughter, the beauty of a sunrise, the smile and kindness of a stranger and the love of family and friends. The way my dogs greet me when I come home, jumping and barking, vying for my attention. The smell of fall leaves and frost in the air. Gratitude and recognition of these things, little by little, fill what seems like a bottomless pit. Food, alas, only digests and leaves the hole wanting more.
Studies have shown that women who are depressed are at risk of being obese. I wonder how many women who are obese, are at risk of being depressed. For me it is a chicken or egg thing.
I want to encourage anyone who uses food to cope with the trials of life to reach out. Share with someone you trust, a friend, family member, coach. Ask them to support you and help you find the resources you need to lift yourself up and find healthy and creative solutions to lifes’ stresses.
For more information on Eating Disorders and Emotional Eating, you can take the following test.
Once you have your results, feel free to share them with your family doctor and ask for the help you need to free yourself.
For more tips on Emotional Eating, see
I wish I had all the answers. Sadly I don’t. I just know what my journey is and how things are working out for me. If by sharing my story, you can find that you are not alone and begin to take the steps you need to take care of yourself, then my sharing will be worth it.
Until next time, be healthy. Like my coffee mug says:
Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.