Thursday, July 27, 2006

food and feelings

I have been thinking for a couple of days about the feelings-food connection for me and realizing just how often I reach for food rather than feeling my feelings. Nowadays I usually stop mid-reach and think, "Um...what are you doing? You're not hungry. Why are you reaching for that?" instead of eating something. Often I stop my thoughts before I ever reach. But I still think first of food -- often. Why is that? When did that start? Was there EVER a time in my life when I just lived? When I didn't constantly think about food, try to resist eating or overeating? When I just ate? There must have been.

I know there were times in my 20s when I was at a stable, lower weight for months at a time and I distinctly remember once being at the grocery store with some people, my roommate Kathy among them. She picked up a candy bar and asked if I wanted one. I said, "No, thanks" automatically and I remember thinking, "Huh. I haven't had a candy bar in months." I must have been living pretty normally then. I know I went regularly to the gym and worked out a lot then, but I've done that off and on for 20 years. My love life wasn't going great at the time, I can't remember if I was working or in school, but I must have just been living my life. How can I get that back?

I feel as though I've done a lot of healing this year. I'm not CONSTANTLY dwelling on thoughts of food, my binges have grown farther and farther apart, and I'm exercising in a healthy way (as opposed to obsessively). I'm eating healthfully, but I'm still struggling with the dessert "thing". Why does that sweet fattening stuff have such a hold over me? Last night we got together and mom and dad M's house with Chris, Julie, Shanna, Richard, and all of our kids. It was very fun and I felt fairly relaxed and happy. I was really hungry, but ate two small pieces of pizza and some salad and was full. We had dessert. I'd made a Texas sheet cake recipe from Cooking Light and Mom had some lowfat ice cream. My piece of cake was fairly large, I took a scoop of ice cream, and I ate it slowly, savoring it. I wasn't the slightest bit hungry when I finished (or when I started, for that matter). Yet I sat there, fighting the urge not to eat C's piece of cake (that she hadn't touched) for half an hour. If I'd been alone I think I would have gobbled it down.

As it was, I sat with the feelings of wanting it, half listening to the conversation around me and half pondering why I wanted it so badly. I think it has to do with feelings of deprivation. Not that we were deprived of food as kids, but we weren't allowed to eat between meals. Mealtime was "eat as fast as you possibly can because if you don't, you won't get seconds". We had dessert at almost every dinner, but I remember eating so many cookies or coffee cake at church coffee hour that I'd feel sick. My sibs ate a lot too. When we'd go to a potluck dinner we'd always eat more than one dessert. Were we making up for the lack of sweetness in our lives? There sure wasn't a lot of it at our house. But now my life is very sweet. I have a nice house and a great family. I have sweetness in abundance. Dessert is still my Achilles heel. Is it just a matter of being greedy, as Linda Moran says in her book? Do I just need to sit with the feelings of wanting more but knowing I don't need it? If I do that, will I still have those feelings of wanting forever or will they eventually go away?

Shanna felt no compunction about asking me if I wanted the rest of the cake to take home (there was a very large piece left -- about five inches square), and when I said no, getting a fork and eating the entire chunk. Of course, she's pretty slender -- does that make a difference? -- and I think she only ate one piece of pizza. Regardless, she wanted it and she ate it. End of story. Had I eaten it, I would have felt that I'd let myself down. I'd have had difficulty not thinking badly of myself.

Friday, July 21, 2006


more from Barbara Holtzman (I really like this woman!):

In the chapter on bingeing, she talks about two kinds binges -- food anger and emotional anger. Food anger is the frustration that builds in reaction to the deprivation of not letting yourself eat what you want. Either making certain foods "forbidden" or underfeeding yourself during the day so that you binge after work or after dinner. Reduce this type of binge by not letting yourself get too hungry and by allowing yourself to eat what you really want.

I think I'm doing fairly well on this one. I do still fight every day not to eat too many sweets/desserts, etc, but it's easier now to turn things down knowing that they make me feel crappy. The day after eating too much sugary stuff I feel downright CRANKY and CRABBY. I also seem to have trouble sleeping that night. Knowing that, why would I WANT to eat a doughnut?

The second type is an attempt to deal with uncomfortable emotional feelings like anger, sadness, anxiety, boredom, and loneliness. For those of us who focus on everyone else's needs but our own, eating (particularly sweets) may be the only way we know how to give to ourselves. For others, it's a means of procrastination. If you numb yourself with food, you may be trading the live feelings of anger, sadness and fear for the familiar dull ache of depression. You also miss the opportunity of learning what your feelings are trying to tell you.There may be times you experience uncomfortable feelings and do not use food to cope. Most likely, these feelings are in your "comfort zone". We all have a range of both uncomfortable and joyful feelings we can bear. The parameters of our comfort zones may fluctuate, depending on our general level of stress, health, where we are in our menstrual cycle, and how connected and supported we feel by our friends and family. If you feel the urge to binge, it may be helpful to understand that it's because something triggered you out of your comfort zone.

So interesting! I often wondered why sometimes I feel as though I'm coping just fine with feelings, even bad ones, and other times I feel such an irresistable pull to run to the cupboard. I'm definitely doing better on the self-care issue -- taking time out to relax and not do much, asking T for what I need, not stressing about everything not being perfect all the time, and doing things I want to do as opposed to things I think I should be doing. I don't succeed at all of this 100% of the time, but definitely more often than not. Procrastination is still big for me -- I feel a very strong urge to eat when I know I really need to do some chore I don't want to do. I've been coping okay with it lately though. I convince myself that the chore isn't going away, so why compound my misery with food I don't need?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Barbara Holtzman writes in her book of several different kinds of cravings (who knew?):

--associative cravings occur when we pair a food with a long-ago event. I'm sure this is why I crave things like ice cream and chocolate. I remember eating entire bags of Hershey miniatures in high school (very soothing) and ice cream was always a happy treat to us. G&G Simmons took us out for "cheap dates", Aunt Ann would take us for ice cream when she visited, our trips to the cemetary on Memorial Day were always accompanied by a stop at the store out in the country for an ice cream sandwich, and of course we always had ice cream on birthdays. Associative cravings can also arise from habit -- dessert after dinner, in my case. To change that habit, I should work toward something positive (i.e. substitution) rather than try not to do something. To transform a habit, I need intention, a plan, patience, and persistence.

I think associative cravings are a big thing with me. I am really having a hard time breaking my habit of eating dessert after dinner. I recently ordered some Alba 70 shakes from an online specialty store so that at least I have a low-cal, fairly healthy option to the ice cream the girls usually eat. But the best thing would be for me not to feel such a strong pull to eat it. I'm truly no longer physically hungry and have no need to eat anything else. Yet it's practically irresistable to me. I really need to just "lean into" the feelings, as Tina says, and go on with life!

--dispersive cravings are driven by emotions, such as craving sweets when we're lacking sweets in our lives. Paying attention to my feelings will make it easier to recognize what I really need. Craving carbs frequently may be helped by eating protein with the carbs. Hmm.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

light bulb!

I ordered Barbara Holtzman's book & CD from her website( and it's a combo of GR & Evelyn Tribole & others (as she acknowledges). Anyway, she said something I thought made a light bulb go on for me: "Initially, I thought I could simply talk about my feelings. Talking provided a great deal of insight and some relief, especially when a therapist or friend validated my feelings. But it was not until I learned to sit compassionately with my feelings that I was able to experience self-understanding and self-acceptance. Only by practicing acceptance of all of myself, including the parts I didn't like, was I able to make any real changes".

She says we try to "figure it out" to avoid feeling our feelings. I never "got" why it was important to "sit with your feelings", as everyone says, until I read this. I always thought sitting with my feelings meant trying to figure out why I wanted to eat when I wasn't hungry. But I guess (as my therapist did try to tell me) it really DOESN'T matter sometimes why. You just have to feel your feelings, even if they are only the discomfort of wanting to eat and not doing it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I need a head smack

The next time I forget that dieting doesn't work for me, someone please give me a good whack. I've been not logging my food intake for close to a week and I feel so much better and more normal. I've not obesessed about food nearly as much. I've just been trying to follow Geneen Roth's eating guidelines and though I've had a few moments of thinking, "Oh! Should I be eating this?", things have gone well with it. In fact, this morning I weighed 160.8 -- about six pounds down from my weight 6 or 7 weeks ago. I'm still struggling a bit with bad food/good food -- last night someone at work brought in a couple of cheesecakes. I cut a very small piece of the brownie cheesecake and ate it really quickly, standing up. That was dumb. If I was going to eat some (and it wasn't really that great) I would have been more satisfied had I gotten a plate, sat down, and savored it. But because it was something I didn't want to allow myself to have, I gobbled it.

The hardest thing, by far, is to stop when satiated. I'm sure I've said that before and I'm still sort of scratching my head over it. I guess that's why a plan or diet or calorie limit is comforting -- when I've eaten my portion, that's it -- I'm done. If I'm eating to satiation, good heavens -- I hardly get any food! I've been taking the tiniest portions at dinner and I'm still probably eating past the point of being no longer hungry. I need to work more on assuring myself that I can eat again when I'm hungry and can eat whatever I want when that happens. The other night we had chili and I had probably 3/4 cup of chili, a small piece of cornbread, and a cup of fruit and I was very full. I could have stopped after 1/2 cup of chili and half a piece of cornbread. I'm sure it's all tied up in deprivation and feelings of "I'll not be able to have this again!" left from childhood.

I've been doing fairly well on slowing down while eating, but still need to eat more slowly at dinner. I still am the first one done every night. So up next -- eating even more slowly and taking even smaller portions.

Friday, July 07, 2006


I'm quitting cold turkey right now. I have obsessed about food far, far too much over the past few weeks. Last night I binged for the first time in at least a month, and I think my constant thoughts of food had something to do with it. I have "diet head". I'm trying not to beat myself up over it, but rather am looking at it as another learning experience on the path. I've stopped myself from eating for emotional reasons many times over the past month and I can do it again and again and again until it is second nature.

Today I took a short walk after lunch and I was trying to tell myself to be mindful and enjoy the sunshine, flowers, etc., but all I could think was, "I only have 500 calories left to eat today and I'm going to Tanya's candle party and I know she won't have any healthy food and I'll have to either starve or eat too much and feel crappy and..." Ugh. From this moment on I am going to follow the eating guidelines Geneen Roth and Linda Moran and every other non-diet guru advise! They can't all be wrong. So I will feed my body when it's hungry, eat slowly and mindfully, stop when satiated, and know that I can eat again when I'm hungry.