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.


Donna said...

I really like your blog. I've only read a few posts and they sound like I could have written them! You are going through many of the same things that I am right now.. as far as emotional eating. For years I've read that people stuff their feelings down with food but it never really connected until recently when I finally got how it applied to me.


Isabelle said...

It's hard not to resent slender people who can eat whatever they like, isn't it? An interesting blog entry. I recognise what you say.