I’m in charge of what I do with my feelings. I can eat them. I can push them down with food. I can eat sorrow, loneliness, anger, frustration, worthlessness, regret, hurt, guilt, disappointments, anxiety, and on and on it goes. I can even choose to eat happiness, comfort, excitement, enthusiasm, and on and on it goes. I can eat my feelings until I bloat myself with heaviness and deplete myself of all strength. I can eat my feelings until I’m weighed down with depression, stuffed with shame, swelled up with destructive self-talk and feeling fat. Then I can hate myself.
Next I will promise, I’ll never do that again! I’m so sorry. Tomorrow, I will pull out that diet plan. I’ll go get the groceries I need to make sure I eat right. The family will have to fend for themselves at meal times. I’m gonna fast a couple days this week too. I’ll pull out that new exercise video. This will be the last time I do this to myself, the last time I go to bed beating myself up over food.
Guess what. It’s tomorrow and I’m doing it again. I’m eating my feelings. I’m in a pattern of what author Michelle May M.D. in her book, “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat”, calls “The Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle.” It’s a pattern of binge eating and overeating. This is a condition called disordered eating.
I’m in charge of what I do with my feelings. When I choose to eat my feelings, it’s as if the true me is locked away in a prison, walled up into silence and made invisible. Perhaps it’s too scary to feel. When I choose to eat my feelings, I’m not working toward growth and development as a person. I’m stuck. I am not caring for myself by addressing true needs that may surface. I’m also holding myself back from living to my full potential and from helping others. I’m hiding under food.
But what if today, I didn’t eat my feelings? What if I unlocked the prison door, lifted myself out from under all that food, and let my feelings come out. What if I took a serious look at those feelings and separated them out and away from my eating. What if today, I took charge of my feelings and directed them toward a productive outcome. I am in charge of what I eat. I’m eating today only when I am hungry.
Once upon a time:
I planned the meal. A gathering of friends and family to celebrate a Birthday. All his favorite foods made to perfection! I pulled out the china and polished the silver. I served courses and displayed the food with color and beauty. I kept the conversation rolling while I attended to every person’s needs. There was a toast to mothers and sons. We talked about a daughter’s upcoming wedding. The bridesmaid’s dresses are pale coral chiffon. Going back to school was another topic we discussed. A friend was sharing about her newborn grandson. Celebrating life together! That’s the appearance of things.
Since everyone was now gone, I sat down and rewarded myself with a third serving of dessert. I thought about the successes of the evening. The compliments and accolades over my “Rolling out the red carpet!” Some said things like, “You’re the best cook in the world!” “Oh my! That is so delicious!” “You’ve outdone yourself.” Everyone seemed to have a good time. I was secretly savoring my success with a thick slab of chocolate cake. Numbing out a bit with every bite. And I was eating my feelings.
There’s just one problem. I’m embarrassed to tell you. No one knows the truth. I didn’t know it myself, until I stopped eating my feelings. You see, when I made “all of his favorite foods” it wasn’t for the Birthday boy. I made those foods for Joe, because they were Joe’s favorite foods. My oldest son Joe died 10 years ago. So why was I cooking for him? It was a way to feel connected to him. It was a way to bring him into the family gathering. It was a way to share him with friends and to feel part of the group. It was how I could manage the friends whose grown sons are getting married. The memories of kids going back to school. The grandchildren I will never have since Joe is no longer here. My future lost. And all those compliments over the food. Those were the exact things Joe would have said to me!
End of story.
When I stopped the painful, self-debasing, life debilitating cycle of binge eating. I began to care for myself and live with deeper purpose. I realized I was holding myself hostage. I was stopped, dead in my tracks. Stopped from healing, growing, and living life to the fullest. I was hiding away and missing the freedom that comes from loving others without the food cover up. Now, instead of eating my feelings, I take charge of my feelings. I’m eating today only when I am hungry. Do you want to take charge of your feelings and join me? Stay tuned for my next blog posting to find out more.