I want to be transparent about my story and experience with emotional eating with you, and be real about what people are really struggling with today.
First, emotional eating doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder.
Emotional eating is a form of “disordered” eating. Every day I constantly consult with others, just like you, to help straighten out the kinks in their eating. Many know what “their problem is” but they just can’t seem to fix it. It’s a silent epidemic. All the wiring inside our brains about food is so construed when it comes to food. You I come from an extreme sport called “Figure” which is a more “feminine” form of bodybuilding. I started competing when I was just 19 years old. Before this time, I was an athlete of many sports that was always worrying about my weight. I remember in high school I would barely eat breakfast, have a Yahoo and tomato and cheese sandwich for lunch, and then not eat outside of all my activities until dinner because that allowed me to feel I could give myself permission to have 2-3 plates of what was available for dinner.
When I reached college, I kept my little “bird food” meals and snacks the same, only this time I would on weekends go out to the all-you-can eat Chinese Buffets. I wouldn’t eat all day in preparation for my all-out binges. I would literally have 3-4 full plates of food. Many times after these binges I would purge to relieve myself of the sickness I felt after eating so much food. Mentally it would also bring me relief that I stopped hundreds of calories from entering my body.
At 19, I was introduced to the sport of competing, and the catalyst to my excessive head games surrounding food. It consisted of round the clock training and an EXTREMELY restrictive diet. I would get my body fat down to around 8-9% through an extremely restrictive diet of eating 7-8 of the SAME meals and snacks every day. You COULD NOT miss a meal or a snack. If you were suppose to have 2 egg whites and peppers at 4pm, you better be whipping that out at 4pm to eat, whether you’re in the middle of Walmart or not. Your entire life revolved around your training, and when the next meal was. It was a full-time job. My eating and workout behaviors became very extreme, and little did I know I was heading down a path of a destructive body image, and eating for the sake of winning and out of fear of making mistakes, and NOT to fuel my body. However, at the time, I felt the restrictiveness gave me a huge sense of “control”.
I actually turned Professional in a short 2 years (I dieted all through my “fun” college days), allowing me to compete in the IFBB League, the most respected bodybuilding organization in the WORLD. By this point, I hated competing. The restrictiveness was leaving me negative, crying all the time, and feeling very separated from the real world. So I quit.
So after training like an Olympian, there I was without a goal. I had no purpose to eat healthy or go to the gym at 5am. No motivation to eat my cup of boring broccoli. So I didn’t. And for the next 6 years I battled with food and working out. I would be “good” certain days out of the week out of feeling guilty from the other days that were just a mess. I would go back to the gym and train like I did when I competed for a week, followed by a week of nothing. If you watched our Free Emotional Eating Training Video already, I was literally yo-yoing between the restrictive eating cycle and overeating cycle, and my exercise was following suit. I absolutely knew what I SHOULD be eating, and HOW to workout, but it was like pulling teeth to get me to find peace with both.
I became extremely depressed. Even though on the outside people would never know. I had to go through counseling to really get to the root cause of my disordered eating. My eating patterns were merely symptoms of other gaps in my life, other unmet needs that I was not tending to. For me, my solution involved finding who I was again (by this point I was divorced, relocated, and “starting over”). I also had to swallow some hard truths about my tendencies of perfectionism, competitiveness, and (the biggie) lack of balance in my life that were all driving my eating cycles and my thinking behind food. To find new meaning to food, to eat to fuel and nurture my body, meant I had to understand more about self care, and how to take care of myself mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Embracing and practicing the universal concept of mindfulness helped me find my own self again, allowing me to reconnect with myself in a body/mind/heart spirit sort of way. Literally life changing. It also helped me, naturally, improve my eating, but I knew that I still needed more strategies, specifically mindful eating strategies, to clean up the remaining remnants of my frazzled eating patterns. That’s when I started to do my own research on mindful eating and intuitive eating, and WOW .This lead to me to almost immediate relief. The impact was so immense that I knew I just had to know how to share these concepts with others who are also struggling. I went on to build my own skills to teach others about mindful eating and became an AIH Licensed Mindful Eating Facilitator.
Through the help of mindful eating, I have escaped the head games surrounding food. I now feel comfortable eating to fuel and nourish my body because I WANT to, not because I HAVE to. I have learned that I can be fit and healthy without going to the extreme of restrictive dieting and over-exercising. I have developed a new and different yet healthy relationship with exercise too that doesn’t involve being at the gym 6 days a week.
Food’s role in my life now serves to bring me longevity, energy, clear skin, better sleep, and decrease my risk for preventable illness and inflammation. I am not perfect with my eating, and that’ ok now. I am now able to invest my energy elsewhere in my life, and not have it all invested into thinking about food, weight, and exercise. I have the freedom to enjoy being creative in the kitchen (although it doesn’t always turn out that great lol) and have embraced a high plant based diet that long ago would have scared me because it contained carbohydrates. I don’t calorie count. I don’t measure food. It’s a gift that I want to also give to you, because life is too short to be worrying about food and weight all the time.
That’s my story. If you read this in its entirety, you probably can relate. I hope it brought some relief to you today knowing that you’re not the only one that has “crazy thoughts” about food. The good news is that it IS resolvable.
Free Emotional Eating Training Video