I’ve eaten out of a trash can!
Not because I lived in poverty or my family couldn’t afford to feed me one day but rather I was dealing with some major issues internally. I felt like I wasn’t skinny enough! I felt like the number on the scale defined my worth! I felt like the size of my jeans determined my value in life! I felt like I couldn’t be loved by another human because of how I looked!
These constant emotions I would feel or tell myself led me down a path of years of binge eating. Years of indulging in cookies, brownies, ice cream, cakes, and one of my all time favorites Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. But I wasn’t one who felt proud of eating those things, I was ashamed! I would indulge when no one was around, I would hide and over eat till I was physically sick.
My relationship with food and my emotions didn’t stop there though. It led me to a place of eating out of a trash can more than once. You see the experts always say “just throw the food in the trash and you won’t eat it anymore!” WRONG! All it took was moving a few wrappers over and finding the portions that looked okay in my eyes. This is when I knew I had a problem! This is when I knew if I didn’t begin to work on myself that I would be spiraling into a downhill journey that actually scared me more than life itself. I mean what kind of life was I living eating out of a trash can because I couldn’t control myself?
Now before we continue on to the typical self help portion of this post, I want to be upfront about something. I want you to know that this is something I work on still to this day and constantly will. I am not cured by any means but now I have strategies in place to help me. Strategies that prevent me from digging through the trash or hiding in the bathroom to finish off a box of Swiss Rolls. Strategies that have allowed me to not live in fear of my body or what others will say about me.
My strategies have helped me build a healthy relationship with food and my emotions to binge eating.
Yes, trauma is the first area that needs to be addressed before you can even move forward. You see most people who deal with binge eating or unhealthy relationships with food have had some type of trauma in their life. Not like a car accident though which I guess could send you down this path but usually some type of trauma that caused negative emotions of self value. For many of us it starts way before High School or even Junior High. Someone in our youth years calls us fat and we try to brush it off but it becomes ingrained in our memories. For me it was when I was 6. A little boy in my class called me fat and I remember it to this day like it was yesterday.
Then one moves into Junior High and High School where it seems everyone is so pretty and skinny but you. You may even date someone who reminds you of your constant weight battles and comments every time you take a bite of food. Enter traumatic events that have led you to this place. You begin to build a toxic relationship about your body image and you are smart enough to know that food choices do affect your weight. Some may try to stop eating all together, try diet pills, stick a spoon down their throat every time they eat, or even turn to drugs to lose weight. Your emotions of how you look become attached to what and how you eat. Your trauma affects how you feel about food.
You already know there is an issue but you may be unclear as to why or how. How did I let it get this far or why can’t I stop eating? Addressing that there is an unhealthy relationship with food is a great step towards the right direction. This is where the magic really begins to happen. You begin to pay attention to the way you think, how you feel, and how you behave in certain situations. It allows you to focus on the patterns of how we speak to ourselves and how we let our environment control our thoughts. You become more aware of your emotions and the moods that lead to your choices in foods. One will begin to notice their habits and how they respond to difficult situations when emotions run high. Do you run to food as your outlet? Do you feel that if you indulge on cookies that you will feel better about yourself? When you begin to head to the fridge, ask yourself “Why am I eating this?” Is it because you are truly hungry or is it because you are trying to mask a specific emotion?
One practice that I have found that helps during this phase is journaling. Write down what you ate, what time did you eat, what happened right before you ate, and how did it make you feel afterwards? After a week or two do you notice a pattern? Become aware of what triggers you and begin to remove those triggers from your life slowly. This may mean unfollowing people on social media, talking to your friends and family about how they speak to you, or addressing social situations where you feel uncomfortable. Become aware of how you feel!
Addressing your emotions in relation to food is hard! This is no secret and why so many struggle with their relationship to food. Asking yourself “Why am I eating this?” and then turning it around to “Am I really hungry?” or “Am I unhappy about something?”. Do you feel like you can’t speak up about your emotions or do you feel pressured in life where food has become your comfort zone? Are you using food as an escape to avoid the things you don’t want to do or deal with?
These are the hard questions you have to ask yourself and no it won’t be easy to answer them. I will tell you it is okay to cry as you answer these. Being vulnerable is a sign of healing and growth. You can ask yourself these questions in a mirror, write them down on sticky notes, journal about your emotions, or talk to a friend about your struggles. Finding someone to confide in and allowing yourself to put your emotions in the universe will not only help you deal with these struggles but also allow yourself to recognize you are ready for a change.
WHAT IS YOUR STORY?
When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, what do you say to yourself? Do you tell yourself words of affirmation like I am beautiful or do you degrade your self worth? Every time you binge on a package of oreos do you tell yourself it’s a lost cause so what is the point of even trying? My question here is have you ever said those thoughts out loud? Like really out loud not whispered under your breath but where the entire room can hear you? Majority of the time those negative thoughts sound silly once you say them to the universe. Of course you can lose the weight. Of course you can work on your food choices but do you really want to? Dig deep here and find your story about yourself. What would you want your one headline sentence to be about you? For me it would be “I am strong, sexy, confident, and no one will take me down!” Write down what you want your story to be and tell yourself this every morning in the mirror. No whispering here ladies, say it loud and proud till you begin to believe it.
FINDING THE BALANCE
You are never going to forget how good food taste or how that first bite of Ben and Jerry’s is. Nobody is asking you to ditch these foods and forget about them but you do need to find a balance with them in your diet. Begin to associate your emotions with your food choices each day. If you feel you truly just want a treat then go ahead but if you are reaching for the cookie dough because you are sad or feel unworthy, then take a step back for a minute. Address these emotions for what they are and deal with the hard conversations either with yourself or with another. Food will just be a quick band-aid but will fall off as soon as you wash your hands.
The goal is to not address these issues over night but rather taking a step moving forward. Take time for each area and begin to notice the trends, the triggers, the habits, and how you feel about each one. Your journey with food is a lifelong journey and should be handled with care.
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