When I was a child, I was very overweight. My mother used to point to obese people on the street and tell me, “you’re going to end up like that if you don’t get it together!”
I thought the worst thing in the entire world was to end up obese. From that early age, about 8 or 9, I developed reoccurring anxious thoughts and fears around my weight and my future as a potentially obese person.
I would watch TV and analyze each actress’s body. If they were thin, how did they get there and maintain it? I remember watching the first season of American Idol when Kelly Clarkson won. My friends were all into the show and her singing (it was new and exciting), but all I would think about was how I would be happy to maintain her size because she “wasn’t too fat or too thin”.
The thing is, I felt like a failure because I couldn’t regulate my eating. I thought my size was completely my fault because I was “broken”.
I remember when my friends were getting Happy Meals at McDonalds, I was getting Big Mac combos. I was never satisfied with a small portion. I envied my friends’ sizes (as normal, average kids in contrast to me being overweight) but more so envied their eating habits.
I felt like I was only happy when I was eating. Knowing what I know now, it was due to me desperately looking for a coping mechanism for my anxiety. At that young age, living with a toxic family and having an underdeveloped brain to process these big emotions, I didn’t have any healthy way of regulating them.
When I was eating was the only time I felt truly happy. I didn’t know how to stop or what being satisfied felt like. I ate until I felt sick to my stomach many times.
All the while, my narcissistic mother blamed me for my eating habits and subsequent weight gain when it was her own words and actions that lead to my unhealthy coping mechanisms.
I went on a crash diet (which my mother encouraged!) and lost 40 lbs at age 11.
Fast forward a few years… after a few yo-yo diets – regaining and losing the weight I originally lost – I developed another unhealthy coping mechanism: drugs and alcohol. I relied on these to give me temporary relief from the reality of my anxiety and depression.
Emotional eating and drinking continued together for years to come. Until I finally started healing.
I learned about toxic family and narcissist abuse. I sought a therapist who helped me learn how to regulate my emotions.
In time, I realized that the only way I had known how to cope in the past when negative feelings came was to drown them out. I worked through not suppressing my emotions or hiding them in the moment, but sitting with them and allowing them to pass.
For the first time in my entire life, I can eat until I’m not bursting at the seams and then move on happily. Even when I had no problem with controlling my food intake and was “in shape”, I still used to always think about food and when my next meal would come. Now I can separate my true hunger from emotionally-charged eating.
A meal plan can be effective at helping emotional eaters lose weight or stop the emotional eating habits temporarily. But until the root cause of why it’s happening is addressed, emotional eating will rear its ugly head and hunger will continue to be regulated by emotion.
Our body and mind are synced closely. I truly believe when we feel our emotions without having to hide them, we strip away all the “noise” and can tune into exactly what our body needs.
Now, when sadness, anger, anxiety, or any other negative emotion inevitably comes up, I turn to different coping mechanisms…
- Change my state by phoning a friend
- Distancing myself from social media or any person who is a source of negative feelings
- Read a personal development book or listen to a podcast
- Go out for a walk in nature. I absolutely love this for instantly elevating my mood!
If you’re reading this and you need help, I suggest speaking with a therapist to help determine your root cause and find a customized plan for you. Because as good as a fitness plan and meal plan will be with a great coach (ahem, such as yours truly ;)), it will only scratch the surface.
Your coach and friend,