Ugh. Just ugh.
I wrote about hunger last week and how I am learning to tolerate and appreciate real hunger.
And then yesterday I had one of those days where I act like I have no idea what I’m doing or that I’ve learned anything at all in the past five years. You would think after five freaking years of working on my mental control I would be a little bit better at things, but I’ve got news for you: bad days happen.
Yesterday I found myself eating without being hungry physically. I knew I wasn’t hungry and I knew I was trying to fill a void that wasn’t real hunger, but I ate anyway. As I was eating I thought, “I know I’m not hungry, but I don’t want to do anything else. I want to do this. This is okay for now, because I know I’m doing it without being hungry. I’m mad that I’m doing it, but I’m still going to eat this stuff.”
Seriously. That is what I was thinking. I was actively and consciously thinking about why I shouldn’t/didn’t need to be eating, but at the same time I knew I was lonely and trying to fill an emotional void so I did it. And it worked because the carbilicious food made me very tired and I fell asleep to end the miserable day I had ended up creating for myself.
But it just highlighted the point about hunger: PHYSICAL HUNGER is good, but it’s not the reason most of us who ended up being obese ate. At least for me, I rarely ever ate when I was hungry. I spent around eight years gaining weight consistently because I never felt physical hunger, just all kinds of emotional hunger. I always ate to sooth my emotions and to make sure I never had to feel them. I perfected that process.
Old habits die hard. I know I’m not in the same place physically, or emotionally, but I still have days where I revert back to those old habits. Yesterday I may have spent a little bit too much time at my mom’s house. Yesterday I may have not paid attention to my food all day. Yesterday a lot of different things could have contributed to why I did what I did, but for the most part I feel like I did it because I know it is still an option for soothing emotions.
I know that when I want to not feel something I can eat to make it feel better. I am aware that I don’t really want to do this, but apparently on some days it still might happen. And I suppose for now I am okay with that. As long as I don’t do it all the time and I don’t always revert back to that habit then it is okay. Emotional eating is a normal thing, something everyone does from time to time (think: comfort food, food during grieving, etc.).
So for a slip up on one occasion, that is fine. I still feel like even though the old habits and patterns are stored in the back of my mind that I’ve beaten emotional eating. Really, I do. I may have had a bad day, but there could have been multiple bad days since I’ve been home and even more while I was living in Vermont. I didn’t turn to food then. I might have yesterday, but it seems like a rare occurrence and more importantly I was aware of it.
That awareness is important and what separates it from anything I used to do before. I knew what I was doing yesterday. I knew if I wanted to I could stop or didn’t have to eat. I knew I could just go to sleep without eating, but I chose not to. I chose to eat and have a “snack” at night. In the past the choice wasn’t there, because while I was eating to get rid of an emotion it felt like I was out of control and couldn’t even think about what I was doing – I just had to do it. So that is a key difference in this occasion from the past. Even though I ate because of an emotional hunger instead of a physical one, I was aware of it all.
Emotional hunger does exist and often it causes people to eat. I fell into it this time, and I’m big enough to say – it happens. But my new goal for the rest of the year (oh holidays!) is this: ONLY EAT WHEN I AM PHYSICALLY HUNGRY. It is way too easy to fall into the trap of eating for other reasons during this time of year with all the parties and other festivities. I’m not worried so much about what I am eating but only that I am eating when I am hungry. That’s my goal.
I guess I just needed to admit this to someone besides myself. And say… Holidays are frustrating. Honestly. Family can be frustrating. Really. It’s a tough time of year, especially with all the yummy treats sitting around and the emotional turbulence that exists during this time. I love the moments of happiness and joy and family and warmth that do exist, but I’m still ready for this particular season to be over with.