As part of our Healthy & Whole series, we’ve been delving into some of the more serious sides of eating, like guilt and judgement. It’s a huge honor to have some achingly honest words today from one of our favorite food bloggers, Kate of Cookie + Kate. Here, Kate shares about emotional eating, something that hits close to home here and may for many of you. We’re deeply grateful to Kate for sharing this with us, and for her gorgeous recipes that are a constant inspiration. (Pictured above is Greek Farro and Chickpea Salad from Cookie + Kate.)
Hi there. I’m Kate and I’m a recovering binge eater. I’ve never said that in a public space before so I’m a little nervous about it. Here’s the deal: I have asked far more of food than food has ever been able to provide.
I’m not sure when the binge eating started, but it definitely got worse in college. Back then, I thought I knew what healthy food was (Yoplait, right?). I spent far too much energy tallying up everything I ate during the day and beating myself up for not eating better. Then when I was 19, a good friend of mine passed away right before Christmas. That is when things got ugly, and no, I don’t want to talk about it.
I’m still a totally imperfect person who feels out of control at times. After years of self reflection and general “growing up,” I’ve learned to rein in the urge to swallow my feelings. I have a few insights to share on the matter in case anyone wants to hear them. Here we go:
1) I learned to slow down. Slowing down is the best thing I can do when I’m feeling anxious and staring down at something tempting. I remind myself to put down the fork and breathe. At that point, I tend to regain some much-needed clarity and control.
2) I learned to recognize my feelings. I’ve never been one of those girls who’s super in-tune with that stuff. Even hearing the word “feelings” makes my skin crawl. Regardless, I’ve realized that my binge eating is really just a symptom of unresolved anxiety. Binge eating is my brain’s way of distracting me from the real issue at hand. Now I try to confront the issue itself or find a healthier way to cope.
3) I’ve gotten better at accepting myself for who I am. This is always a work in progress, but I’m well aware that I am an emotional eater, among other less-than-ideal qualities. I can do what I can to improve my habits, but hating myself is not helpful.
4) I’ve also accepted that it is ok to find comfort in food. To a point. There’s a big difference between feeling anxious and eating a snack (sometimes a snack makes me feel better!) or eating an entire bag of chips (eating a bag of chips makes me feel so much worse!). I’ve accepted that it is ok to eat a little more when hormones are in flux and to escape in a really fantastic piece of chocolate when need be. Sometimes I have an overwhelming urge to eat a whole lot, which is also ok. I just chomp away on a big-ass salad instead of that bag of chips.
5) I got a dog and went on a million walks. My dog is probably the best thing that is ever happened to me. She is the sweetest, most loving companion a girl could ask for. It’s hard to feel lonely when she’s around, and she makes me smile when I’m sad. She also makes me take her on an hour-long walk every day, which is every bit as good for her as it is for me. It helps me clear my head. Yoga helps me calm down, too, even when I don’t recognize that I need to calm down. Exercise is important. Balance is everything.
Like I said, I’m still figuring all this out. Maybe healthy eating habits are just something we all have to learn the hard way. I’d love to hear how you may have learned to deal. I’d also like to add that if anyone out there is feeling trapped, it is perfectly ok and totally admirable to get help.