Years ago I saw a therapist named Julie.
Julie Armer; young, long red hair, Birkenstock wearing, wise and able to call me on my chit.
We started meeting when I was on the tail end of a semi nervous breakdown. At twenty-eight and with my life far from where I wanted it, I needed help to sort stuff out.
My coping mechanism was food.
At night I’d curl into bed with a bag of Teddy Grahams. I’d watch t.v. and devour the bag until all that was left were bear legs and bodies; tiny body parts crumbled against the bottom of the metallic bag.
Julie and I had long talks about the Teddy Grahams. Why did I do this? What compelled me to keep eating?How did I feel once they were finished and expanding in my belly?
The conclusion we came to was that I was filling up my stomach in an effort to control something in this uncontrolable world. What I really needed was to fill up my heart, not my gut. I know it sounds sort of ridiculous, but she was onto something. Eating to the point of fullness left little room (body and mind) to dwell on the emptiness elsewhere.
Her solution? When being pushed toward a tryst with Teddy Grahams I was to go and hug my nephew who happened to be living upstairs from me at the time. Filling with love would quell the urge toward food as a love replacement.
There’s a lot of talk online and amongst friends about losing weight, calorie control, and diet management.
I very seldom read about the emotional aspect of food as a drug, as a coping skill, as a way to manage feelings.
On Wednesday I ran into Whole Foods with my girls and a short list.
Sophie had requested the organic Blueberry lollipops we like, Grace wanted some animal crackers and I needed apples and greens.
We left with our bags filled, but instead of traditional animal crackers chose two bags of 100% natural, made by Barbara’s since 1971, Snackimals Animal Cookies in vanilla and chocolate chip.
On Thursday, after a few really stellar days for me in the healthy eating department, I went searching the cabinets for a snack. I picked up the cookies and portioned them out in a pink plastic bowl. With them I poured a cup of milk.
My intentions were pure. I was still on the straight and narrow.
When my bowl was empty I stared at it feeling blue. They tasted just like Teddy Grahams, if not a little more crisp. They crunched the same, melted on my tongue the same, tasted just the same.
Without thinking, I started to eat them out of the bag until they were gone. And then the next bag. Gone.
As if something had triggered my good sense, my managed eating habits earlier in the week had vanished from my being.
Like an alcoholic might fall off the wagon after succumbing to the pull of a little sip, I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday in compulsive eating hell.
Unable to feel the food that I consumed, I ate more. My head knew what was happening, my alter ego (I need to name her) didn’t care. I was aware that I was spinning, but continued to find more to fill myself up.
When Brian came home with a huge lemon cake and chocolate covered Oreos it didn’t take long before I was going at the cake with a fork and eating the cookies without even checking the calorie content and fat grams on the back (130 for 2 and 13 per serving I now know).
My stomach hurt badly, so I’d give myself a break. And then start up again. A cycle of pleasure and pain and exhaustion and energy.
Why did it happen? What was I really searching for? Aren’t I happy? Don’t I have enough love, friends, health, family?
I have heard that food is the good girls’ drug. This is true. It’s not even about the food. It’s not about weight. It’s about control.
Teddy Grahams, those sweet little bears manufactured for children’s lunch boxes are as dangerous to me as crack or heroine or a bottle of pills to another person searching to fill whatever is missing inside them.
Last night after two pieces of pizza, a couple of bread sticks and three ranger cookies I fell into a “food coma” as I put the girls to sleep.
When I woke later in the evening, the mania was done, just like that. I drank a big bottle of water and settled back to sleep.
Today the food mania has stopped completely and I’ve woken up feeling better and able to see the light through the fog of the past few days.
I drank my coffee with skim milk and ate a lemon 0% Chiobani with some blackberries and half cup of Go Lean Crunch.
I sat down to write as I always do and this post came flowing out.
It’s embarrassing. I am not proud.
I would much have rather finished my piece about Maine or started to work on my guest post for Nadine about my long distance love affair with Crow. It would be easier to Pin pretty pictures; Chanel’s resort collection is breathtaking.
Since I try to speak the truth, though, I figured it might be helpful for anyone else going through a similar struggle. It also might be helpful to people who view over weight folks as food mongers and sloths. It isn’t about the food at all, so try not to judge.
In fact, a hug or a meaningful conversation about something other than food might snap them out of the cycle.
Most importantly, it is helpful to me to be able to recognize the triggers and the patterns and do what I can to avoid such occurrences in my future.
Total control will never be mine. It doesn’t exist. Not for me and not for you.
It’s a new day and I am off to yoga.
My solution. My church. I will Om with the group, get centered, and try not to judge myself or others.
But as they say in church, which will be my mantra for this Sunday, “Peace be with you. And also with you.”
Peace for you and for me.
The hub for all I do, marthawills.com documents life from a working mom's point of view. When not mothering, I manage the social media needs of small businesses through Wills Media Group, LLC, and write a weekly column for Raleigh's News & Observer online entitled, Are We There Yet? Most recently, my passion for health and wellness led me to become involved as a consultant for Beautycounter, a company that's making a difference by educating about toxins in products, spreading the word via the web.
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