I had a fantastic lunch today with an acquaintance of mine. We have been running into each other all over town and dancing around the idea of getting together and talking about food issues. You see, this person has been really struggling with food lately, eating things that she knows are not good for her, stress eating, emotional eating and sneak eating.
Anyone out there ever struggled with these issues?
Anyway, from a purely selfish perspective, it was a great meeting. Besides absolutely getting joy in helping others with these issues, I was forced to think about all of the really wonderful tools that I had used to kick my emotional eating habits, tools that have been falling by the wayside lately. She kept thanking me for meeting with her, but it was I who should have been thanking her.
I’m also lucky in that I receive letters in my e-mail inbox like this one. Letters that make me really have to dig deep and think about my own issues.
I’m writing to you for advice.
A few months ago I started to think about becoming vegan, for health reasons, not ethical, having a look at blogs like yours and oh she glows and choosing raw it just seemed to make sense to me. One of my best friends is a triathlete and she was talking to me about plant strong living so I thought I’d check it out. Your green recovery post on Gena’s website first got me to your blog, and your story resonated so strongly with mine! In fact you made me identify and realise for the first time that I am an emotional eater. Unfortunately, I seem to have been deeply affected by my mother’s emotional eating and this has carried over to me.
My initial instinct was to set up some counseling with Gena through CR. I do find it’s overwhelming trying to do it on my own, I’m scared of just picking any old recipe from one of these blogs, as you do need a proper plan/knowledge of daily nutritional needs really don’t you. Also I don’t have a dehydrator and don’t have tons of money. However, money being the first issue with doing it with CR counseling, the second was that I’d really like to be able to do this myself! It’s my body and I need to be able to take responsibility for my body, I’m going to be stuck with it forever, so I need to learn.
I tried really hard for about 20 days or so, but unfortunately, I also decided to give up gluten and wheat at the same time and just restricted too much I think. I went cold turkey and the result was
that I ended up waking up in the night and raiding the fridge eating things I had stopped myself from eating in the day. Sneaking small amounts of my house-mate’s food. I have quite a bit of time to prepare food but sometimes end up having to go out for dinner with work colleagues, in Tasmania there is not even one vegan restaurant. I also found that when I was drinking I’d end up not caring about it any more, and then would feel terrible with myself for falling off the wagon. I decided to give up restricting the wheat free, and then somehow slowing the animal products have been creeping back in.
I’m really disappointed in myself, I want to get my glow back, I want to be full of energy, I want to kick the emotional eating, and I want to lose the extra weight I had managed to lose last year, (with a lot of obsessive exercise and restrictive eating). For the first time in my adult life, I was feeling fantastic about my body, and I’ve gone and undone everything. The ethics of veganism are also quite close to my heart too, I feel like such a bad person, that I listen to my greedy tummy instead of my morals. The poor animals!
I’ve been taking note of the plans/ diet you work from, I’m just scared of “dieting”, having tried it once before, I shudder when thinking about the idea of telling some one I’m on a diet (and the social awkwardness of it all – appearing fussy etc). Why can’t I just do this, without having to let it take over my life? I want to get to a place where I can sustain the way I eat for the rest of my life,
without being overly restrictive. I love food so so much. But I’ve been reading Michael Pollan and understand this notion that humans run best off plant foods.
I guess that what I’m looking for is advice from someone who is also an emotional eater, whose gone through the whole process and come out the other side, I understand that as with all eating disorders,
emotional eating is something I’ll probably battle with for a long time, but any encouraging words, advice, help from you about how I can get myself on track would be great.
Thank you for being such an inspiration, your website is wonderful and I think you are such an amazing brave person for sharing your story with the world.”
So what is my advice, exactly? What tips and techniques did I share with my lunch mate that I also want to share with the author of this letter?
(1) Get out the big black garbage bag
If there is food in your house that you use like a drug, throw it away and do everything within your power to get rid of it if it makes its way back in (like someone brings it to your house for a party). Yes, get a big black garbage bag and fill it with all of the cookies and the chips and the ice cream and the processed, toxic garbage that doesn’t belong in your body. It belongs with the other trash, in the landfill. Don’t bring it into your house anymore. Don’t delude yourself that you need to keep it in your house for your (a) kids, (b) spouse or (c) aliens that might drop down from Mars and demand it from you (see #5). Just get it out because at this point, you have to power over it. It is in control of you if you can’t go a day or two or five without eating it.
(2) One day at a time
This is a very popular expression that I am borrowing from 12 Step programs. Why is it so popular? Because it’s true. Forget about tomorrow. All we really have is today and that’s all we can control. It’s too much to think that you will never ever again eat chocolate or potato chips and dip. So don’t let those thoughts rule you. We are just talking about today. Today you do not need to eat those foods. Let yesterday and tomorrow go. Do it now.
(3) Make a food/exercise plan and stick to it each day
From The Beck Diet Solution, I learned to write down my food and exercise for the day (either the night before or in the morning). You don’t have to be uber exact, but things like “breakfast: green smoothie; lunch: soup and salad; exercise: 30 minute walk at 4 pm; dinner: salad, brown rice dish and banana soft serve” will do just fine. When you are faced with decisions about food, guess what???? You don’t have to make any decisions. Other food is simply not on your plan. That’s that. Don’t give it another thought. That chocolate cake on the table at work this afternoon (yes, this did happen today)? Not on my plan.
I stopping doing this at some point. It’s been downhill from there. Starting again tomorrow.
(4) Eat as much nutrient dense food as possible.
Vegetables first, raw and cooked, fruit and beans. A little nuts, seeds and avocado. Eat whole grains, but go lightly. Everything else is just that, everything else.
(5) Adopt the mindset “I have to take care of myself because no one else is going to do it for me.”
Example: If bringing junk food into your house for your kids who like to eat junk food is causing you to binge on junk food when no one is looking then start taking care of yourself and refuse to purchase the junk. Your kids are not likely going to be paying for your diabetes meds and stints. If you are blessed with kids. They might not even want the junk. That just might be a trick your brain is playing on you to get you high again.
(6) All of this will build your resistance muscle, and that is exactly what you need to do to lick this thing.
It’s all about the resistance muscle. And it’s so true what Beck says, use that muscle and it gets stronger and stronger. Give in to it and it gets weaker and weaker until you are out of control and you don’t know how to stop.
(7) Don’t beat yourself up if/when you slip up, just move on immediately.
Never use a slip up as an excuse to keep eating food off of your plan. Just acknowledge it and go right back to your plan. Beating yourself up about it actually causes you to be more stressed out, which usually leads to more off plan emotional eating. Don’t do it.
I wish you all strength!
P.s. Don’t miss CNN’s “The Last Heart Attack”
Rescheduled for Saturday