The Myth of Emotional Eating

I'll be brief and I'm not gonna sugarcoat this, because I love you. And I love me. And I've already spend years and years perfecting eating in shame, chronically dieting, binge eating and listening to everyone else, except me, when it came to my relationship with food. I've done all this, so you don't have to. You're welcome :)

If we ever hope to break free of food rules, diet culture and body image issues, we need to be willing to redirect and see things differently. Amen? 

I'm assuming (sorry) that somewhere, somehow, you learned from someone's Great Aunt Beverly that Emotional Eating is something to be avoided, ashamed of and even punished for. 

The act of putting a Milky Way or a Ding Dong (does anyone eat those anymore?)  in your face because you're stressed is somehow a reflection of who you are and how you have no discipline and you're ruining your life. 

First of all, it's not true. It's not true. Again, it's NOT true. 

The problem is not that we are emotional eaters; the problem is us confusing 'emotional eating' with 'shameful eating'. 

Let's explore the difference...

 

I AM AN EMOTIONAL EATER WHEN I...

* eat when I'm bored

* eat past the point of fullness because the meal taste so good

* eat when I'm not hungry, so that I don't miss out on family dinners or outings, where everyone else is eating

* think about food/plan my next meal while I'm eating a current meal or have just eaten

 

Now, watch for the subtle but distinct difference between

Emotional Eating and Shameful Eating:

 

I AM A SHAMEFUL EATER WHEN I...

* eat when I'm bored...and consider myself to be "bad" for it. 

* I eat past the point of fullness because the meal taste so good...and I feel compelled to exercise and burn off what I ate or I promise myself somewhere deep inside that I will never do this again. 

* I eat when I'm not hungry, so that I don't miss out on family dinners or outings, where everyone else is eating...and I end up bingeing because of my belief that if I eat when I'm not hungry I have failed intuitive eating/willpower/listening to my body perfectly. 

* I think about food/plan my next meal while I'm eating a current meal or have just eaten...and I am unable to find pleasure in my present meal. In fact, I feel distracted, displeased, anxious or irritable until my next meal. 

Friends. Not only is Emotional Eating not the enemy, it is NECESSARY, because food is love. It is comfort. It is meant to be pleasurable and deeply enjoyed- why else do we have taste buds?? It's like, why would we thousands have nerve endings on our genitalia if sex was ONLY meant for procreation?? It's the same. And also I wanted an excuse to mention sex stuff. 

Our relationship with food is complex and fascinating and infuriating and dazzling. Take my advice, just for today: (Did you even ask for my advice?) Be proud, so utterly proud, of your ability and your desire to eat with your emotions. To be connected to the earth, its bounty and the people who inhabit it, in such a special way. That's all you need to do today. 

You with me? Yikes? Hallelujah? Meh?

With love,

Erica 

"Try Another Door" A Darker Poem

Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev

Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev

“Try Another Door” by, Erica Jacobs

I am a dollhouse.

Mulberry wine paneling,

smooth, brown shingles,

crisp, white shutters.

 

Modest mailbox on my manicured lawn,

White, picket fence,

porch swing.

I don’t open from the front…

Try another door.

 

Ready, set, turn me around.

Do my outsides match my insides?

 

Spoiled, sour, stale

milk.

Cruddy, crazed, crushed

cookware.

Broken, busted, baby

dolls.

 

Jagged spider web mouths

hover over a chandelier.

Chipped, checkered floor,

now an ugly grey…

Try another door.

 

Smelly, soggy, stained

bedding.

Cracked, crooked, coarse

canopy.

Dusty, dingy, dirty

bedposts.

 

No one

wants to sleep here.

No one

wants to be here.

Try another door.

 

Dilapidated, damaged, decayed

figurines.

 

next to a

 

Slanted, severed, smashed

cradle.

 

Watery, wilting, wasting

wallpaper

 

behind

 

Dense, damned, destroyed

Bookcases.

Try another door.

 

Empty wooden rocking horse

calls out,

for one last ride.

 

Who did this to me?

How did I get here?   

 

Compartmentalized,

boxed,

broken,

dark

It’s hot in here.

 

Please

someone

open a…

 

Someone…

try…

another…

 

A Binge Eater Walks Up to a Donut Buffet

*On experiencing my first wedding reception donut buffet, as a recovered Binge Eater*

Like a drunken Prom Queen tripping over the train of her dress to collect her crown, I bolt from the dance floor, rush to the glorious donut shrine and stand in awe. I grab the way-too-small dessert plate from the stack and press it close to my cleavage, like a teenage girl nervously clutches her school books, as the boy she's in love with passes her in the hall.

They're all so pretty, they sparkle and I swear one just winked at me.

My eyes widen and my heart beats a little faster. I'm Excited. I'm Nervous. I'm hungry for a donut. And like a gaggle of mourners at an Amish funeral, a crowd forms around the oval table these round beauties rest on. That's when I hear the rumble of food shaming comments and the noisy arguments of, "Oh, this is dangerous." "Okay, I'll have one bite, but then we have to dance hard to burn this off." "Allen, take this away from me. You eat the rest. I can't be trusted." "You know I have no self-control." "No, you can't eat that, it's full of sugar." "Oh. Gluten."

I remember when I said those things. I remember promising to be 'good'. I remember chewing food and feeling proud for not swallowing it. I remember how much my throat burned when I did swallow, and ran to the bathroom to un-swallow it. I remember all the nights I sneaked into pantries and lost myself in a box of Oreos, or a pot of spaghetti, or an entire rectangle of cheese, or a jar of peanut butter. I remember crying on the kitchen floor, often. I remember when food was bad, and my body was bad and my appetite was bad and donuts were bad and I was bad and everything was bad.

My head is full of the useless chatter and I wonder what people will think of me when they see me take a bunch of donuts for myself. They'll think I'm still a binge eater. They're feel sorry for me, yet proud of themselves. Like, the whole, "Yea I ate a donut, but at least I didn't eat as much as Erica..." I'm about to put my plate down and run back to the safety of the dance floor, where I can burn more calories instead of ingesting them. And that's when I hear the voice; "Go ahead, honey. Take exactly what you want. It's okay. This is normal, now. You're not sick anymore, remember?" This is the new voice I listen to. She's new here. She's the food/body-positive parent I never had, and she came to stay with me when I was in recovery for my eating disorder. She helps me a lot.

I take a deep breath and turn my plate level, readying it for my selections...

The pink one with sprinkles matches my nail polish; I'll have that one. And the caramel one is the same color as my eyes; I want that one, as well. This other one is glazed and shines bright like a diamond in good lighting, just like me; I'll grab that one, too. This one in the corner looks kind of plain but I'll bet there's good inside; Mine. Coconut-covered? Why not! BACON-sprinkled? Um, duh!

Piled high to the starry, summer sky, I carefully walk my teetering donuts back to my table and arrange all nine of them in a line. I take one bite of each, noticing the vast and subtle differences in taste, texture, flavor and appearance. I like the pink one with sprinkles, best. I offer up the remaining eight donuts, who were now one bite shy of a full circle, and my table mates are thankful. And confused. And drunk.

I sit back in my chair and take bites of my pink sprinkled donut, knowing this is just enough for me. I'm eating exactly what I want. No need to binge. No urge to purge. No reason to cry on my kitchen floor. No big deal. It's not a special occasion that makes donuts okay...it's me who makes donuts okay to eat.

I smile enough to pick a stray blue sprinkle stuck between my teeth, when I hear the voice again- that voice that had found its way back to me, by the grace of God, just when I thought I could never get well. Through blaring music, loud, silly wedding guests and clanking glassware, I heard her. Loud and clear: 'I trust you with food, Erica.' Your body is good. Food is good. Donuts are so good. Your appetite is good. Remember? I trust you with food, Erica. I trust you with life.   

Wholeheartedly,

Erica

When Sushi Taught Me About Trust

All these thoughts came back to me as I sat, pretending to listen to and engage with my friend, which was almost impossible. By the time they brought out the second small plate to me, my mind was so lost in the loud argument of: "will this satisfy me? How much more food are they going to bring me? When will they bring it? What if by the end, it's not enough. What if I want more? What if...what if after all this time, all this healing, all this work, I still have an eating disorder...?"

On a normal, no-particular day in August, a friend took me to SugarFish— a trendy sushi restaurant in Marina del Rey. And by trendy I mean it took 45 minutes to be seated, at lunch. By trendy, I mean the place is the size of an airplane —like a Southwest airplane. Not a Delta one. By trendy, I mean the walls are grey, with nothing hung on them, and everyone, including the homeless guy outside by the fountain, looks so chic. Finally, after chit-chatting about sunglass cases and iPhones, AND how we can solve world hunger, we were finally seated and handed menus.

I should remind you that sushi is my favorite food. I could eat it everyday and I pretty much do. Also, sushi was my go-to food when I was a binge eater. For years, I'd go to Whole Foods, Sushi Boy, Hop-Sing's Good Time Sushi (that's not a real place, but you get the idea) and buy a lot of whatever I wanted, take it home and go to town. It would have been easier on my wallet if fast food was my thing. Just saying.

I hardly looked at the menu before my friend told me I should order a dish called, "Trust Me." I assumed it meant they'd bring me a meal the chef recommended or concocted in the kitchen, which excited me, because some days, the less thought I have to put into what I want to eat or food itself, the more sane and better off I am. I ordered the "Trust Me", and a few minutes later, the waiter brought us a small plate with two pieces of sushi on it and almost immediately, I began to panic. I realized this particular meal was designed to be eaten carefully and slowly, meant to be enjoyed with focus and appreciation, and intended to give me, and recovering binge eaters everywhere, a complete nervous breakdown.

I'm not a slow eater. Never have been. And in my line of work, the first thing I ask my client is: Are you a slow eater? Fast eater? Moderate eater? The idea being to bring the body back to homeostasis and free from a stress response, caused by eating too fast, judging the food you're eating, etc. I'd say this has been the hardest part of ED recovery, for me; eating slowly, with pleasure and awareness of all the things in and around me. For so many years, my story had been I am not to be trusted with or around food. I don't trust my body to digest food or burn it off without a pill or supplement of some kind This food must be hidden from me. And If I am to eat this food, I am to hide as I eat it.

The good news is I've gotten so much better about speaking up in my life. I told my friend I couldn't focus on our conversation. I told her this is a new and nerve-wracking experience for me and I need to talk about that instead of anything else. She was happy to do this. I told her how anxious I felt, not knowing when my next bite would come, and how many bites there would be. I told her I was afraid that after they brought the last piece of sushi, I'd want more. So much more. All to which she gently replied, you CAN have more.

And I remembered she was right. There's always more. There's always enough. I spend my career reminding clients, friends and strangers at dinner parties that there is plenty. That it's normal to eat a meal served by somebody else and realize that it isn't enough for you. But the trick is to thoroughly enjoy what has been provided, first. The key is to be able to engage with your surroundings with ease, as food is one part of the eating experience. The point is to slow down. I still work on this everyday.

The minute I think to myself Wow, Erica Jacobs! You are officially cured and recovered in your relationship with food and body. Well done. You're the brightest, most evolved human being in your field, the Universe says, Don't get cocky. And it sends me to places like SugarFish to remind me that I, as an eater, am a work in progress. That my relationship with food is always evolving. That above all else, I am to be trusted with food. That my hunger is to be trusted and honored. That my body knows what it's doing and I am to let it do its job.

Trust is a very big word, built in very small moments. Trust is built each time we sit down to a meal. Trust is manifested when we allow others to feed us. And trust is nurtured when we keep showing up to the table, ready to take slow, present and thoroughly enjoyable bites. This can happen at Chick-fil-a, it can happen at your kitchen table and obviously, it can happen at the trendiest sushi restaurant on a normal, no-particular day in August. Trust me.

download

http___signatures.mylivesignature.com_54493_178_4A64499E2FC34D4923809CAE67892E32

7 Things to Remember About Food on Thanksgiving

pumpkin
pumpkin

Next to my birthday, Hanukkah, and the other 402 Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE day of the year. Thanksgiving is what I like to call all-inclusive; everyone is invited everywhere and it's literally the one day a year that people say, "the more, the merrier", and actually mean it. I love community, I love family AND I love when we go around the table and say what we're thankful for and my monologue is always the best one—so people say.

What I love the most about Thanksgiving, particularly in the last 4 years, is being reminded of how far I've come in my relationship with food and my body. It's like I heal from my eating disorder all over again, when I sit down to eat my stuffing, green beans and whatever that yellow stuff is on the other end of the table.

For 16 years, I couldn't imagine not thinking obsessing about food; the calories, the starch, the sugar, the fat... I couldn't think of anything else other than how hard I'd need to work in order to "burn" my food off. In fact, the food guilt started days before Thanksgiving when Yoga teachers, fitness instructors, cashiers at Trader Joe's, Aunt Iris and random women in dressing rooms start talking about eating Thanksgiving dinner like they'll be burned at the stake if they even look at the bread pudding and fig salmon…which is fucking delicious, btw.

So, lucky for you, me, and Whole Foods, I don't have those fears and feelings anymore and I'm here to give some reminders for Thanksgiving day (and EVERY day). Take what works for you and leave the rest, because this is YOUR life.

1. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAVOR YOUR MEAL, without cajoling or judgment, and without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.

running
running

2. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO ENJOY SECOND SERVINGS, WITHOUT APOLOGY OR GUILT. It is tempting and seemingly socially customary to justify wanting and needing more food. This is not true. When you feel the urge to explain or state aloud that you're helping yourself to seconds, DON'T say anything. Just try it. Notice any tension that comes up for you, take a breath, and literally let the words disappear. #Mmmmbyeeeee.

3.YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO HONOR YOUR FULLNESS, even if that means saying "no, thank you" to dessert or a second helping of food. As long as you're not saying no because you feel guilt, shame or restriction, you must honor your body's cues. It knows what it's doing.

meat
meat
4. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL A LITTLE MORE FULL THAN YOU WERE ANTICIPATING. This is true even if it isn't a holiday. Sometimes we come to the table hungry and leave feeling a little more full than we expected. Sometimes we come to the table and leave, wishing we had more food. It's okay. This is what is known as, Normal Eating.
5. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EAT "THANKSGIVING FOOD" ALL YEAR ROUND. One of the reasons people (including me) have or have had experiences with guilt, shame, binge eating, purging, and restricting during the holidays is because we think all this food is only available once a year, so we over-eat out of conscious or subconscious feelings of scarcity. Nothing is scarce. There is always enough. Food is always available to you. It sounds selfish and so "American", but it's true. It just is.
cookies
cookies

6. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EAT PUMPKIN PIE...FOR BREAKFAST.

And lastly...

7. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE AN EATER…AND THAT'S A WONDERFUL THING. Each time we sit down to eat, we agree to be a willing participant on Planet Earth. Agree to be here!

*For more support/reminders just how important Intuitive and Confident Eating is, TUNE INTO OUR FACEBOOK LIVE SHOW!

Grace & Peace,

Erica