...and the fat closed in around the sword

"Okay. There is no right way to say this..."

I stayed on the surface of my best friend's opening words just long enough to contemplate darting out of the ocean-front restaurant, jumping into the water and dying. But that would have been too easy, and I don't do easy things. Plus, I hate the sand. So instead, I stared into Laura's eyes as she continued on, bracing myself, hoping and praying she wouldn't say the thing...

"I love you and I can tell that you are miserable. I'm so sorry."

I've been here before - that sinking, paralyzing, infuriating stab to the gut when someone spells out our demons. It's the one that makes us feel seen, too seen. Found out. Held tighter than we're comfortable with. And even though it was said with such love, my body reacted the same way it does when I've heard things like:

 "No, actually, you're failing Pre-Algebra.",  "Your checking account balance is minus one hundred forty-five dollars" "I don't have feelings for you anymore", "We've offered the position to someone else..."

I sank into the padded chair, and I felt a nudge from deep in my bones that said, stay. It'll all be okay. Just listen...

I haven't known how to tell you, and I'm so sorry if this is hurtful. Even your breathing is different, I can hear the heaviness. I love you at ANY size, and yet I can see you're in a lot of pain in your body. I can see it in your eyes.
And I don't think you're in recovery from your eating disorder, I think you're in the thick of your eating disorder."

I could feel my face run white. My finger tips, numb. And my heart, already so heavy, heavier. I heard the planet crack, or maybe it was just my knuckles as I yanked them, looking for some relief while my spirit suddenly felt so small and my body felt so big, too big. And yet, I sat. And listened deeply. It doesn't take much for me to cry, so I went ahead and did that.

The thing is, when something, especially words, pierces the body, all of its resources rush to the wound like a pack of detectives. Blood and fat cells gather round, collecting information on mini notepads, asking things like, what do we got? How long has she been like this? Someone grab a blanket to keep her warm. It's like a committee - the committee dedicated to the healing and restoration of my body and my soul. Each of us as one, and sometimes is takes a friend to call them in from eating donuts in the 7-Eleven parking lot. (Thank you, Laura). 

So my friends and readers and students and someone who knows someone who knows someone who stumbled upon this blog, I am Erica Jacobs; a Yoga Teacher, Essential Oil Educator, Eating Psychology Counselor and freakishly funny woman, struggling with an eating disorder. I don't want to be alone in this, so as long as my publishing my recovery doesn't hinder my healing, I have chosen to share my journey on the interwebs.

I thank you for being a part of this committee who closes in tight to help set me free.

Grace and Peace,

Erica

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 

Stuff to Remember BEFORE You Lose Your Mind on Thanksgiving

 

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.

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.

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.

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

The Importance of Waffles & Ice Cream

"Ya'don't haafta pull so hawd!" Grandma loudly informs me, in her heavy New York accent. Everything inside the pullout-freezer drawer jolts and slides forward, making a slamming sound against the front of the freezer. I quickly grab 2 waffles from their box and the pint of ice cream. I accidentally slam the freezer shut. I wait for Grandma to react. No reaction. She's busy talking to my Mother about the idiot at the post office. Safe.

I don't like the feel of cold things on my hands. I don't like my hands to be wet or damp. I'm quickly reminded of this as I hurry to get the 2 frozen waffles into the toaster oven and the ice cream on the counter. I set the timer for my waffles...tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...my Mother laughs, reminiscing about their days in the Bronx in the 50's, with the nutcase Uncle who lived upstairs and the dog that attacked him...tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...Grandma talks about the gal she now goes to at the beauty parlor and how lovely she gets -what hair she has left- to stand up and look presentable...tick tick tick tick tick tick...I stare at my waffles, my eyes lost in the long, noodle-shaped orange heat lamps. DING! I barely touch the waffles as I scoot them on a plate, careful not to burn myself and I place one, no, three scoops of ice cream on each.

It's our first night in New York, which means Mom and I are briefed on who's getting married, who's had a Bar Mitzvah, who got divorced, who's pregnant and who's literally lost their mind in the last year, A.K.A. who is "not well", to which Grandma flings her hand in the air, raises her eyebrows, lowers her eyelids and says, "fuhgeddaboudit, she's nuts!" 

Yes. This is my favorite; sitting at the kitchen table with my Mother and Grandmother, talking shit about people. Me, my teeth warmed by waffles and chilled by ice cream (NEVER allowed in our house) and my Mother with her coffee & frozen Mandel bread, (also, NEVER allowed in our house.)

It's so late, but I don't have to go to bed because there's no school the next day because I'm on vacation. And I'm not tired because I'm on California time. Because I'm a California Girl...with New York blood and a New York groove and a New York (very) Jewish Grandmother I absolutely adore...

 

A while ago I wrote a post called, Why Can't I Stop Cheating on My Diet?, I mentioned an article written by one of my personal and professional heroes, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, where I graduated from a few years ago. (I totally just plugged FOUR things in ONE sentence. Is there an award for that?) Anyway, the article describes Three Types of Cravings; Supportive, Dispersive, and Associative. For the purposes of this post and my super-descriptive awesome story, we'll talk about the latter of the 3, Associative Cravings.

Associative cravings occur when we yearn for a food that has a rich, deep, and meaningful association with our past, much like waffles & ice cream remind me of my Grandmother, who passed away 2 years ago. It's almost like my taste buds step into a time machine, where not only do waffles & ice cream remind me of my Grandma, but, in a way, they are my Grandma. By surrendering to this kind of craving we can visit our past, and re-live feelings that may bring their own special healing moment, regardless of the nutritional inferiority of the food. Biology and nostalgia can make a fascinating and almost mystical meal.

It's easy to demonize, try to control, shut down or even hypnotize our cravings away (I tried that years ago. It was total bullshit. True story.) I'm no longer interested in ignoring that which biologically, and in many cases, spiritually calls out for me to pay attention. Cravings ought not to be curbed. They need to be listened to, heard, honored, and, dare I say, celebrated! Trying to control your appetite? Fuhgeddaboudit!

So, here's a (FUN) exercise for you if you need some help celebrating your cravings:

Tell your story associated with a particular food (or type of food) you've craved, like I did above. It can be a poem, a Haiku, a sonnet, a painting, a drawing, a song, whatever! Just tell the story. Re-live it. Celebrate it. For reals.

Some things to keep in mind when you're storytelling:

*Who does this food remind you of?

*Where were you when you would eat this food?

*What was happening in your life then?

*What feelings (happy, sad, displaced, aloof, angry, overjoyed, etc.) did you experience when you ate this food?

*What are your beliefs about this food now? How do you classify/label it? (healthy, unhealthy, clean, not clean, must-burn-off-now, I'm allowed to eat it when...)

Email me your stories! I'd be honored to read them (and *maybe* with your permission, feature them on this here blog). erica@whatseatingericajacobs.com

With my whole heart,

Erica