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Up and Up?


Normally I’m pretty controlled with my eating…at least I’ve become that way in the last year or so.  I can avoid stuff that I know will make my stomach hurt 9 times out of 10 and prefer the healthy dinner I can cook at home to the crap I would normally order from the fast food places offering corn by-product or the local places around town.  And I leave myself wiggle room in my day in case I get a fit of the munchies and want a snack.  And even with my new-found mad baking skills I have been able to satisfactorily eat one treat…or two… and move on.

But something has possessed me lately.  Well not something per se although it at time feels like the Smoke Monster from LOST is trying to make me eat all the junk that he hasn’t had on the island.  But really my depression and anxiety have brought back my eating problems.  My bipolar disorder is going through a phase that has caused my depression and anxiety to spike and thus all the issues I used to deal with back then have also resurfaced.  Not that anything bad is really happening but my brain is making me think the world is falling apart.  I can’t handle the stress and food has become my comfort.

***********Warning Triggering Story Below********

Back in college when I was suffering the worst of my bipolar symptoms I had an eating disorder.  I hated my body and saw it at the most atrocious thing ever. I wish someone would have told me a size 14 was pretty average before I gained a bunch more and really hated myself.  I would go days without eating or only eating lettuce and crackers and drinking nothing but water.  Then I would get so hungry I would binge on anything I could get my hands on.  My entire work-study check would be spent at BJ’s buying cases of Snickers Ice Cream bars I couldn’t store and would have to eat in addition to anything chocolate or sugar and chugging it down with Arizona Tea and IBC root beer.  I would eat until I was sick to my stomach.  And then I’d literally make myself sick.  I hid it all from everyone and would push food around my plate in the dining hall on the few occasions I’d actually eat in front of people.  I didn’t trust myself with food and when I would break my own vow to not binge again I would get so angry at myself.  I would tell myself I was stupid and that was the reason I was fat.

Not that this helped the situation.  In fact it made it worse.  The bingeing got worse through out my college years and I even had a single room so I could hide my eating from my friends.  When I finally brought this up to my counselor after it had been going on for about 2 years she was shocked.  And we got straight to work on the issues.  I was full of so many emotions that made me eat from stress, to anxiety, to anger, to boredom.  Pretty much eating was my excuse to not deal with the emotions.  It was so freeing to talk to my counselor when the emotions came up instead of stuffing them down with food.  I learned other coping mechanisms like walking and reading and talking and so many other amazing things.  And as my bipolar symptoms came more under control through medication and therapy so did my food issues.

And that’s how it had been for the last almost 7 years.  Sure I haven’t been at a healthy weight for that entire time but I had the capacity to not binge as I had learned the tools to manage my emotions.  I would struggle every now and again with emotional eating but never to the bingeing state that I had been before.  It made losing the weight so much easier to have tools to avoid emotional eating.  I wasn’t and I’m still not perfect at it but I’m better most days than before.

But when the depression rears its ugly head like it has the past month of so the emotional eating comes back.  Like typical symptoms of depression I have no interest in the normal things of life.  Friends, exercising, talking and all the other wonderful trick I’ve learned to avoid emotional eating and bingeing go out the window.  And as they fade my weight goes up.  When I would normally go for a run after a stressful day I reach for my leftover baking experiments.  When I would call my Momma to chat I sneak some of Hunni’s cookies.  When I would normally email some good friends I take handful after handful of granola straight from the bag.  If I did this every once and a while it wouldn’t matter but during a depression I do them all and they all add up…to more weight on my hips.

I’m not talking a huge amount of weight here.  It’s only about 5 pounds or so but I don’t feel good about myself.  I feel out of control.  And this feeling leads to more anxiety and more eating.  My normal fitting clothes are a bit tight and my energy is dragging.  I’ve avoided my Weight Watchers meeting for the past few weeks because I know I’ve gained and I’m ashamed and because my depression kind of makes me not care about it right now.  I’m faking my way through by still tracking most of the time and thinking about working out.  But ultimately I’ve lost my groove.

But the good news is that my psychiatrist changed up my prescriptions and I’m starting to feel a bit better.  I’ve watched my portions this week and I’ve been chugging water that I’ve forgotten to drink far too often lately.  And some of the weight I thought I had gained was bloat…and some will take a few weeks to get off.  But I’m starting to see the light through the trees and looking forward to the gym after my cousins leave.  I may not be back to “me” yet but I feel like I’ve conquered this little up in a life of ups and downs.  And it wasn’t as bad as my anxiety led me to believe.

How do you handle emotional eating?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/04/2010 11:19 AM

    thanks for sharing this very emotional story. i’m so sorry that you have gone through all that.

    i like that you ended on an upbeat note. it sounds like things are already changing in a positive way for you. i hope those feelings continue and you get your groove back. you deserve it.

    • 08/04/2010 11:45 AM

      Thanks! I’m working on it. I still have my moments but the sun is peeking through the clouds.

  2. Ashley permalink
    08/04/2010 1:06 PM

    I just started reading your blog recently and I’ve enjoyed every entry, especially this one! Thank you for sharing this story and I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better! Just being able to recognize why you’re over eating is wonderful and will make solving the situation much easier. Again, thanks for sharing. Have a great day! =)

    • 08/04/2010 1:17 PM

      Ashley…I’m glad you found the blog. Thanks for the comment. You are right that at least I can recognize it…that’s half the battle.

  3. 08/04/2010 1:51 PM

    Emotional eating is so hard to conquer. I really appreciate your honesty in sharing. I think you are doing a really good job!

  4. 10/04/2010 2:06 AM

    Good question. I can only describe it as my “schizophrenic argument”. It’s a battle in my head between emotional eater me and know better me. Most days know better me wins. Now. It wasn’t always that way. I think that since I took control of my weight, I took control of my life.

  5. Meg permalink
    12/04/2010 6:33 AM

    I’m glad you are seeing the light Cynthia and your meds are helping. I hope you can continue to get back to your “normal” and healthy self.

    I am not a huge emotional eater, I am more driven by boredom, so I try and keep myself busy. It can be tricky though because on my day off sometimes I have wide spans of time that I am at home and don’t have a lot planned. I try and allow myself a small portion of what I’m really craving or I make myself get up and exercise to burn off what I’ve eaten. It doesn’t always work though and sometimes the lazy monster gets me and I don’t cope as well as I would like. I do try and move on though from a bad day and start a fresh the next day.

    • 12/04/2010 9:08 AM

      Boredom eating is hard. I never really have any down time so I’m good with that. But it sounds like you have a great plan in place.

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