Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mama Bean feeds her self-esteem (her low self-esteem)

When I was younger, I developed an unhealthy eating pattern - spending irresponsibly on large quantities of nutritionally-poor food in a compulsive way to quell bad feelings. I did it secretively, hiding the food and the spending, though I could not hide the effect, primarily weight gain. And, as I was consistently told how unacceptable my weight was, the bad feelings remained. So the eating pattern remained. 

The cultural lexicon calls this Emotional Eating, which reduces the phenomenon to something trite. "Oh, yeah, whatever, I 'eat my feelings.' Just like everyone, haha..."

I thought, when I moved out, the pattern would go away. And in a sense, it did. It wasn't a secret anymore, because it was just me living by myself, and what did I have to hide from myself? I wouldn't say my spending got much more responsible, or my food much more nutritional. But I was happier being independent, because a large chunk of the bad feelings were related to self-autonomy and feeling personally in control, and living on my own provided that control. So the Emotional Eating certainly became less frequent. But it didn't go away - I distinctly felt a regression with every visit home.

When I got married, I really expected the secretiveness to completely go away. I had moved into the mature, adult, married and parenting part of my life - who or what would I be hiding my "bad food" from? And yet, built into our financial marriage is a trapdoor - a portion of funds we call "allowance" I am free to spend independently. And guess what I spend it on? Lattes, chocolate bars, cheezies, slurpees - and then, junior chicken burgers and fries on the way to work 4 days a week, and probably on the way home a couple times, too. And I had the perfect excuse, pregnant from January 2009 to October 2009, breast-feeding from then to July 2010, pregnant again from then to March 2011, and breast-feeding from then to December 2011.

I have run out of excuses, because my last baby is done feeding from me. But the secret eating continues, and because I have committed to my husband that this is Our Year (to get fit, to get skinny, to get healthy, etc...) well, I have to stop expecting this pattern to stop, and I have to actually DO something about it.

I have to acknowledge that this is not about my childhood or how I was parented or any of that shit. Not anymore. This is something about me, in my brain and my soul, something about the things I believe about myself. My worth. My goodness.

The thing is, I lost 12 pounds in January. I followed the diet (we're doing the old version of WW). I counted my points. I exercised. It was working. And then I was pulling into a McDonald's, justifying my french fries because, I don't know, I was pre-menstrual, the baby wouldn't let us sleep, my toddler was on my last nerve, pick a reason. And it tasted so fucking good, I cannot even describe. And then, I felt so fucking awful, I cannot even describe. I felt shame. I felt weak. I felt all those things that our thin-obsessed culture has taught me to feel. So I hid the bag and I didn't put those points on my count for the day.

And once I'd done it once, it was really easy to do it again.

My husband is not my parent, he's not a boss of me, he's not someone I need to hide my eating from. There is no one in my life I need to hide my eating from. So why am I doing this?

It is not only that I am sabotaging my success, it is not only that internally I don't believe I deserve to lose weight. I think I am creating shame, I am misbehaving to confirm my belief that I am someone who misbehaves. I am someone who is bad, who does bad things. It's not the food that makes me feel better, it's doing someone wrong - it's the sin of it.

Twisted, right?

I have got to, somehow, resolves the cognitive dissonance between my belief that I am a bad person, and my desire to behave in a right way. I don't know how. I am trying to continue following WW and supporting myself via supporting my husband's efforts (because he is doing so so well and I am so so proud of him - and because I want to join him, eventually.) I even exercised last night! But I don't know how to change my thinking. So let loose with the advice in the comments, folks, and any books or resources you've found helpful. I'm not looking for weight-loss resources, we have all the plans and apps and charts and equipment we need for that. I'm looking for emotional resources.

As with spiritual practice, Confession has an important role, and that is what this post is about. Confession is different from Shaming. So. This confession was the first step. This is still Our Year. And I thank you for being part of my process :)


  1. I am learning that every journey starts with one step. Looks like you have started your journey. You are a very wise and self aware woman and I believe these traits will serve you well. Trust in yourself. You can do it.

  2. Wish I could be of some help, but I'm fat and can't seem to do anything about it. In fact, I've gone to far to convince myself that it okay, it's who I am, my husband loves me.... what a cop out to being lazy and loving food. I wish I had given a shit when I was a lot younger. 44 is not an age where weight comes off easily. Oddly enough today I decided to try and change. And then you post this. Maybe you and I will figure out how to do this together.

  3. You are such a wise and self aware woman. I believe in you. Every journey starts with a single step. Starts like you've begun.

  4. I read this really great blog, and it's all about personal growth and change.

    One theme that comes up and one article I read a few months ago is about just changing your brain patterns is really hard. There was an analogy that was something like how if you go for a walk through a corn field everyday, the same way, you wear a path into the field. Into a field you can't really SEE the other side of, you just get there. And one day you hear from someone that you are taking a MUCH longer path through the field than is necessary and if you just adjust your course over by five feet, you'd get to the other side faster. But you start out one day and in front of you you have your well worn path, and five feet over is tall corn stalks. You can't just expect the new path to get well worn in a day. And in fact if you want to create that new path and have it be as easy as the old one, you have to do some hard work to push down the stalks, and it will take a while of daily walking to get a good path. And it won't be as well worn as the old path for YEARS.

    That's your brain. Re-mapping your brain takes DAILY work. Work that is NOT east for a while.

    Something practical I have done is I put up little notes around my room and say things outloud to myself EVERY SINGLE DAY in the mirror. For a few months I had "Let Go" on my mirror. After a few months, I was able to remind myself to let go in the midst of stressful situations. My mirror current says "you can't rush the seeds" among other things. You can't rush deep change. You have to water and nurture it everyday, but you can't rush it. That's a reminder for me for my weight loss goals as well as my personal goals.

    And one other thing......for me, having success in the weight/body area has meant realizing that I'm worth it. That I DESERVE to treat my body better. It's more than just my body, it's my everything. I'm worth taking care know? So are you.