Total Weight Loss

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Emotional Eating

I am an emotional eater.  That isn't news to any of my long time readers as I have made that statement before.  This weekend as I had some 27 hours all alone with myself, the memory of my first emotional eating episode came to mind.  I'll share it now with the request that it be read gently and if anyone have any insights to share them kindly.  I am not a writer.  I do not articulate myself well in written form, but somehow my readers know what I'm trying to communicate anyway.  I'm sure that this time will be no different.  I look forward to reading the comments.

When I was a little girl, I had an uncle that I loved dearly.  He was my Daddy's youngest brother.  When I was a preschooler I considered marrying him.  That was before I knew that relatives didn't get married, not even in the south.  I still loved him and he loved me.  He seemed to understand my shy nature more so than anyone else.  We had lots of good times together.  He never pushed me to be anything other than me.  I flourished in that acceptance.

He died very suddenly and very tragically when I was in the 6th grade.  I remember vividly the moment my mother told me.  I remember the feeling of all of the air being suddenly sucked out of my lungs. I remember literally struggling to breath.  The emotional pain was so deep, it manifested itself physically.  I remember the trip to my grandparents house, playing mind games with myself.  Making up scenarios in which my uncle wasn't really dead.  Maybe he was just hurt very badly and my mother misunderstood.  Maybe we would get to my grandparents' house only to have to meet them at the hospital.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

We got to my grandparents and my worst fears were confirmed.  The house was filled with sadness.  All of the family was there or would soon be there.  It was as if there was a fog in the house and we were stumbling around, not knowing what to do.  Everyone was sad.  Everyone.

My grandparents were long time residents of their community and were very well respected, so there were lots and lots of people I didn't know there.  They were grieving along side us.  They brought food and stayed to offer whatever comfort they could.  We were all stunned in a way that is indescribable to someone that hasn't lived through that kind of pain.

Being so horribly shy, and devastated by the loss, I was totally overwhelmed.  I didn't know a lot of these people and they were wanting to hug me.  My grandfather was crying openly for his son.  I'd never seen that sort of sadness.  (Even now as I type this I feel the tightness in my chest and have to pause to get a deep breath.)  In the midst of all of this, I began to eat.

It wasn't a conscious decision as I recall.  I don't remember thinking, if I eat, I'll feel better.  I just got a plate and started eating.  No one told me that I shouldn't feel bad, so I wasn't stuffing the emotions down.  Everyone was sad.  I knew it was OK to be sad, but I'd never felt sadness on such a deep level.  I felt lost and alone.  Even in the middle of my family that I knew loved me as much as they loved my uncle, I felt lost and alone.

My grandparents house had a large kitchen with lots of counter space and a great big table where we could all eat together.  There was not a speck of room in the kitchen for any more food at all.  Maybe that sent me the message that food was supposed to help.  I don't know.

I remember eating copious amounts of fried chicken.  This chicken had probably been alive earlier in the day.  It had been heavily battered and fried, most likely in  lard.  I poked  through the dish and found the one with the most 'crust' on it.  I really didn't care which part it was, or if it was white or dark meat.  I wanted the crispy batter on the outside.  Of course, I'd been trained not to waste food, so I ate the whole piece.  It was the price I had to pay for the part I wanted.

I remember eating so much chicken that I hurt from being overstuffed.  No one stopped me.  No one asked if I was really hungry.  No one said anything.  I think no one noticed.  I think that everyone was so consumed with their own emotions that a quiet little 11 year old girl slipped their notice.

Don't get me wrong.  I am absolutely not angry with my family.  They were just doing the best they could too.  As a child, I had not developed any coping skills to deal with something of this magnitude.  I'm sure my parents never imagined that my sisters and I would need those skills at such an early age.  We all just did the best we could in those circumstances.  My choice at that time was to eat.

So, that's my story.  That is, I think, the first time, I turned to food for comfort.  I don't know why the memory surfaced this weekend.  It did, and I think there is a reason for it.  Maybe I'll learn that later.  Maybe I won't.  Maybe someone out there will see something obvious that I missed.  Maybe not.  Right now, I feel like the only thing I am supposed to do is share the story.  I have.

Please be gentle with me.  This was harder to share than the P90X pictures!


  1. After all these years, I am still so sorry for the little girl that you were that had to deal with that kind of tragedy, that young. :(

    The fried chicken was a coping mechanism....the easiest, closest thing to help you feel a tiny iota better, as you had to emotionally and mentally do something to bury some of the immense pain you were feeling. To me, it seems it's not much further off than a child is who is badly scarred that they develop split personalities as a way to cope. You just chose the comfort of good tasting food instead to deal with the suddenly unimaginable that had caught you completely off guard. It was your soul finding some, any way to buffer your heart and soul, even if just for a few brief minutes it took to eat it. Your body was protecting your heart. It's ok. You were a child. You did the best you could, Lori.

    :: hugs ::

    1. Thanks, Gwen. I think you are right on with your assessment. I needed something to numb the pain. Food was handy, not to mention tasty.

  2. I decided before you got fully into the story that I would write the first thoughts that came into my head after reading it so here goes.....I saw a little lost girl wandering around all alone because every one else was so lost in their own grief, they had nothing left to give to an 11 year old who was grieving just as deeply in her own 11 year old way. You were in an uncomfortable, not to metniont unfamiliar setting, had nothing to do, no distractions, the food smelled and looked good and you knew EXACTLY what to do with the food. So you did. Like you say, the important thing now is to own the memory (which you've done) and identify which emotion you were feeding. I think we tend to say we are "emotional" eaters, but stop short of ever naming WHICH emotion we are feeding. That's been very important in my own story. I've learned that I don't feed grief, but I sure as heck feed anger. I don't feed hurt feelings, but you better believe I feed loneliness. None of us feed EVERY emotion we have (IMHO)but we sure better know which ones we do feed. So maybe that's your "lesson" in this memory on this day. Was it grief you were feeding? Was it feeling all alone? Was it anger that no one was paying any attention to you? And more importantly, is it an emotion you still feed today??? Make sense??

  3. Sharon,
    I hadn't thought about that. Now, as I recall the story the two emotions that seem the most dominate are fear and loneliness. I was a afraid because I'd never felt pain like that nor seen adults that upset. I think my secure little world had been rocked to its foundation and I was scared.

    Also, I knew even then that I was going to miss my uncle terribly. I didn't think anyone would understand and accept me on the level that he did. I was right that I miss my uncle, but wrong that no one would ever understand or accept me.

    I'll have to ponder this a while longer, but at first blush, I think fear was the biggest emotion.

    Thanks for your input.

  4. I think it is good to examine feelings when they surface. Sometimes it's almost like they come back around so that we can feel them now that we aren't numbing ourselves with food. Not sure on that one.

    It's both painful and necessary to heal- IMO. Good luck and just know I've been an emotional eater since I was around 6 years old. You are not alone.

  5. I think you articulated yourself well. I don't know if it is nature or nurture with this whole EE stuff. I can go round and round about it, but I don't know if there's a solution to it, and there's no fix besides what we do, and trying to have more good days than bad ones.

  6. i lost my mama at 8 and daddy at 10 and i numbed myself with food for decades, i enjoyed that stuffed miserable feelin and if i just kept eating eventually my body was in as much pain as my soul, of course i didnt know that then hindsight IS 20/20 aint it! had cycle to break and even now all this time later it would be soooo easy to slip right back into. stay strong and know you're NOT that shy frightened girl anymore. you've come so far and you're an amazing strong woman that i am honored to call friend. I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU!!!