Someone once told me, “You binge and starve because you don’t understand food. Food is fuel, it is not emotional. You can’t feel food. Stop making it more than what it is. Stop making it harder than it needs to be. Just eat what your body needs and leave the rest.”
My eyebrows shot up to my hairline. My ears caught fire. Even now as I write this, I rage. Outwardly I replied with “….um okay, whatever,” but in my head I was stabbing this person in the neck with a sharp cookie. “CAN YOU FEEL THE FOOD NOW?!”
I can. I always can.
Those in the WLR community know the rule. Weight loss and healthy living are 20% exercise, 80% diet and nutrition. Pretty simple. The rule is not based in observation or opinion, but in scientific fact. No matter how you feel about it, food makes up 80% of your weight loss success or failure.
No matter how you feel about it.
As a disordered eater, therein lies the struggle.
I can work out. I lift heavy free weights with the big boys. I am happy to play pickup games in the gym all day long, ride a bike, crank a jagged rock face. I can work and sweat until Niagara Falls runs off my face, darkens my shirt, and soaks my underpants. I can run lines, run intervals, use the stair mill until I can’t lift my feet off the floor. I grew up doing farm work – cross fit and the content of Spartan races are what we called “weekend chores.”
Working out is easy.
Eating right is hard.
In fact, not too long ago and for all of my life before then, I would have told you that eating right is impossible, because according to every dietician and successful health nut I’ve ever talked to, “eating right” means eating without feeling.
“Just fuel your body. That’s it.”
I have been an anorexic bulimic since I was seven years old. For thirty years I have fought with food. For thirty years I have FELT FOOD.
A bag of potato chips wasn’t just tasty and salty, it was sorrow, anger, and defiance.
An extra piece of pie was freedom.
A cheeseburger with garlic fries was independence. If I made it a double, it was rage.
The first cookie was joy. The second and third were fear. The rest were self-hatred and worthlessness.
The guy who told me “you can’t feel food” was probably right, but only for him. HE might not be able to feel food, but I can. And I DO.
I still do.
“Hi. My name is Erin, and I am a Feeler of Food.”
As a Feeler of Food, I’ve had to learn a few things. In order for me to make any sort of progress with my diet, in order to transform myself from a disordered eater to a healthy eater, I’ve had to learn a few things.
- If I EAT, I feel food less. If I eat a huge, protein heavy, intentional breakfast, I don’t feel food until dinner. If I eat a huge, protein heavy, lots of vegetables, low carb dinner, I don’t feel food for the rest of the night.
- If I PLAN, I EAT. I know I’m a Food Feeler, so I must plan. Just like a newly recovered alcoholic has to plan their day and evening activities to avoid temptation, I must do the same with food. I cook huge amounts of random protein and leave them in my fridge. I buy and keep protein powder in the house for snacks and “I’m going to eat all the cookies” emergencies. I meal plan for dinners. I make real pancakes for my kids, but only half a batch so there aren’t leftovers laying around. I only bake on days when I can send the extras with The Mr to work. Plan, plan, plan. I leave nothing to whim, fate, chance, or impulse. For me, failing to plan is an almost guaranteed binge.
- If I SLEEP, I feel food less. If I get enough rest, ALL of my feelings, food or otherwise, are moderate and reasonable. Going to the grocery store tired is just as bad as going when I’m hungry. I cannot cope well with a tired mind.
- YES I FEEL, but how I act on those feelings is a choice. No matter how I feel about anything, I am not a victim to my emotions. Feelings are no excuse for any behavior. They may explain an inclination, they can make “the right choice” more difficult, but they do not abdicate my responsibility to myself or my health.
And lastly, and MOST IMPORTANT,
- FEELINGS DO NOT HAVE TO ERASE INTELLIGENT, INTENTIONAL THOUGHT. Just because I feel the food does not mean I have to shut my brain off. In fact, accepting my truth and embracing my emotional state has made it easier for me to rationalize my choices. When I’m standing in the kitchen with a hankering to eat the entire contents of my fridge, I STOP. I THINK. I ask myself “Why do you feel this way, what are you feeling, is there anything else that can fill this emotional need?”
In the road that runs between “FEEL” and “EAT,” I’ve built a toll booth. A gap. A PAUSE. I’m able to stop the compulsion-driven, runaway car from running away. Instead of flooring it and heading straight for the fridge, I step outside of myself and evaluate the whens and whys and hows. Most of the time I still eat the thing, but not as much. Just a bite, and then drink a jug of water. Or I’ll eat a sensible mini-meal (one that was planned out and ready in the fridge), then eat the Feeling Food.
At Weight Loss Rebels, we are here to find our way. We come here seeking and searching, hoping and desperate, fed up and fighting. We want answers and rescue, leadership and community. We want to know that we’re not alone, that we’re not broken, and that “yes, you can actually do this.”
If you are a Feeler of Food, you’re in the right place.
You CAN do this.
There is nothing wrong with you.
Keep feeling, but learn to think. Pause. Refuse to be a victim to yourself and your emotions.
And remember, those feelings you have that you cope with and express through food are good things, legitimate and deserving of their existence.
We just need to find a new way of dealing with them.
Keep Pushing Forward,