Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Confession

I'm about to get all confessional up in here.

I hesitated about blogging about some of my more "darker" issues regarding food, but at the urging of some friends who were interested (and in the interest of continuing to deal with these things more openly), I think that it might be a good idea.

It all starts a long time ago: When I was a kid, my mom used to allow us to get an ICEE occasionally.  Cold and sweet and delicious to our young taste buds, we were always excited.  I have a memory of riding around in the backseat of our Buick on a sunny California day, sipping and sipping on my ICEE.  Mom either commented (or I realized) that I didn't need to drink it all at once; it was better to savor it and sip it slowly.  I remember watching her as she would casually take a drink here and there, not drinking it all down at once.  I remember trying really hard to take just one little drink, then ignore it for a while, but my brain kept nudging me to drink again immediately, to keep drinking and drinking and drinking.  After that, it was a battle between a desire to gulp it all down (followed by sadness because it was all gone) and the sensible move to try to savor it slowly.

My friends, what I'm trying to get at is that sometimes I overeat.  That compulsive behavior is troubling and ugly to me, so I have hid it and hoped no one noticed--until now.

Monday, I came home from work.  It was dinner time, and I was ravenous, so I heated up some leftovers and some peas and toasted tortillas.  It normally would have been a satisfying meal, but I could feel the overwhelming desire to just shove food into my face, rapidly and without discernment.  So I made a quesadilla, and tried to force myself to drink water and think about the fact that I was physically full and didn't need to eat anymore.  For the rest of the night, I fought the compulsion to eat and was partially successful, though I still ate more than I needed.  I felt okay because it was a good step in the right direction, but I felt like a failure because I as trying to eat more lightly to balance out the events over the weekend where I ate a lot.

This is not a new feeling for me.  I feel out of control, pulled by my body's desire for MORE, wanting to stop, unable to control myself.  This is why I rarely have ice cream in the house, or large amounts of chocolate or sweets--I can't just eat one serving.  Sometimes I can, if I eat a bit and then go somewhere or do something, but if it's just me and a pint of ice cream in the house, all bets are off.

I'll dish out a little bit, put the container away, and savor my portion slowly.  But then my brain will nudge me--hey, there's ice cream!  I'll fight it.  Hey! Resist.  Then...fiiine, one bite.  Which turns into a few more, until finally there's only a little bit left on the bottom.  Now that L is around, he notices and will sometimes question (especially when he wants a little bit), but I'll try to play it cool or fib or act like it's no big deal.  Usually, he's not around or in the same room.  And he's really good about not making me feel like I was doing something wrong, but I always feel ashamed of my lack of control.

One a much more minor level, I also tend to overeat often to a point of discomfort when I'm at events with lots of food out, especially if there are sweets.  This also seems like a coping mechanism to deal with social anxiety.

I'm not always certain what triggers these compulsive eating sessions.  It might be related to restricting calories or it might have to do with feeling out of control.  Sometimes, I'm just sad or unhappy or upset and want to eat a lot of ice cream.  Whatever's at the root, though, is something I need to dig up and look at so I can figure out how to proceed.

I'm starting to realize that although this is not a daily event, I need to find better ways to cope.  One is to put myself in situations where food is abundant and everyone is eating, but that hardly seems plausible since I enjoy socializing with my friends and food is a natural part of that.  I think I'm taking a good first step here by sharing this in a public forum.  I realize now, perhaps when I get to that place, I should call a friend or go for a walk or let L help me.  I know, especially now, that I'm not alone in these struggles.

Food and cooking and eating well are things that I love and things I refuse to banish from my life.  I just hate that something that's the source of so much pleasure, something that can bring a lot of enjoyment and can be a healthy part of social interactions is also something that I struggle with.

Thanks for listening, y'all.


Anonymous said...

You're NOT alone!!! I totally agree that the root cause is probably something like stress or anxiety. I've tried the whole "not buying large quantities of anything" deal, but the REAL key is to have the temptation and to be able to posess self control. I haven't figured it out yet, so let me know if you do...

Maybe I should just push my stubbornness out into the ring up against my inner garfield. Oh, hello sugar detox. lol

Anonymous said...

You aren't alone girlie. Thanks for this post - you're so strong and awesome!

Kerry said...

There are a lot of good cognitive-behavioral manuals out there for social anxiety (I co-led a social anxiety group this year). New coping strategies are always great - and recognizing them as coping strategies is NOT a weakness, as we all use different strategies to regulate our thoughts and emotions.

Overachievers often have difficulties with food compulsions - because it is something that is controllable in a world where we cannot control everything! It's not something to be ashamed of - rather something of which to be aware. As I'm sure you know from college, I have a tendency to *undereat* when I am unconsciously asserting my own desires for control.

I'm glad you were able to talk about this. It becomes something so dark when you feel like it's something that should be hidden! But it's not "pathological" - it's normal human experience. Recognition, and acceptance, are so important. You know I love you to death, Jenn - this is not something about which you should feel shame. And I am a doctor, so you know I'm right. ;) Love you, dear.