Coming To Terms With My Emotional Eating

At the beginning of June, I was six pounds away from my weight-loss goal. Then, in the middle of the month, my aunt passed away unexpectedly — and those six pounds left my mind completely.
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For the first few days, I didn't have an appetite — but I knew that wouldn't last long. I'm an emotional eater, which for me means that food is often the first thing to cross my mind when I feel something. Happy? Mexican food! Angry? Let me grab a cupcake. Sad? Ice cream, please! Lonely? I'll have all the carbs — yes, all of them. Food has been a constant source of comfort and, I'm learning, a void-filler.
But, emotional eating is a slippery slope. Before I realize what I'm doing, I'm eating things I haven’t touched in years in an effort to find some semblance of comfort. I was surprised at how deeply this loss and bereavement affected my healthy living journey. By the time I flew from NYC to California to see my family, I was ready to eat my way through the grief. There was an abundance of foods around my grandmother's house: trays of baked goods, macaroni and cheese, enchiladas, and tamales were constantly dropped off from family, friends, and neighbors. Those foods became the centerpieces for bonding as our family worked through the devastating loss. My cousins and I reminisced over meat-filled tamales, while my mom and uncle shared memories over dense, buttery pound cake.
Food is that tangible thing that brings us together. I spoke about this in depth with the nutrition coach who helps run my online plus-size fitness boot camp, and through our candid conversations, I came to understand that finding comfort in family, friends, and food during a time of grief isn’t anything to be ashamed of. The hard part, for me, was navigating the transition between grief-eating and my healthy-curves lifestyle.
In theory, I should have left the baked goods, the mac and cheese, and the mashed potatoes in California when I flew back to NYC. The prescribed period of mourning was more or less over, and I was back to the grind. But, I was lonely. Even though I had moved forward in my grief process, I still felt a void — and I continued to fill it with food. I ignored my healthy lifestyle plan and ate whatever I wanted.
I’ve fallen off the wagon before, with my indulgent eating patterns undoing months of hard work in a matter of weeks. This time, though, things were a little bit different. I was still making healthy choices — they just weren't the only choices I was making. When I felt a bout of sadness come on, I said yes to foods I typically avoided. But, I also said yes to whole grains, leafy greens, and working out. So, now I’m 15 pounds away from my weight-loss goal instead of six. It's definitely not great, but it could have been worse.
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I believe that my emotions and my eating are intrinsically connected, and I've accepted that there will be times when I make poor choices based on how I'm feeling. I'm okay with that. I needed to eat enchiladas and In-N-Out Burger with my cousins in order to make it through a hard time. I'm not ashamed of admitting that. But, I don't need those indulgent foods to get through daily life. I don't need to succumb to every craving to be happy. So, I adjust and explore.
Instead of trying to change that part of who I am, I'm learning how to make the best possible choices that will still nourish me emotionally. Dates and almond butter can satisfy my sweet tooth as much as candy. A bowl of warm oatmeal with a smattering of dried cranberries is just as good as a stack of pancakes drenched in maple syrup — ok, almost. I'm more interested in staying on track, and it's important to me to make choices that reflect that.
I know I have it in me to find my motivation and finish the year strong. I've been cooking and exercising, and my body is loving me for treating it well. How have you been doing on your health journeys? Any setbacks? Big wins?
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