Breaking Up With Food

I got this great comment on Thursday from Foodie McBody:

You know what is the most impressive to me? Is how you clearly had such an intense and emotional relationship to food, which has its claws in so many of us and how you managed to turn that around. I think that is the key, the pivotal turning point. Because really it’s not just about “eat less, move more” – it’s about changing the emotional and psychological mindset that drives the secretive, shameful behavior. I would love it if you could write more about your emotional journey and what it was like to change those aspects of your relationship to food.

And this one from Fitzi:

I’m with Foodie McBody in that I’m intensely curious as to how you flipped the switch and willed yourself to change your emotional orientation toward food. I find this so painful to cope with, and have never succeeded in the long term at doing this.

After reading those comments I realized, not for the first time of course, that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with an unhealthy emotional relationship to food. And for me, that’s what it was – an unhealthy relationship. I can sugar coat it, dress it up, or dance around the wording, but that’s what it comes down to for me. I had a problem with food.

I want to thank Foodie McBody and Fitzi for asking this question, but I also want to assure them, and anyone else that is reading this, that although it’s a hard battle to win, it is a winnable battle. I’m no different than anyone else who has struggled with obesity. I’ll do my best to share what worked for me, and maybe it will put you on further on the path to victory.

Food was near and dear to me. I thought about it all the time. I worried if I didn’t have enough. I desired more than I needed.

When I started on my journey for the last time, I focused on three things. Eating, Emotions, Exercise. Another day, I’ll talk about my eating plan and exercise, but for today I’ll start with the emotional struggles. You know if you’ve read my blog for any length of time that I had issues with food. So, when I was standing on the doctor’s scale feeling really scared for my health, and my life, I knew I had a decision to make. I could either continue down the obesity road, or I could do an “about-face” and work my way back to health.

The eating plan fell into place, as did the exercise, but the emotional part was the piece of the puzzle that most often threatened to derail my plans and desires. To combat the tendency to fall off the wagon because of emotional issues, the first thing I did was keep an “emotions journal.” (I’m not into journaling per se, but in this case it definitely served its purpose.) What I did was write down how I felt every time I ate something, and more importantly, I wrote down how I was feeling when I felt the urge to eat something that wasn’t on my plan. Over a period of about two weeks I had many different notations, but among the notations I saw a pattern emerge.

Worried. . . . Frustrated. . . . Sad. . . . Bored. . . . Scared. . . . Out of Control. . . . Jealous. . . . Lonely. . . . Upset. . . . Anxious. . . . Stressed Out

I realized that for me, it wasn’t just one emotion that sent me running for my secret stash, but rather it was a range of emotions. That was actually eye opening to me, because if you had asked me when I was first beginning the journey, I would have said I only ate when I was stressed, but that wasn’t actually accurate.

Recognition and realization were the first step in conquering my emotional attachments to food. Over the next weeks and months I was amazed at how often I desired to overeat. Even after I had lost a substantial amount of weight (maybe 75 or 80 pounds) the strong, strong desire for chocolate, candy, and cookies was still there. But instead of giving into it, I had started to get a foothold on conquering my dependency on food.

Because this post is going on longer than I had planned, I’m going to stop here, and finish on Monday. If you are on a weight loss journey yourself, I’d encourage you to take some time today, and over the weekend, and start to examine what emotions you are feeling when you feel the desire to eat food you know you shouldn’t be eating.  I’d be very interested in hearing what you expect to find, and if what you expected, turned out to be different than your reality.

48 thoughts on “Breaking Up With Food

    • Diane says:

      @ Hanlie – And I from you. I love your healthy attitude towards weight loss. You are doing great! Emotions are so complex, it’s a wonder we ever know what we are really feeling!

      @ MizFit – Thanks . . .

  1. Keri says:

    I think this may be one of the most important things I’ve read in a long time. Wow – I think you should be on Oprah!

  2. Amy H. says:

    For me, food is like an addiction. If I eat for any other reason than for hunger right now, it’s fueling that addiction. When I look at bingeing as a drug habit, it helps me to keep things in check. I don’t want to be a drug addict.
    .-= Amy H.´s last blog ..Pie =-.

    • Diane says:

      @ Keri – Thank you for that. I wish I could be on Oprah! I appreciate the compliment.

      @Amy – Very, very wise. It definitely can be an addiction, and like drugs, an unhealthy one. That’s a good way to look at it.

    • Diane says:

      Thank you for reading. I think it’s great that you are learning to stop, and think about why you want the chips! For me, that was one of the best things I did. Stop!

  3. FLG says:

    I’ve been meaning to reply for a while now to say thankyou for all the kind comments on my blog, but I really haven’t known how to jump in. This post though I can really relate to, except for me it was the emotions and thoughts that fell into place for me first and was really the biggest part for me. It meant that whatever happened, whether I stuffed up with the eating, I knew it wasn’t over and gave me confidence that this was going to be my last effort.
    .-= FLG´s last blog ..C25K Week 3 Day 3 + More! =-.

    • Diane says:

      I’m glad you found something to comment on! You are welcome on the comments on your blog. You are doing a great job on your journey! I like your last two words – “last effort.” That’s what I always tell people, “This can be the last time you lose weight!”

      Thanks for coming by!

  4. Fitzi says:

    I want to thank you with all my heart for taking the time to respond to Foodie’s and my comments about the “emotions issue.” I too can think of a wide *range* of emotions I experience that trigger me to want to overeat. Boredom is chief among them! I really noticed that problem during the evenings this past week because my internet was out at home, and that’s often how I kill time before bed.

    I will be eager to read your continuation of this theme on Monday!
    .-= Fitzi´s last blog ..Doing Something About It =-.

    • Diane says:

      Fitzi – Don’t thank me. I thank you for reading and responding. It makes all the time worth it! I too ate most often from boredom. Do you ever think about the people before electricity, and how they were probably so tired from working hard all day they didn’t have time to be bored! I think about that a lot, with our “connected” society.

  5. Tammy says:

    I’m the biggest emotional overeater in the world. I’m 37 years old and have been overweight and eventually obese for at least 25 of those years. I could use all of the emotions you used plus about 10 more. When I made my decision to lose the weight 8 weeks ago, it’s because I finally got mad. I finally got so disgusted with my weakness towards giving in to food that I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore. I finally said “NO MORE FAT TAMMY!!”

    When an emotion hit me and I wanted to gorge or binge, I cried it out and kept the food out of my mouth until it passed…sometimes I cried for 2 or 3 hours trying to beat it. But I’ve pushed through it so far. No binges. No emotional overeating since I started. I got tired of starting over. I got tired of feeling like a failure….25 years worth will wear on you. I finally made up my mind to get the weight off and push through all of the emotions that have led me to overeat.

    I’ve got a long way to go. Nothing saying I won’t slip or stumble along the way…but my mind’s definitely in a much better place than it was just 8 short weeks ago. Thanks for this post Diane….you’re such a terrific inspiration to so many…myself included. 🙂
    .-= Tammy´s last blog ..Month #2 Goal Met!!! =-.

    • Diane says:

      Tammy – Oh, wow. Thank you so much for this really honest comment. You know that you are not alone in your feelings. I felt them, and I’d bet that a lot of people who read your comment can relate 100%.

      The best thing is that you have turned around from what is so frustrating to you, and are working on breaking the cycle.

      It’s okay to have a long way to go – just as long as you keep moving in the right direction! You are off to a great start!

  6. Leah says:

    I used to say that I was a “happy” eater. I loved to eat at family gatherings, social gatherings, meals, etc. etc. Oh, and boredom….BIG previous boredom eater here.

    It would be interesting now that I’ve begun working more seriously on my weight loss to journal when I want to eat something “off plan” and see what I’m feeling and see if there’s still more emotional ties to food that need to break. hhmm….

    I have to say that I dealt with a lot of emotional stuff before I even got serious about my food choices, but I know there could be more stuff to deal with, particularly when I am PMS’ing I think.

    I look forward to Monday’s post continuing on in these thoughts. I’m also encouraged in reading everyone’s posts and seeing I’m not alone in this. Thanks, Diane!
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..Reduced-Fat Thoughts =-.

    • Diane says:

      Leah – Emotions are real. People who say, “Just get your willpower going people” have obviously never had a weight problem!

      Working through the emotional part of overeating is vital, because although not everyone struggles with this, more people do than don’t.

      You are doing a great job, and I really think this time you will have the success you long for!

  7. Pam says:

    I am a much less emotional eater than I used to be, although I am still a boredom eater. Slowly I am taking control of these destructive behaviors and taking my life back! I still have about 125-130 more pounds to go, but at least 70 of them are past me now!

    Thanks for being here for all of us who are working our way to the success you worked so hard for!
    .-= Pam´s last blog ..Weigh In for 8/7 =-.

    • Diane says:

      @Pam – That’s amazing that you have already lost 70 pounds. Excellent job. You have obviously taken a huge step in the right direction.

      Thank you for the compliment. Reading your comments really makes it worth it!!!

  8. Emily says:

    I loved reading this honest post.
    The best advice I was given when trying to untie myself emotionally was to keep it simple and to make sure I gave my digestive system a rest between eating (rather than snacking throughout the day).
    I’m looking forward to Monday’s continuation 🙂
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Smoked Salmon & Pea Salad. =-.

    • Diane says:

      @Sagan – Thanks – there are a lot of emotions involved.

      @ Emily – It sounds like you have a really healthy attitude towards food, and have a good plan in place. I’m still thinking about the picture on your last blog of the smoked salmon. Beautiful!

  9. Foodie McBody says:

    I am thrilled and moved and honored that you responded to my post so directly and can’t wait to read more of what you have to say. You know, I’ve read suggestions SO MANY times to “journal your feelings” when eating but I know so many few people who actually DO IT. It’s the DOING it that makes the difference. I’ve written things down when I’m in a huge crisis, but not on an everyday basis, and not for what I considered “small emotions.” Also I have noticed recently that I am much more likely to “eat when happy” (with friends or to celebrate) than to “eat when stressed” but even “happy emotions” can pack on the pounds.

    Thank you for addressing this issue. It is so important.
    .-= Foodie McBody´s last blog ..piiiizzzzzzzzzaaaaa =-.

    • Diane says:

      Foodie – As I told Fitzi, thank you for the great comment, and one that prompted this post. You make a good point – a lot of times we KNOW what to do, but sometimes just hearing it one more time makes us think, “Well, maybe I should try it.”

      You are right about happy eating! I have another post about that later, because happy eating is fun, but it sure can make us heavy!

  10. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    When it comes to emotional eating, I guess I would say too that I eat when I’m stressed. But when I think about it, that’s not entirely true. Like Foodie McBody, I too tend to eat too much when I’m with friends and when I’m happy. Maybe it’s because I’m used to eating a lot at gatherings… Maybe I sometimes still equate having a good time with eating… Thanks for the encouragement to write down our emotions!

    Have a good weekend! And I’m looking forward to Monday’s post… 🙂
    .-= Andrea@WellnessNotes´s last blog ..Homemade Pizza: Easier Than I Thought =-.

    • Diane says:

      Andrea – I think that eating out of happiness is very common. It’s something I talk about in my class often, it’s not just sad feelings, but happy ones that trigger our desire to eat.

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad your pizza turned out so well!

  11. Cami Checketts says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am addicted to my afternoon bowl of ice cream. I always justify that it’s all right because I run and strength train and am at a healthy weight, but I don’t want to be addicted to anything. Your blog is really helping me put food in perspective.

    Blessings to you,

    • Diane says:

      Cami – I’m glad you like the blog – I enjoyed your site too! A published author, I am so impressed.

      My mother-in-law used to eat a bowl of ice cream for breakfast, so I understand that craving. I would often eat ice cream right out of the carton.

      I agree with you about addictions – they are not good.

  12. Jody - Fit at 51 says:

    Diane, such a great post!!! Since I grew up on all this fattening stuff, I had a love for it early & it was just a natural part of life. Man, I loved it & I loved the sweets. And as we all know, it is “addicting”. As I got older, yes, I then became addicted to it & my love for the taste. AND, I ate more of it for all the emotional reason you mentioned in your post. It was every emotion, not one! Even happiness.. to celebrate, food was there! But behind al that, the sadness of what being fat does to you & a catch 22 cause we eat to hide this.

    Honestly, I do really like all the foods I eat BUT after all these years, I still long for my sweets more often, my cinnamon rolls & real cookies & such. It is not the regular food that tempts me. It is the sweets. SO, I have just learned to as you said, conquer this mentally & because I do eat well & exercise, I can enjoy them in moderation.. just not all the time. I think we all have to make compromises on this journey to being healthier.

    To me, it will be life long BUT I have gained the mental fortitude & I love being healthier & fit. And like you mentioned, I know what “does it to me” and I have established strategies to combat the over eating & binge eating that work for me.

    I can’t wait to hear the rest of your journey!!! Thx Diane. Your posts are always so enlightening!

    • Diane says:

      @ Jody – It’s interesting that after all these years, the longing for sweets is still there. Me too. But, like you I’ve managed to have them in moderation, and treat them as something special.

      @ Lady G – For me, the relationship to food is still important, but now it’s much more of a positive one! Thanks so much for the comment!

  13. vickie says:

    you may have already writen about this – I have not gotten through all of your past posts back to your beginning yet (you are welcome to just refer me to a past posting – will not hurt my feelings)

    within your calories or your total volume of food – how ever you figure it – how to do you keep balance so that you are eating enough of some things and not too much of others?

    I guess I am thinking (for myself) of protein, fats, carbs – and then things like rotating between the veggies and getting enough fiber as the general areas of interest.
    .-= vickie´s last blog ..I do not self sabotage – and if you smack me up along side the head – I pay attention =-.

    • Diane says:

      Vickie – I haven’t written about it, but I will soon. In the meantime I’ll email you. I really liked your blog post about self sabatoge.

  14. Lola says:

    Such a well written post. For me, I really, really want to be true to myself and live in the moment. I’m tired of living on autopilot and eating things/doing things one way just because I’ve always done them that way. Like, having popcorn at the movies just because I always have popcorn at the movies, even if I don’t feel like eating popcorn. You know? I want to live fully in the moment and eat because I’m hungry or because I want to taste. Whatever, but I want to own it and do it on purpose.

    Thanks for your post.
    .-= Lola´s last blog ..Official Weight – Week 46 =-.

    • Diane says:

      Lola – You have really hit on a great point. We do often live as if on autopilot, and eat things just because they are there, or just because we always have. Great, great point!

  15. Rhonda Haan says:

    Breakfast and lunch seem rushed; breakfast to get out the door on time and a limited lunch period. Dinner is always noisy, with children fighting over who gets to tell about their day first, interruptions, corrections about table manners. It feels like the only time to actually SAVOR my food and my addiction in peace and quiet is when everyone is asleep. So night time eating has become a habit. On top of that, I reward myself with “real” food, regular soft drinks, no fat free; diet anything, which tends to make me overeat more. Plus, I’m always tired and for some reason I think eating will give me energy.
    I don’t know if I can change this habit. It’s a real stress relief at the end of a long day. Maybe I should start cross stitching to keep my hands busy while I’m watching TV. Maybe instead of “savoring” my food at night, I should wake up before everyone else, and “savor” my food then. But food doesn’t have the same appeal in the morning as it does the night. Interesting post, I’ll have to write down my feelings and see what’s truly there.

    • Diane says:

      I agree that the concept of savoring food in the morning isn’t quite as appealing as at night! Nighttime eating is a common topic in my classes!

      It can be hard to break this one. You can change the habit, but it probably won’t be easy. Perhaps you may try to make a small changes:

      – First week – plan your snacks to be lower in calories/fat
      – Second week – eliminate 2 nights completely

      If you continue on in that vein, perhaps you can have some success.

      Have you seen your doctor for the tiredness? Perhaps he/she might be able to help too.

      Thanks for the comment.

  16. Lara (Thinspired) says:

    Great post. I agree, the first step is recognizing our emotional attachments to food. Tackling it is a whole separate venture. I can relate to having an entire range of emotions related to why I overeat, which is why it is difficult to isolate just one when I try to ask myself, “Why are you doing this?”

  17. Debby says:

    Excellent post. I can’t wait for Monday now!

    I’ve always said I was a happy eater and I’m always happy. I don’t think I’ve ever been depressed and stress doesn’t really enter my life I think. I’m going to keep a notebook with me this week, however, and try to pinpoint how I feel when I want to eat something I souldn’t, which is OFTEN. I’ve lost 180 pounds and just this week I was preparing to go to a funeral…as soon as I knew I might go I immediatly thought…ohhhhh I can eat what I want today. Don’t know why I thought that. I wasn’t upset at the prospect of the funeral as the girl that died wasn’t close. I was going only as support to the family. Was just a weird thing to pop over me. I think just anything out of the ordinary makes me want to eat…to think I deserve to eat. I think my notebook could be interesting!

    Thanks for the great post.
    .-= Debby´s last blog ..Dieting, Death, and Bits of This and That =-.

  18. The Crazy Woman Inside Me says:

    Wonderful post, Diane. Hearing words of wisdom from someone like you who’s been there and done that is like gold.

    I was an emotional eater for decades. It’s only in the last several months that I’ve finally managed to stop the emotional merry-go-round and get a real handle on my compulsive overeating.

    Taking the time to get to know ourselves and what makes us tick is so important. That involves lots of introspection and then realizing and accepting our problems, rather than simply recognizing them and forgetting about them because they seem too difficult to bother to change. Making the shift from an emotional overeater to a sane, rational eater isn’t easy but the tremendous benefits greatly surpass the effort.

    .-= The Crazy Woman Inside Me´s last blog ..From Weight Watchers in 1970: The Art of Good Cooking =-.

  19. Kimberly says:

    Food was my refuge for such a long time. It was my emotional safety net and security blanket. When I had a tough day I overate. When someone was mean to me I overate. When I had a good day I celebrated by overeating. I think I am finally breaking free of that but it really was all about taking it one day, maybe even one minute at a time, and recognizing that I don’t have to shove food into my mouth to feel better. There are other ways to feel secure and comforted with devouring a pizza or slurping down chili dogs.
    .-= Kimberly´s last blog ..Better Bloggy Edition =-.

  20. Kat says:

    Diane, thank you for this post. It is helpful to see your strategies. I have lost weight in the past only to gain it back and then some. I know how to lose weight, the challenge for me has been maintaining the loss. It really does need to be an internal process to figure out what works for each of us individually. Your weight loss and continued success gives me hope. Thank you!

  21. mia says:

    Hi Diane,

    Thank you for creating this blog!

    I have found some of your articles, such as this one, to completely resonate with me.
    For me, overeating has always been completely emotional and due to boredom. I am determined to live life to the fullest now!

    I find your writing inspirational, and addresses so many key issues for those of us with weight problems-in a way that is sincere and honest!

    Love from Indonesia!

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