Why do we so easily find ourselves turning to food for stress relief? For some of us, it’s the sweet treats that take us away into softer places. For others, anything deep-fried, salty, or crunchy may do the trick. Perhaps you need a combination of all of these in your harshest moments.
Regardless of our food drug of choice, we are using what should be our daily nourishment as something to take us out of undesirable life circumstances.
I recently read an amazing book from Andie Mitchell, It Was Me All Along, detailing her personal food addiction struggle and eventual recovery. I can so relate to how she describes in detail how eating took her away from the sadness of a difficult childhood:
“Eating made me forget. The flavors, the textures, and smells entertained me enough to mute my other senses. Filling my belly stuffed my mind so completely that no space existed for sadness. Packing myself with sweets until I ached created a new sensation, one that had nothing to do with intense loneliness and broken dads.”
Oh, how I get this. My dad was extremely broken which, in turn, created a great deal of brokenness in me. I remember turning to large quantities of unhealthy choices often throughout my childhood to escape the pain. This has carried into my adult life as I continue to battle food addiction today.
Binge eating, started years ago for so many of us, becomes an autopilot mechanism for our stressful moments in life. We don’t even really think about it at times. It seems the decision to binge makes itself as Andie so perfectly describes in her book:
“I picked up the package, a bag of Kit Kat Pop Em’ Bites. I imagine it served five in a reasonable world, but one in mine. My heartbeat quickened. Close to a choice I should not be making, I felt excited and anxious, on the ledge of jumping into food oblivion. The decision made itself. Into the cart the Kit Kits went. That was it, I realized; I had decided to binge. Too late to turn back now…”
We think it’s too late to turn back once that bag of Kit Kats is in our cart, or even worse the first 5 have popped into our mouths. Here’s the good news: it’s never too late. We can stop that binge in its tracks. And if we’ve already finished up a full fledged binge, we can still move forward and forgive ourselves. (Read more about this in How to Recover From Emotional Eating Binges.)
The most important thing we can do is become aware of what is happening. Get off of autopilot and be mindful of the choices we are making. Even in our most stressful moments, we need to focus on what we are putting in our mouths.
“The change I’d undergone—from someone who ate to capacity to distract her mind, into someone who purposely tasted every morsel—was not unconscious. It was a transformation that had taken deliberate effort…”
This transformation from eating for distraction to people who mindfully enjoy their food must absolutely be a conscious effort.
Andie goes on to share about putting her fork down between bites instead of that shoveling in effort us overeaters know all to well. She allowed food to sit on her tongue for longer to actually savor it rather than the way I often swallow my meal whole, not actually tasting a bite.
This is the road to recovery. We must taste, feel, and stay in each moment, rather than using food to distract us from life. Instead of grabbing those donuts in your next crisis situation, try calling a friend, writing in a journal, praying Bible verses or even better, just listening to God. He can help you figure out what your body and mind are truly craving.
Try anything that will keep you present. Mindful eating is the first step and what I believe to be the key to recovery. For more on my own food addiction story, check out the monthly Turning to Food series.