Calling in the experts

I have to admit it: I’ve been struggling lately. All sorts of sweets and good things have made their way into my kitchen and I feel helpless to stop myself from eating it all. And it’s a mindless feeding, one where I’m not even sure that I’m tasting the food as much as just shoveling it into my mouth.  As a Cookie Monster impersonation it’s spot on (“nom nom nom cookies!”), but as a lifestyle, it leaves a little to be desired.

It’s a weird feeling — most of the time, it’s as though once I’ve made the decision (well, “decision” might be overstating it) to binge, I completely detach and just eat, almost like being outside my body and seeing myself doing it. My brain shuts off; my hands and mouth work on their own. And it’s devoid of feeling until I wake up, and then: guilt, regret, remorse.

I’ve been trying to figure out the “why” of it. It’s not stress eating — at least, it’s not in response to any sort of stress that I’m aware of. I don’t think it’s emotional eating, because, frankly, I haven’t been all that emotional about anything lately. It could be hormonal, I suppose, because I am coming off birth control pills but none of the other typical hormone stuff is happening (TMI, I know … sorry … but you’ll just have to deal with it).

I think it just might be habit.

Watching TV? Let’s munch on something. Worked out this morning? Get a donut to celebrate. Reading a book? Watching a movie? Writing a blog post? Perfect time to eat since I’ll be too distracted to notice what I’m doing. And all this leads me to believe that while I don’t have an eating disorder, I certainly have a disordered relationship with food — it’s serving a purpose other than fueling my body.

And so I finally decided that I needed some help figuring this out.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a therapist — shortly after I started on meds, life was better and far more manageable and so I went out on my own. And it’s been good, to be honest. I had worked through a set of issues and was feeling confident about the direction I was headed. But now the food issue, which has always been around in one form or another, has become a problem that I no longer want to try and work out by myself.

My first appointment was about a month ago — I was nervous, but not as much as I thought I would be; this feels so much more like going to an expert for input on a problem instead of feeling like I’m broken and need fixing. It might only sound like a difference in semantics, but those two scenarios feel like different universes to me. I mean, if one of my dogs was itching so badly he wanted to chew his paws off (he does), I’d go to the expert — the veterinarian — to see what was wrong (I did) (Poor Clarke).

It’s been interesting working through things so far. Of course, food isn’t the only thing we’re touching on… as I’m sure it’s easy to guess, food and eating are the symptoms, not the actual problem. I do feel like I’ve got a little better handle on what might be going on, though.

I’m not going to go into details — writer/blog privilege and all that — but suffice it to say that I’ve seen progress even in the short time I’ve been going, and it all boils down to one thing, really — the “m” word. Being mindful. I’ve talked about it before, and I’ll likely talk about it again, but it’s the key to so much. Being present, being aware and really noticing life and emotions as they go by is empowering beyond words.

Habits are a great tool to get us through our days (imagine having to really THINK about brushing your teeth or driving to work), but being mindful is what makes those days worthwhile.  Truly experiencing life isn’t possible without stopping and taking in the moment. And whether or not you have an issue with being a Cookie Monster, just try it — stop, look, appreciate, even think about the “why’s” from time to time — because that’s how you get to know yourself, your life and everything around you.

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  1. Great post, Laura, thank you. It’s been a very long time since I’ve engaged in the kind of eating you describe here where I was completely detached from the experience, like an outsider looking in, but I remember that place well. I’ve been craving sweets, too, lately and I have no real excuse other than a doughnut sounded like the most delicious way to celebrate my morning on Friday (post workout no less). I had to laugh later because I’m sure I was just channeling my dad that day. Dad = doughnut. I try to be super kind to myself on those occasions and stay in the place of curiosity over judgement. After all, sharing a doughnut with my deceased dad sure beats criticizing myself up for not making a better choice. Here’s to mindful eating and permission. xxoo

  2. I also tend towards having a disordered relationship with food, so this reminder to be mindful is much appreciated! I too love cookies but lately I’ve been leaning towards bread & cheese. A lovely, crunchy baguette with just about any kind of creamy cheese. And boy am I paying for it now! I think it is also time for a trip to the therapist for me. Thank you for having the courage to share!

  3. Oh, I love the idea of you having a doughnut to spend some time with your Dad; I imagine that he’s looking on with approval!

  4. Bread and cheese. YUM. Yes, I could survive on those two foods alone (though I would miss cookies!). Thanks for the “atta boy” on sharing this — I wasn’t sure if I should, but I’ve been pleased with the response I’ve gotten, which has reminded me how much I’m not alone in this struggle.

  5. You are so right on… observing and realizing that you need to be more mindful. But I empathize with your search for the why. Sometimes it takes a fair amount of digging to make the association… to be brutally honest with oneself is some difficult work. Glad to hear you have hired a professional “excavator”… who will help you find the root cause, and clear away all the unnecessary stuff. And you will be left with a better version of you, I am sure!

  6. It’s messy work, for sure, but definitely worth it, and if nothing else, it brings out the scientist/detective in me.

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