After a particularly exhausting therapy session (for non-recovery PTSD), I left the Psychologist’s office feeling torn-apart, raw, vulnerable and extremely exhausted.
‘I just want to eat my feelings away’ I thought to myself as visions of French fries and deep fried wontons from my favourite Chinese delivery place danced in my head.
I pictured all the yumminess that I could stuff in my face to avoid how I was feeling and dull the pain. I could feel myself start to salivate. The crunch of the wontons mixed with that tangy sweetness of sweet & sour sauce. The hot, salty warmth of a perfectly fried potato…
Then, from somewhere inside of me, this other voice spoke-up and said ‘We need to stop doing that. We need to stop ‘eating our feelings’.”
And then the most incredible thing happened. I listened.
This is the first time I can recall, since I’ve been aware of those thoughts and my food addiction (using food to dull negative thoughts/feelings) that I had been able to say ‘no’ to the pull to make myself feel better with food.
This is monumental. It is HUGE.
It is what I’ve been working-towards, and writing about over and over again, but it’s the first time I have had such a clear, obvious, perfect, undeniable victory.
In the past, I would justify ordering- ‘I’ll just have the fries and a few wontons…’ ‘I deserve this, I’m working through a lot, it’s the least I can do for myself..’ ‘People eat this stuff all the time, why can’t I?’
Why can’t I?
Because, unlike most people, I’m not just eating it because it tastes good, I am eating it to dull something that is going on in my life. I’m eating it to escape. Food is to me as alcohol is to an alcoholic, or drugs are to an addict. I use food to escape. I use food to feel better. I use food to dull the pain/thoughts/fear, etc.
And so, on this day I made a conscious decision NOT to use food that way. I went home and ate a normal dinner with my family. Since then, I have had other victories, making the choice to not eat something because I was aware I only wanted to eat it so I would feel better.
I ask myself ‘Why do I want that?’ and if the answer sounds like ‘to feel better’ than it’s a red-light (a no-go). However, if the answer is: ‘because I really would like a piece of chocolate right now’, than it’s a green-light because there is no emotion involved.
Having a food addiction is different to other addictions. We don’t HAVE to drink alcohol to survive. We don’t HAVE to consume narcotics, etc. to survive. But, we do HAVE to eat to survive. We need food. Therefore, as an addiction, it’s not something that one can avoid. I have to eat.
That’s why I’ve been working-on teaching myself to be more mindful of ‘why’ I want to eat. Do I want to eat that because I’m hungry, or because it will taste good? Or, do I want to eat that to make myself feel better, dull the senses, escape, etc?
I’m feeling pretty stoked about that massive victory and excited at the idea that I might, actually, be able to start getting some power over all of this. Feeling that I have the strength within me to conquer these things is really inspiring and I hope to just keep pushing-forward and becoming more reliant on myself and less reliant on food when things are tough.