50 Shades of Buffet: Comfort Food and Emotional Eating

50 Shades of Buffet: Comfort Food and Emotional Eating New Yorker Cartoon

You know how I told you I gained 52 pounds after Hurricane Katrina? Well, I figured out that I gained some of it way before then.

I have been doing a lot in therapy lately therefore a lot of good and bad memories surface for me.

Same reason I’ve been craving comfort food. Sometimes I come home and I just want to isolate with my favorite comfort food of the hour, and sometimes I do.

Is comfort food bad?

Hell no. Is emotional eating bad? Not in my opinion if it doesn’t become a habit, a problem, like anything else that can hurt you.Comfort Food and Emotional Eating: Franklin Avenue New Orleans comfort

I dream of being 130 pounds again. It has nothing to do with society. It has to do with my comfort. I don’t feel comfortable and I don’t like the way I look. When I was a child, I was a stick.

Kids made fun of me in school. They called me ‘toothpick” and it hurt my feelings. My mom and dad would take me a few times each week to Melba’s, an ice cream parlor in New Orleans. Oh my God. It was heaven.

I would either drink a big vanilla shake or get a double chocolate cone dipped in chocolate. When I was in high school, I was very athletic and I burned every calorie I ate. The same went after high school into college when I was playing tennis 4 hours each night and all day Saturday.

I’m sure I was emotionally eating at times but I didn’t ever think about it. I just ate and burned it off.

Then I found my mother dead.

That was in 1998. She had just left my business and she said she wasn’t feeling well. About an hour later I was at her house (the house I inherited and tried to save after hurricane Katrina) blowing life into her and feeling her ribs crack as I did CPR on her limp body.

I stopped working out but I kept eating. My weight yo-yo’d as the severe anxiety attacks started again and I lost about 30 pounds. People would see me and say, “WOW, you look great! How did you do it?” My response was always the same, “Anxiety.”
Comfort Food and Emotional Eating: Mom's Gumbo New Orleans

When the antidepressant kicked it, the anxiety decreased and I felt more “comfortable” so I started eating without consciousness and I ate to feel even more comfort but in a different way: To fill a void.

Fried oysters, French bread, gumbo, pasta — all of the staples in New Orleans.

Emotional eating specifics are highly personal. When you begin to eat, your eyes, hands and mouth start the chain of command. Then the brain kicks in. Sugar and starch activate serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to increase a sense of well-being. (It’s what makes antidepressants work.)

Salty foods trigger Oxytocin, (the “cuddle chemical”), a hormone that is also spiked by hugs and orgasm. Hence, potato chips.

Hard to choose?

My dream after my mother died was to not feel pain. It wasn’t possible without time or outside things to mask the pain but I made unhealthy choices and now I know it’s OK and I don’t beat myself up anymore.

After much time and tons of hard work in therapy, I still eat to feel good but it’s different most times.

One healthy way of emotional eating is that I eat my favorite flavor of sugar free Popsicle because my mom used to give me Popsicles when I had fever and it is a wonderful memory. She and I used to watch The Honeymooners and pop fresh popcorn topped with butter and shredded cheddar.

Now I will pop fresh popcorn but skip the butter and cheese. It still sparks good memories. I make her Sicilian lentil soup on a rainy and cold day and when I’m missing her. That is healthy to eat and comforting to my soul.

When we feel endangered, unsung and/or lonely, we eat. Food is also the friend who never disappoints or ditches us. Food is a fort we build. But it can be a healthy fort that comes with balance.

Comfort Food and Emotional Eating: Healthy comes with balance

Don’t convince yourself that seeking comfort through food is embarrassing, or that it makes you weak.

Start replacing the need to eat your pain away with other things that feel wonderful to you. Open the cookie jar but eat 1 instead of 8. Go to your favorite shopping center and window shop with a dream of buying that special outfit. Take a walk someplace you love. Really notice your surroundings.

Take a hot bubble bath. Pet an animal. Call the friend who makes you laugh hard. Laugh at yourself. For me, a hot bath always grounds me and so does Seinfeld. It just does. Do you know what else works when I’m feeling angry and frustrated? I go to the batting cages. It’sVespa for comfort awesome.

What a release.

My dream is to buy a Vespa scooter and ride all over wine country — another form of comfort to me. I’ve also started playing tennis again and my dream turned into a goal. I plan to play my first tournament in over 20 years this spring. When I win the tournament, I will reward myself with my favorite comfort food on that day. …..probably pizza with extra cheese or a big juicy burger with fries.

The biggest thing for me is I’ve taken the pressure from myself and I make a conscious choice every time I want to eat everything in sight. As I write this, I want a hot gooey triple chocolate brownie but I had a few squares of 85% dark chocolate.

It worked.

I want to tell you that the last thing I am is a downer or a negative person. I want to reach out to you with my truth and life story snippets so they may give your strength. Some things may resonate with you and if it helps you dream more and bigger, my life’s dream is done.

Until next Sunday, I send you much love and powerful energy,

Maria

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  • Love the 50 Shades reference and yes, comfort food is a necessity! Dark chocolate worked for me this weekend too. Love yoru idea of a Vespa. Once we all get on 2 wheels we can totally have fun around the county. Mine will be a sport motorcycle, but I’ll be there to explore with you and Cath :)

  • This is a topic that Dawson and I talk about quite a bit.  He says that weight is related to emotions and the chemicals in your brain and he is angered at all the diet-hype out there. 

    My father died when I was 18.  I still can see the moment when they pulled the cloth over his face and he was gone forever.  It’s something you learn to live with, but you don’t ever get over it.

    My dream is to buy a Vespa when Brian moves out to go to college and I am desperately missing him.  Because I know I will miss him like crazy and riding a little scooter around this county will distract me from the fact that he is all grown up and I have to get a life lol.

    I cannot for the live of me figure out why your photo is not showing up from gravatar — everything is correct.  I think Lisa’s took a while too.

    Love your posts.  Very loving and comforting – just like you.

    Cath