Last week I went to the doc and had a photos taken of my trachea. They put a teensy tiny video camera up my nose and down my throat. When the doc played the video back for me and I saw what I’ve been feeling I felt a wash over my body. It was a moment of OMG it’s real. I didn’t make it up. My next thought was Oh fuck it — What do I want to eat?
It’s funny (not funny) how we reflex back. How I reflex back. I wanted a brownie sundae. Or a cream cheese kolache. Or both. I wanted a margarita or a pina colada with a dark rum float and extra whipped cream. I wanted to eat + drink all my feelings. When I realized that we were, in fact at a hospital and the only thing I could likely get my hands on was a candy bar I thought… Snickers! I could go for a Snickers. It was like a Disney movie in my head. Brilliantly dressed up foods dancing past me promising to take away all this anxiety in my body.
Mind you all this is happening while I’m still in the exam chair, the doctor is talking to me and Cliff is sitting across from me asking his thoughtful questions about my health. They say a second set of ears is helpful for that moment when you glaze over. Apparently my version of glazing over takes me right to food negotiations.
And then it happened, as it’s happened many times before — I remembered that any amount of food or drink would not heal these feelings. They’d only serve as a (delicious) band aid that would likely lead to a stomach ache, headache and heart ache. I didn’t have a Snickers. Or a pina colada with dark rum float and extra whipped cream. I sat there. I put my hand on my chest and took as deep a breath as my little airway would allow and I said quietly to myself, “Lacy, I love you. You’re going to be ok. It’s ok to feel this way. You’re doing such a good job dear girl. Ask for what you need. Ask your questions. Let Cliff support you. You’ve got this.”
I came back to the present. I asked the very kind doctor my questions and still really appreciate her candor. We left and I continued to take deep breaths to help clear the giant lump of stagnated energy in my belly and throat.
This is the root of emotional eating for me. Emotions well up in such a big, scary way that I just want to numb it out and eat as much as possible to make them stop or at least shut them up for a moment. When I indulge and eat my feelings I’m left in a fog of regret and physical discomfort. When I come back to the present, sit with the feelings, watch them change, and breathe them out of me I feel like I have a tether. At first it’s wildly uncomfortable and then a little crack of light opens up and I begin to slowly but surely feel free from those guttural desires to numb and self medicate with food.
5 Steps to Help Navigate and Heal Emotional Eating ::
1. Observe your thoughts.
Do you go right to cream cheese kolaches or your chosen food drug of choice? Notice what comes up and resist the urge to judge or change it. Pay close attention. Can you begin to understand what’s causing your thoughts/emotions? Is it fear? Of what? That’s so important in establishing their validity.
Fight or Flight is carnal. It’s your bodies innate sense of self preservation. When the going gets tough where do you want to run to? Food? Drink? Can you allow yourself to stay and sit with the emotion that you’re experiencing?
Notice your breath. Are you taking shallow breaths? Breathing more quickly? Bring a hand to your chest or your belly, lengthen and deepen your breath. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
4. Speak kindly.
Give yourself a word of encouragement. Tell yourself - I see you. I feel you. I hear you. Validating your own experience is a simple but powerful practice. You’re not silly for feeling this way. You’re quite possibly in the midst of negotiating some really tough stuff and some tenderness can go a long way.
What do you need to move through this? A plan can help you stay present and grounded. Can you ask for support from friends and loved ones? Have a loved one hug you. Talk it through. Stumble and fumble through your words until you’ve got it all out. Keep going.
Emotional eating has really deep roots. Healing can be both gradual and spontaneous. Whisper to yourself that you’re willing to change, begin to notice when you want to turn towards food. Practice being present and sitting with your emotions instead of hushing them. You’re not alone, never have been and never will be. Part of being who you are meant to be in this life means releasing those old behaviors that are no longer serving you. You can move past emotional eating.
Cliff and I fly to Boston tomorrow for my tracheal dilation procedure on Tuesday and then we get to celebrate with dear friends for a wedding on Friday. I still have quite a bit of energy in my body and I’m staying with it. I’m fasting from negative emotions and seeing healing light in my body, especially in my trachea. I’m feeling lifted by the love of so many friends and family. I’m visioning myself going into the operating room and it’s standing room only in there. I’m picturing all the physical doctors and nurses and a spiritual healing team as well. On my spiritual team is an adorable gal named Ginger, my ancestors and all the love of every person I’ve ever met, encountered, passed on the street, hugged, made genuine eye contact with… I keep thinking of airport meetings. When you see someone you’ve not seen in so long… that moment when your eyes meet and you hug so tightly and there are happy tears. That’s the love I’m carrying with me into the OR and I hope that everyone in that room feels changed by my having been there with my big love parade.
May I bring your love with me too? Will you think of me on Tuesday at 12:30 Eastern and smile? I’ll be in my super cute hospital gown with frizzy hair and an amazing hair net thinking of you and seeing love envelope that room, all of Boston, all of the east coast and on and on and on. As I’m counting backward from 10 I’ll be seeing love frosting on all of us. ha!