When I was a child and things we’re a choatic in my household, I would turn to food as a way to comfort my feelings. Food was always available, I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I look back now it is clear to me that I was an emotional eater.

As I got older, I thought this had passed and when i started getting really into fitness at 15 years old I thought i had gotten over my food obsession and was on a path towards a healthy a lifestyle. I was so disciplined, i cut sugar out, worked out 5 days a week and thought I would never go back to eating that way.

When I thought of my relationship with food as i got older I thought of control and the ability to be disciplined enough to restrict myself from it. I came out when I was 18, it was probably one of the most devasting things in my life. I felt uncomfortable, different and I really wished that I didn’t have to be this way. I couldn’t control this part of my life, so I decided to punish myself by restricting my food intake.

I became obsessed with calories and every morcel of food that I put into my mouth until it drove me to being underweight and unhealthy. I still felt so empty inside, I needed something to fill the void and the hurt that I was feeling inside. I then took it to the other extreme and began binging uncontrollably for months. In other words I was self-medicating myself with food. I actually started to scare myself, I would eat so much in one sitting in a complete trance state. I would then exercises like a maniac to make up for all the damage I had done.

This pattern in my life continued for years, when I went through a bad relationship or anything tragic, food was my drug of choice. When I finally realized it was a problem that needed to be addressed, I began to see it and understand why I was doing this.

I was scared of my own emotions, I never let myself cry or grieve over anything for years. I simply buried and extended my grief by filling myself up with food. I felt that if I just kept eating I would never have to deal with my grief. At the root of it all, I had a crippling fear of my own emotions, I felt that if I allowed myself to experience my own emotions I would shatter and fall apart. The fear of emotions is the cause of emotional eating not the emotions itself.

Many of us use food to cope with not only tragic events in our lives but also the daily disappointments and frustrations. Once we realize that we will survive the sadness and hurt in our lives we no longer have to deaden ourselves with food.

Throughout my recovery process, I experimented with different ways to deal with my feelings that didn’t involve food. The best exercise I did was when I really sad about something, I allowed myself to cry for 3-4 minutes straight. It was unbelievable how much of a relief this gave me, I finally felt my own emotions no matter how intense they we’re.

More tips on how to deal with emotional eating:

1) Identify your triggers – Know the situations, circumstances and feelings that make you reach for food

2) Find other ways to feed your feelings – If you’re lonely or sad call a friend or go for a walk.
If you’re anxious or nervous, put on your favorite song or go exercise.
If you’re tired, treat yourself to a tea or a hot bath

3) Pause when a craving hits – Most emotional eaters feel powerless over food and feel an unbearable need to feed themselves. Emotional eating is mindless and automatic, before you know it, you’ve already reached for that tub of ice cream. Take a moment to pause and reflect when you’ve hit a craving, this will make you present and give you an opportunity to make a different decision.