On Hunger and Emotional Eating

For about 12 weeks I’ve been sharing my journey weight loss and fitness journey, and today was a big milestone.  Today I hit my 5% loss mark, despite an emotional rollercoaster ride during the past week, and my out of control nighttime eating.

Emotional eating has to be a big part of any one’s make up who has weight issues.  We eat under stress or when certain emotional triggers are fired, and the next thing we know, there’s a quart of ice cream gone, or an entire large bag of Stacy’s Pita Chips.

Sometimes it’s the emotional memory of being hungry.  Our ancestors who lived a subsistence existence knew they had to enjoy a good meal because the next one might be a long way off.  Only the rich grew fat.  Some of us may have endured a childhood or adulthood with not enough food, and those experiences become the lens through which we look through for the rest of our lives.

Almost thirty years ago I hit a bad time in my life.  Suddenly single and drowning in bills, I had little or no money for food.  From over 140 pounds, I went to 107.  My friends thought it was the divorce that did it, but it wasn’t.  After paying monthly bills there simply was almost none left for food.  Some days my entire food consumption for the day was a large bag of popcorn.  I could’ve gone to my mother, the Food Bank, or friends, but I was ashamed that despite a really good job, my life was financially foundering.

Hunger is a painful thing.  It changes you in more ways than losing weight or suddenly drowning your figure in too large clothes.  It makes you think about food, stare at advertising or tv shows, holiday specials, and the like.  Once that part of my life was over, I discovered that eating made me feel frantic.  There was suddenly no emotional food gate that said “Stop eating.  You’ve had enough!”  No, after going hungry and feeling the pain of an empty stomach, there was no such thing as enough.

Thirty years later I’m taking the almost 100 pounds off that went on in emotional eating and escaping the emotions of hunger.  Weight Watchers has helped me take a look at my triggers and head them off as much as I can.  It’s a work in progress.

During the bad times, I used a gasoline credit card to buy a can of soda and bag of chips because my bank account was empty, and the hunger pains were driving me insane.  The gasoline station clerk told me I couldn’t do that anymore, since it was against the station policy.  She was angry that she’d get in trouble, and I felt humiliated that I had no choice.

That moment, and the nights hunger kept me awake changed my attitude towards Food Banks, Food Stamps, WIC, and charity hunger groups.  It’s easy to sit back and condemn the poor or dispossessed when you’ve never felt hunger, never worried about where a meal was coming from.  Never worried about how you were going to feed your children, or an elderly dependent parent.

Hunger and despair changes everything.


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