#19: Relaxing into Discomfort... Instead of Eating my way out
Updated: Sep 11, 2021
I’ve struggled with food every time I’ve moved to a new city, and I can feel myself starting to struggle now. I just ate 8 cookies a few minutes ago, and it’s not the first or second time I’ve done that in the last few weeks. Each time I come home to my apartment, I feel the need to eat. I feel the need to eat again after watching TV for an hour or two or right before bed. As I’ve been eating more, my appetite has increased too, and I’m desperate to stop this from becoming a cycle.
Why don’t I just control myself and eat less? I wish it was that easy. I realize there is a problem, but I’m not motivated to solve it at the right time. I’m only motivated to solve the problem at the end of the night or during the workday. By the time I get home, I either find ways to justify eating another snack or baking cookies or I can’t help myself.
In the past when I’ve moved to a new city, I blamed these struggles on a lack of social interaction. That is as far from the truth as can be this time. I don’t have a group of close friends yet here, but I’ve been doing a great job of putting myself out. I’m never alone for more than an hour until the end of the night on a weekend. I guess the problem before was never a lack of social interaction, as much as I want to say that it was. Making myself busier is almost impossible and will not solve the problem. I need to fix this on my own, especially if I want it to be sustainable. I’m grateful that the scale hasn’t gone up more than a few pounds, but I know it’s coming fast if I don’t get my act together.
I’m doing well with my habits during the workday—Core power for breakfast, then a latte and oat bite post workout, Trader Joe’s mac and cheese for lunch and a yogurt somewhere in between. One of the challenges of working out in the morning is that the day is longer, so I need more food to fuel myself. The struggle begins when I get home after work or another activity. Sometimes I make a real dinner and sometimes I don’t, but no matter what I feel the need to continuously eat. Sometimes it’s cookies or a can of whipped cream. Other times I just want to eat large volumes of food, even if it isn’t unhealthy. I’m actually better off going straight to cookies since I’ll get full faster instead of making my way over to cookies later, on top of everything else. It feels different than a binge though. I’m not eating like it’s the air I need to breathe, I’m just eating for the calming effect.
At first, I thought I should look for a new hobby so that I’d have something to look forward to after work rather than eating. But I don’t feel like I’m at work all day waiting to eat for the rest of the night. I love food, but I don’t spend my time looking forward to it the way that I used to. I don’t feel the need to get ice cream when I’m out with my friends simply because they’re having it. It would be nice if I had a new hobby, but I’m afraid to choose something that requires too much brain power. I’m very aware of the burnout adults experience. I want to prolong the burnout as long as possible by resting my mind. I love writing this blog, but I sit in front of a computer at work all day, so I’m hesitant to come home and do the same thing again… even though I come home just to watch TV.
My friend mentioned that she’s been turning to food for comfort recently. This immediately clicked in my head as my issue too. Even though I’m happy with my new life in Seattle, it’s unfamiliar. I’m constantly trying to be on my best behavior and make a good impression at work. Whenever I’m not at work, I’m searching out new people, desperately trying to make weekend plans so that I’m not alone now or months down the road.
I now realize how food takes on a new meaning each time I’m in an unfamiliar place for more than a month or so. Food is always there. It’s familiar and it’s a distraction from my worries. I’m specifically craving sugar recently. Even if I eat a filling dinner, I want something sweet. I’ve always found the most comfort in sugar. It tastes so good, and each bite just calms me down--- It’s temporary, but there’s always another bite.
The main problem is that I haven’t found comfort in my new surroundings, which results in turning to food for comfort and thus increasing my appetite. How can I fix this? The first step is realizing the true problem-- At least I’ve gotten that far now. I read up on solutions to emotional/comfort eating and didn’t find anything worthwhile. As with all things, I’m looking for a cure-all solution that doesn’t exist and never will. My solution has been drinking decaf coffee every time I want to reach for a 9th cookie, but that can only go so far.
The solution is time. No matter how well things are going, it’s normal to for me to feel uncomfortable in a new place. Everyone in my program and that I’m meeting is lying if they say they aren’t in the same boat. This is a period of growth and change for us all. I need to find a way to relax into the discomfort and trust that a sense of normalcy will come with time, as cheesy as it sounds.
In the meantime, I can’t keep eating like a crazy person. I made a conscious decision to eat the 8 cookies before writing this post, and I regret it. Anyone who struggles with eating can relate to how I feel right now--- I’m sitting in my desk chair feeling like a whale and hating myself. I checked to see how I look in the mirror at least five times. I keep pinching the fat on my stomach and I can’t wait for a fresh start tomorrow. The challenge will come when I no longer feel like a whale after work tomorrow. Can I bottle this feeling up for a few days until I can get momentum? I must realize that it’s not the feeling of being fat that’s going to motivate me tomorrow or any other day. It’s exhausting, but I need to remember why I’m eating better every minute until it’s second nature.
Honestly, I’m a little lost right now. I feel like I should lose the few pounds (and more) that I’ve gained, but I don’t want to set an unrealistic goal and have it backfire. I’m panicking that I’m fat again, logical, or not. I’m talking to myself now (online, no less) but my first goal should be to eat like a normal person for a week. There is no rush, other than for me to understand that this is a time of discomfort and it’s okay. Right now, I wish someone would offer me 10 cookies so that I could say no. This time, I realize that won’t do me any good. I must get out of this the hard way: time, patience, and acceptance.
When I began writing this post an hour ago, I was ashamed to admit that I’m drowning. I mentioned this struggle to people in passing but I haven’t wanted to talk about it in depth. I felt like I could get everything under control and pretend like it never happened. I’ve tried to do that before and failed several times. I admit that I’m struggling and accept that I need to solve this problem the hard way. Now that I understand and know I’m not alone, I hope I’ll be able to solve this more effectively. The positive is that I have a chance to learn from this and learn how to prevent a similar issue the next time I face uncertainty and discomfort. And that I’m an absolute powerhouse in the gym right now.