Feel, Eat, Regret, Repeat

I am starting to come to the realization that we are not getting out of this, the Corona crisis.

And I want to talk about something very real. Something that needs to get addressed.

Everyone has been taking to their corners of coping. I have talked to people who are actually having a really good experience at this time. They are cooking more and realize they like it when they thought they loathed it. They are spending more time with family. The mundane responsibilities of parenting like driving kids to a dizzying amount of sports is suddenly gone.

I have also been talking to people who are very anxious. Things they have avoided, such as being alone for long periods of time, are not going away. Losing jobs, the stock market, huge concerns about simply getting the virus. Just going to the grocery store is extremely stressful. It’s the end of life as we knew it.

Wherever you are at, this is certainly not normal and it is a deep loss. It’s okay to have all those feelings.

I have very much been feeling the stages of grief  – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance -and while I have cycled through the first four acutely in the past couple of weeks, I can’t get to acceptance yet. I refuse to fully go there. And therefore, I guess I am still grieving this loss of life as I know it.

But, while I am flip flopping in these stages, or feeling angry, or obsessing about past memories (remember when we got to hug each other?) I have at times felt really stuck about how to  cope.  One big way I have always helped this state of being is with food.

I am more than aware of this and even have memories to prove it. Food was never all that emotional for me until my father died when I was fourteen. My loneliness and grief needed an outlet. You know how funerals go. Mountains of cookie plates, chocolate and pastries flooded my house as the grief and confusion kept building.

Food and crisis often go hand in hand.

Sugar felt so soothing. For a moment. My best friend and my worst enemy. Feelings came up, sugar would step in, and I would feel terrible afterwards.

My habit with emotional eating waxed and waned through my teens and twenties. I knew the cycle I was in, yet, even through cooking school and a graduate degree in nutrition, I had a hard time breaking the ties with sugar and then alcohol as a coping mechanism. They are tough friends to lose.

I created a habit that became deeply ingrained.

It was not until I turned forty that I had had enough of letting my emotional eating get in my way of what I wanted – to lose the last of my baby weight (let’s be real, by the time your kids are small children, can you still call it baby weight?) and to get my energy back.

Breaking my ties with sugar and wine took soul searching, perseverance and work. I lost 25 pounds, kept it off, and made peace with food in ways that I never had understood before.

And now, life in the time of Corona. And stress that I don’t think we ever thought possible in our lifetimes.

So, how am I handling it? In the first few weeks I was acutely aware of how emotional eating could become the new fall back. I have seen it all over social media too.  Nightly “corona cocktails”, daily baking sessions with their kids, all day eating just to get by.

Dont get me wrong, I have certainly had periods of thinking that maybe I need a vice too. I’ve made the cookies, eaten the brownies. Justified it by thinking that if we’re in the end of the world then just give me my sugar. I got caught up in wondering if everyone else was coping better than me because they are drinking and baking cookies. Is everyone else simply sailing through this because they have their nightly vodka or big bowl of ice cream?

Stop right there. I know better, I’ve been there, it’s not how this all works.

Sugar, wine, obsessing about which takeout restaurant to order from, is not going to take away the denial, anger, bargaining and depression. And it will certainly not get you closer to accepting where you are at. If you were worrying about health, energy, weight before the Corona crisis, stress eating will only add to the problem. On top of your feelings of loss will come regret, anxiety from hangovers, and anger at yourself.

There is NOTHING wrong with having a cookie or a glass of wine. Nothing at all. There is a difference in saying to yourself, “I cannot cope right now,  I NEED this glass of wine” and saying “I am having a hard day and a cookie or two will taste really good right now.” Recognizing it, being with your thoughts, having awareness, eating the cookie, without regret.

There are certainly a whole host of other things you can do right now too. Every morning, like clock work, I put on my sneakers, walk out the door and get on the phone with a friend. This has been a lifesaver for me, simply talking it all out loud. We listen to each other, voice our fears, laugh. I feel worlds better after talking. I have found that talking – through my journal, or with other people on Zoom – has been the best medicine towards falling back on emotional eating and making my way towards acceptance.

This is a hard topic to address, I know that. I want to keep this conversation going. The news is filled with finger pointing, name calling, and terrifying stories. There is not a lot of conversation around how we are feeling and coping. But, we are in this for a long time and I will not let any crisis derail me from what I started out with years ago, making peace with food and eating with freedom.

How about you? Reach out in the comments below.


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