Stuffing down food = stuffing down feelings
The scene: my bathroom, this morning.
My husband (29 years later this summer) and I are both getting ready for our day. It’s the Monday morning after a holiday weekend filled with fun, celebrating (a little overindulging) with family and friends, houseguests, and did I mention overindulging?
Needless to say we’d had a great weekend, but I wasn’t feeling especially relaxed or restored after it.
Me: What have you got going on today, honey?
Rob: I’m gonna be at the office all day, then I’ve got Mariners (baseball) tickets for tonight’s game. I’m taking X, Y and Z as a client development thing. (Obvi their names have been changed to letters to protect their privacy and provide anonymity because they’ll probably be eating hot dogs and kettlekorn for dinner.)
Me: Oh, okay.
Me: Well, let’s just be clear about this: we still have a child at home. That child has to be places. Because he has to be places, I never schedule anything without ensuring that he has a way to get from point A to point B and then back again. I never assume that somebody’s just gonna do that for me. Yet you assume that all the time. You just assume that I will take care of it. When you do that I’m left feeling angry and taken for granted. It triggers old feelings of all the years and years when we were in that pattern where anything that you did was more important than anything I did – or wanted to do. I don’t want to feel that way anymore.
Rob: Oh. I wasn’t thinking about that.
Me: It’s really easy for me to just do it and not say anything, but we agreed that we weren’t gonna stuff things down anymore. It’s not healthy for me. I just end up seething inside, and those negative, difficult feelings are how I ended up emotional eating for so long. I can’t do it anymore. I won’t do it.
We said our apologies, and made a plan to get Connor to and from where he needs to be. (Today it’ll be me, but later in the week, it’ll be Rob.)
As painful – and somewhat embarrassing – as this example is to share, I offer it up as a way of showing a couple of things:
- I am not perfect at this. Yes, I lost a lot of weight and have kept it off for a long time (8+ years now), but it is still very difficult for me to voice negative feelings. I don’t like making people unhappy and rocking the boat. But I’ve learned that my negative feelings don’t go away just because I don’t express them.
- Giving voice to my feelings, asking for what I want, acknowledging that my needs are just as important as everybody else’s needs, and establishing boundaries are absolutely key in a healthy, happy life. Practicing these behaviors is not at all comfortable for me. But not doing it makes me miserable, and being miserable is something I am no longer willing to tolerate.
There were a lot of years – while Rob was building his career, while we had young children – when I would have swallowed my feelings, put on a happy(ish) face and soldiered on. I still would have resented the fact that we were operating on a very unequal playing field, but I would not have shared my discontent about it. Instead, I would kissed him goodbye, sent him off to work … and then gone into the kitchen, made myself slice after slice of white bread toast slathered in butter, doused it in cinnamon sugar and eaten myself into oblivion.
Overeating is seldom about physical hunger. In my case, stuffing down food was most often a way of pushing away – stuffing down – uncomfortable feelings that I was too afraid to face.
Those feelings still get triggered from time to time. I am still afraid. But now, I face them anyway. And I am much better off because of it.