Tag Archives: womanhood

I’m Done With Emotional Eating

On a cold night a few years ago, I sat in my boyfriend’s basement holding my abdomen tightly. With wonder, fear, aching sadness and triumph I let myself feel the empty, heavy hollowness that resided in my gut. He looked at me with questioning eyes, and I said, “I just realized that nothing I eat will make the pain go away.”

Before…

I had been in therapy for several months. In the privacy of a nondescript office building I eked open the door to my emotional self, formerly trapped for so many years. By the grace of God I had finally admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder, and that I needed help. Anorexia nervosa, they call it. Hungry and proud, I called it. Eating only raw vegetables and a meager protein shake each day allowed me to run far, far away from the overweight girl that nobody liked (or so I thought).  Being thin and being in control of my body meant feeling special, loved, admired, accepted, finally accepted. Everything was okay and nobody would hurt me as long as I ran my 3 miles a day and abstained from animal products and chewed my kale. But I was all wrong, of course. And so I began connecting the dots of my emotional puzzle, filling in the image that, deep down, I knew was there all along but couldn’t quite make out.

Before…

I ate to feel full and I ate to feel loved. I ate to feel normal and I ate barbecue ribs, chocolate cake, beef stew, broccoli salad, granola, grapes, kefir, toast with cheese and butter, breakfast cereal, egg salad sandwiches, chips, spinach squares and Chinese takeout before bed. And I ate them in huge quantities, not tasting, not feeling full, but hungry so starving for that emotional fullness. My almost permanently distended stomach was an object I loathed yet sought to ignore because it was too painful to acknowledge. Other people could eat all they wanted and not get fat, so why couldn’t I? Familial emotional manipulation encouraged me to “Eat now or you’ll be hungry later!” “Oh won’t you have some more?!” “Have another piece of pie!” while nodding and shaking their heads and moving their lips saying sometimes people just get fat and some stay thin. it’s genetics…. she’s healthy, she’s normal. I knew something was sour, but couldn’t express it or understand.

Since I was young I had been disconnected from my food. We often ate nourishing, home-cooked meals of love which just as often went rotten from familial dysfunction. I ate because I was told, and because it was there, and because it was better than feeling empty and sad. The artificial fullness from consuming plants and animals masked my inner emptiness. When one of my favorite dishes was served, I did not savor the tastes or relish the textures; I ate and ate with frightening urgency, fearing what would happen once it was gone. The emptiness, the hunger, the sadness would return. My overeating continued into my teens and early twenties, even when my food choices improved and I lost weight. It didn’t matter if I was eating an enormous salad or a bowl of soup or a slice of fruit tart – I would keep putting food into my mouth until I could eat no more. The concept of natural fullness simply escaped me. I constantly thought about food and how it would taste and feel when I finally could eat again. I pored over food blogs and magazines, salivating over and savoring the make-believe delicacies that taunted me from the pages. I took endless photos of my food and pored over those too.

I did this even beyond that illuminating night in my boyfriend’s basement. But since then, I have been working endlessly inside my head to unravel my tangled-up emotional past and re-weave it as a fluid garment of correctly-ordered passions and desires. After attempting several restrictive diets to heal myself of a mysterious illness [more on that later!] I grew tired of the constant food porn on Instagram and charismatic bloggers and cookbook authors and obsession over a new way to get your greens in for the day. A few weeks ago it finally hit me that I wanted no part of this food-worship, this misconstruing of things we eat into gods and more. I sat at the kitchen table, eating breakfast with Blaise and watching him pick over his liver meatloaf and strawberries. I chewed my organ meat realized with a start that -gasp!- I was full. But there’s still some left on your plate! my mind cautioned me. You better eat what’s on your plate! If you don’t eat it all, you’ll be hungry later. I set down my fork and thought for a minute, masticating these warnings. Well, I thought. If I get hungry later, I can always eat more. What’s so scary about being hungry? Liver meatloaf won’t make me happy, nor will these strawberries. Let the hunger come. 

And since that morning, I haven’t been overfull. I have been pleasantly full, maybe even a little under-full, but always nourished and satisfied. I no longer fear the short stretches of time between meals, or the way my belly will bulge over my shorts after eating lunch. Correctly ordering a powerful thing in my life has restored a peace, self-satisfaction and empowerment that I never knew was missing. Never again will I eat out of boredom, sadness, happiness, stress, or fear. I’m done with emotional eating.

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Moon Time

I recently finished a book about the feminine connection to the lunar cycle and how it manifests in daily life. Need I say it was very interesting? Looking past some of the occult themes in the book, the author provided a vivid link between the moon, the female hormonal cycle, and the energetic transformation of our feminine selves throughout.
In a womans body which is aligned with the lunar cycle, the new moon corresponds to the first day of bleeding; this is a time of inner darkness, sadness, withdrawal anf renewal.The full moon corresponds to ovulation, and brings vitality, creativity, fertility, and sexual energy. Within this cycle, the waxing of the moon is tied to an increase in energy, and the waning of the moon – a decrease in energy. Essentially, it is completely normal and even necessary for a woman to be “on” for two weeks and “off” for another two weeks.
As I read this book I was struck (not for the first time) by our culture’s dominating masculine structure. We are expected to be “on” constantly: at home, in our relationships, on social media, at work, even in our personal health and mentality. I could enumerate countless examples of our culture’s exhausting demands on our energy… such as the postpartum period, or lack thereof. (Pardon me while I mount my soapbox here) For almost the entirety of human history, families have lived together with several generations in one home. Work, play, cooking, eating, and childrearing were all shared responsibilities. Only within the last hundred years have families separated into discrete “nuclear” units which have truly created literal and psychological isolation, destroying our sense of community, family, and mutual responsibility. It is every man (or woman) for themselves. Traditional cultures celebrated the primal human fluctuations with ritual and ceremony, always fleshed out by the strong community bonds. During her “moon time,” a woman would retreat to a moon lodge, red tent, or other sacred space to be in the company of her fellow women while she bled, rested, and allowed for the cyclical spiritual transformation to be completed.

Since I don’t have time, community, or space to do my own retreat like traditional women, I am actively becoming more cognizant of the moon phases and how I feel throughout the month. I’m still not cycling (yay ecological breastfeeding) but there are definitely hormonal changes that influence my mood, energy level, and creativity. Also, giving myself permission to be tired, quiet, home-bound and sad when my body is meant to be. One of my not-so-good qualities is having really high (read: imppssible) standards for myself, and for the past few years I’ve been anxious about my waning energy sometimes… Why am I so tired? Is it my thyroid? Am I eating something bad? It must be my thyroid… And so on. Upon examining my energy levels and the lunar phase, I have often found that, indeed, my tiredness with life frequently coincides with the new moon.

Life is so much easier when we embrace things for the way they are meant to be, isn’t it? Ourselves, the people around us, the natural cycle of life. When we fight it is when things get sticky.

I created a “moon tea” to drink when I’m feeling low on energy, nutrients, and general support. Here is the recipe:

MOON TEA

1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers

1/4 cup dried nettle leaves

1/4 cup red raspberry leaf

1 tablespoon holy basil leaf

8 cups of water

For best results, drink while relaxing and looking at, really feeling the moon. 🙂

Until next time,

Emily