When Food is No Longer Love: Overcoming A Childhood of Emotional Eating ~Mara

This is the 4th installment of ‘Me, My Family & Food‘. It’s been amazing reading people’s stories.

I would like to say, sorry, to Sean @ Learn Fitness for all of the problems yesterday with my linking and photos on his AMAZING guest post. Sorry Sean.

If you missed the 1st and 2nd posts, go check them out and come back….cause Mara is amazing. This post is fabulous and coming from a girl who still struggles with emotional eating, reading her story means so much to me!!!! Hopefully, you can walk away with something from it!

~Mish

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When Food is No Longer Love: Overcoming A Childhood of Emotional Eating ~ Mara @ Medicinal Marzipan


When I was a child, I learned that food was love. I learned that when I was good, or when I had accomplished something, I could be rewarded with food. I learned that when I was bad (read: fat), I should not love myself, and thus, I should not eat because I did not deserve to eat.

Growing up, the majority of the women in my family were always dieting. I remember my great aunt, then 72, saying that she had been on a diet everyday since she was eleven. My grandmother dieted. They had magnets on their refrigerators that said, “Don’t forget your diet.” And yet, regardless of where I was on my own personal weight spectrum, they fed me – McDonalds, chocolate, whatever I wanted, because they loved me and Italians show their love with food.

My mother was always very thin, and I was fat and I envied her. I envied the clothing that she could wear, and the way that every single person that we ever came across thought she was beautiful. And as much as I envied her, my weight scared my mother. Now, she loved me and a good portion of that fear was for me, because she was the one who had to deal with me when I was wilted on the floor of the department store hysterically crying because nothing fit me. And a portion was that she had never been fat, so she didn’t understand why I kept getting fatter and fatter, no matter how many healthy foods she encouraged me to eat or walks she wanted me to go on.

I was getting fatter because I ate in secret. Because when my parents were watching my eat they would give me the: are you sure you want to eat that look. I knew that they thought I was fat, and I knew that they thought that if I just stopped eating so much and started working out I would be skinny. But the damage had already been done. I kept getting fatter, because I ate in secret. Because I had learned to be ashamed of my body. Because I had learned that I didn’t deserve to eat the things I craved. Because I was congratulated when I lost weight. So I ate. And ate. And ate. And it’s not even that I ever ate food that was really bad for me, but I ate a lot of it, consuming epic portions because I was stuffing the food deep into the hole of self hatred. And the more my food consumption and exercise regime was monitored, the more that I rebelled and the more that I learned to subsidize my decreasing self worth by comforting myself with whatever food I could get my hands on.

Now as an adult, I struggle with saying no when someone offers me food, grateful for the love and suspicious of the intent. I struggle with resorting to old patterns of comforting or rewarding myself with a hot fudge sundae, because I deserve it and not because I want it. Now, I have to tell myself: you are an adult. You can eat macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip cookies all day if you want to. No one is going to offer and take away treats with reckless abandon.  You are in control of the food you consume.You aren’t hurting anyone but yourself by compulsively bingeing. If you put the bag of chips down, you can pick it up tomorrow, because it is YOURS and you can eat it whenever you want to.


Find Mara at her blog Medicinal Marzipan where she discussed body image, compulsive eating, and learning to love yourself a little more more every day. She can also be reached at medicinalmarzipan@gmail.com or on twitter @mmarzipan.

16 thoughts on “When Food is No Longer Love: Overcoming A Childhood of Emotional Eating ~Mara

  1. CertifiablyFit says:

    I related to a lot in this post. I grew up in a similar situation. Took me a long time to get control of my binging behaviors that I developed as a teen.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Was a great read.

  2. Marisa (Loser for Life) says:

    Wow, this was definitely me growing up. Sadly, it stil is. But, slowly…very slowly, I am learning that I am in control of what I eat. I am slowly learning to respect myself. My people- pleasing personality gets in the way sometimes. I don’t want to “offend” by not taking/eating the food. But, I’m learning that food doesn’t have to be love, anymore. Food is fuel. People are love 🙂

  3. julie says:

    I feel like I’ve mostly gotten over childhood eating weirdness, except for sometimes in restaurants. I tend to eat in restaurants things I never make at home – veggie lasagna, eggplant or chicken parmesian, fried potatoes. Part of it is because like you, my parents gave me looks and commented on everything I ate, and the only time I could eat heavy fatty stuff was at restaurants.

  4. Diana says:

    Yep. Sometimes I still have that desire to eat in secret, to hide that I’m consuming more. And sometimes I do it. I’m still fighting it though it’s not as bad as before and doesn’t happen so often.
    And this: “If you put the bag of chips down, you can pick it up tomorrow, because it is YOURS and you can eat it whenever you want to.” is what I tell myself whenever I feel like I HAVE to eat something even if I’m not hungry. It does work.

  5. missyrayn says:

    WOw this really speaks to me. I ate in secret all the time because my dad told me I was fat so I wanted him to think I wasn’t. Even if it showed on the outside.

    Now I’ve had to teach myself that eating is okay and enjoying food is okay but do it because I want to not because I’m not allowed and over do it.

  6. hungryforbalance says:

    Hey there! Just wanted to say that I love your blog and I’m adding it to my blogroll so that my nutrition clients can check out an honest, raw perspective on weight and diet. Way to keep it real!

  7. Me says:

    Wow. Felt like I was reading about me. Got so tired of everyone thinking my mother was my sister – because she looked so young and skinny and I looked fat…and fat. She tells me to fill up on celery and drink water. Yeah. Like it’s that easy.

    Thanks for the great post and a different way to view my eating habits.

  8. Jess says:

    We really have similar types of stories. Chinese people (especially moms and grandmothers) show their love through massive huge portions of endless food. And if you don’t eat it, they get kind of upset. But if you do eat it and you gain weight, they’re still upset because then they see you as fat and blame themselves too.

    I ate in secret as well. I remember hiding coke bottles under my bed, I would steal the Toblerone bars we’d get from my parents’ friends and pretend I didn’t know where they went (into my belly).

    And I’ve had to learn how to say no to my mother. I’ve had to learn that in order for me to succeed, I sometimes have to hurt her, but in the end, it’s worth it. There’s less pressure on both of us. I no longer have to deal with the vicious cycle of being fed to explosion and then judged for my weight while she does not have to feel like she’s a failure of a mother for promoting poor eating habits. I think fixing my relationship with my mom was a huge step forward for me on my journey too. Ah…family.

  9. marzipan says:

    MAN. You Eating Journey readers sure know how to tug at a girl’s heartstrings and give her goosebumps all over. Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments and support. And thank YOU mish for giving me this wonderful opportunity to be a part of your EJ community for the day.
    xoxoxoxoxo
    mara

  10. Christie {Honoring Health} says:

    Amazing post. Heartfelt and honest. I also ate in secret as a kid though weight wasn’t an issue until I was an adult. Learning that food is not love is the hardest lesson I have learned in life and it takes guts and courage to learn it. Props to you for having such courage.

  11. The Binge Diary says:

    I feel like I could have written this post- I related to it that much. I went through everything you did. I will start reading your blog!

  12. Richard says:

    The brain has two primary directives–pleasure seeking and survival. From childhood we have learned to associate food with both. Associated with pleasure are what most call good emotions–happiness, joy, elation and so on. Associated with survival are what most call bad emotions–frustration, boredom, confusion, anger, depression and so on.

    Unfortunately most programs to lose weight or deal with binging focus on food and forget the emotional programming.

    Focusing on what you do or do not eat to control or lose weight is like trying to fly by flapping your arms. Better to focus on the stress of the emotion whether it be frustration, happiness, upset, anger, joy and learn to take it straight rather than diluting with food.

    Yes, 95% of all diets and eating programs fail.

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