This post appeared in originally appeared in MindBodyGreen on Nov. 3, 2014. The original title “Why I’m Proud To Be An Emotional Eater” was changed to I “Was Suicidal, So I Ditched Sugar & It Changed My Life” and some content was adjusted for length.
You can read that post here or read the original post below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and to hear if you’ve had a similar experience and how you overcame the struggle.
To say I thought my life sucked put it mildly.
I had resigned from my job as a therapist at a group home because it was less than a healthy environment.
My lease had ended so I had moved back in with my parents while I was figuring out my next step.
And, since it right in the middle of the holidays, I was eating every sugary thing in sight. Cookies. Fudge. Chocolate covered cherries. None of them had any chance of lasting if I was near them.
For most of us, eating sugar is not the best idea.
It can (among many other things) suppress the immune system, contribute to obesity and can make our skin age prematurely; for me, being pre-diabetic, eating sugar was especially an issue but I didn’t realize that at the time.
All of my 20’s I had wrestled with a low-grade depression. I was consistently sluggish, overweight and had suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. My mom had recommended that I go on an anti-depressant but there was something in me that told me that I wasn’t depressed because I was lacking in whatever the latest drug was.
But, I didn’t know any other options. So my depression increased and my desire to live decreased. It felt as though this was a permanent problem in my life.
It became so bad that there was a day that I spent 24-plus hours in bed. I had no physical, mental or emotional energy to get out of bed.
I thought about 5 different ways to end my life that would be quick and painless.
Then, I thought about my nieces and nephew.
Did I really want them to leave the legacy of an aunt who took her own life?
I didn’t…but I still wasn’t convinced that having an aunt who was miserable was a great option either.
And that’s when it came to me.
I remembered reading somewhere that sugar causes depression. I thought, what if I didn’t eat sugar for a week and see if there is some truth to it.
So, I made a deal with myself. I decided to not eat sugar for the week and told myself that I didn’t feel any better than I had permission to end my life.
At that point, what was one more week?
If I did feel better I would explore what it means to not eat sugar and how it could impact my life. It was in that moment that I decided to become an Emotional Eater.
At the end of that week I felt better (obviously).
It wasn’t 100% better but it did feel like the dense, heavy fog lifted and I was feeling hopeful.
Since that day I have been, as my brother says, “obsessed” with Emotional Eating.
I went back to school to become a health coach, then culinary school to become a natural food chef to learn everything I can about Emotional Eating.
Traditional Chinese Medicine taught me that the different energies of food could help one build a stronger sense of health and well-being by eating different foods.
At first I thought this theory was so strange but at this point, I had nothing to lose. I began to experiment and found this theory to work for me.
For instance, if I want to feel grounded and relaxed I’m going to eat foods like root or sweet vegetables (beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes), meats, fish and beans.
I’ll prepare those foods by stewing, pressure cooking, roasting or baking them.
If I want to feel lighter, creative and flexible I’m going to go for leafy greens, fruit, sea veggies, and chocolate.
I’ll enjoy those foods prepared by boiling, steaming or eating them raw.
If I want to feel more connected to where I’m living I’ll make sure to purchase my foods from local farmers versus foods from far away places and I’ll prepare them myself.
When I decide that I want to feel sad, depressed, irritated or suicidal, I’ll eat or drink foods like sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
I’ll make sure that those foods are overly processed, prepared by machines and have no life in them.
I’m always thinking about how I want to feel and what foods can help me feel that way.
For me, Emotional Eating is a matter of life and death.
When I eat sugar, literally, within 5 hours those old suicidal thoughts come back.
I have to intentionally “emotionally eat” otherwise the ending to my life could be very tragic. I know it sounds dramatic but it really is that extreme.
Knowing that I have the ability to control my emotions by how I eat has been the most profound and powerful tools I’ve ever learned.
I’m not at all saying that when you eat a diet free of sugar you’ll never feel sad or down.
I still have those emotions. Things happen in life that make us sad.
The difference now is, I know that it is not a permanent emotion. And, if I want to increase the intensity of it I just need to eat sugar.
Or, if I want to work through the sadness in a more healthy way, I eat foods that support my mental health.
It’s my choice.
What about you? Have you been on a roller coaster of emotional eating that has not given you the life you want? What changes can you make today to become a proud, happy emotional eater?
Could you take the “no sugar for one week” challenge like I did in 2006 and see if it makes a difference in your life?
If you do, I’d love to hear how you feel at the end of the week in the comments below.
Here’s to being a Proud Emotional Eater.