The Ten Minute Island of Pleasure: Emotional Eating

I loved my Mom but I never want to live like she did in regards to food. My Mom died suddenly of brain cancer when I was only thirteen years old. Katherine Teller (Lutes) Curlee was a upbeat woman who made everyone laugh and spent her life helping people as a social worker. She could cook without a recipe (as do I!) and laid out fantastic meals for friends and family. My Mom was also manic depressive and alcoholic and definitely ate for comfort.



There is a picture of us when I was about eight years old and she is holding me, my skinny kid legs wrapped around her vast belly. I'm not sure how she could really even hold me up. I remember sitting with her in our orange Ford Fiesta gorging on a 'treat' of potato chips AND Hostess Suzy Q's or twinkies many, many times. I soaked up the camaraderie, the fun, the yumminess of it. Me and my Mom, having a treat together. I often flash back to those moments when as an adult I often pick up a treat and eat it alone in the car. It is usually after grocery shopping, or after a trip to Target. M&Ms and Cheese Pringles. A Slim Jim and a Heath bar. Cheese popcorn and ice cream. French fries and a sugar Coke. A ten minute island of pleasure and joy in the middle of whatever kind of day I might be having.

Yesterday I watched a very large woman in a car drive away from Coldstone Creamery shoveling ice cream into her mouth and I knew how pleased and sad she felt. Eating her 'treat' that tastes sooooo delicious and sweet and soul satisfying for five minutes, maybe not even that long. How at the same time she got the sweet pleasure of emotional eating she also felt shame . She was probably unhappy that she didn't look better, live better or choose better.

Like her, I got my treat that night too, even after seeing her, thinking of her, my mom, and me. I did it anyway. I got my frosted sugar cookie from Panera and a coffee with cream, lots of it. I sunk my teeth into the first thrilling-salty-sugary-lemony bite. Ah, how the crumbs fell apart in my mouth and how the sugar frosting melted across my tongue filling my mouth with explosive delight!

I thought about how "They Say" only the first three bites are satisfying, and you could push away the food after that. I didn't though. Even though I am changing my eating habits, exercising almost daily now, and was almost over my calories for the day already even before dinner. I ate it all and wished there were three more of them right there in the car with me.

I am not obese, and I rest too heavily on my laurels because of it. I am only about thirty pounds shy of my high school weight. I have been able to drop baby weight (about fifty pounds each time) quickly through breastfeeding. Our most recent baby is now eight months old. I am only twenty pounds from the weight I was (with appetite suppressant pills) when I got married almost five years ago. I think in some ways it is harder to be disciplined when the goal is smaller. Shouldn't it be easier and more inspiring since it is 'easier' to accomplish?

This year I have been running and exercising and enjoying it for the first time in my life. (I guess as a parent it is such a thoroughly effective form of stress relief and that is my main motivation!) I have set up my www.sparkpeople.com account and updated it and restarted it at least twenty times since I first joined it. I start off like everyone else on fire and ready for change for the first few days, then drift back into complacency.

What is with the emotional eating? What is this siren song of immediate gratification food offers those of us who eat for comforting pleasure despite our varying resolve not to? I am a smart woman and I read a lot, talk a lot, and pray a lot. And yet, one week into my renewed efforts I am literally in the car devouring....what? Just a cookie? OR is it more? What exactly am I devouring?

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