On Friday, I overate. I knew what I was doing. I didn’t like what I was doing, but I was conscious of it. Most of you know from my frequent bitching and moaning that I’m in the process of writing a thesis. Grad school is only for masochists, people who like to whip themselves with the heavy lashings of 475 page articles and the horrors of APA style. In December, I’m supposed to be done with 2.5 years of my own personal torture – a torture I inflicted on myself in the pursuit of self-betterment and personal fulfillment. Despite my complaints, I really do love learning and school. I’m just getting kind of burnt out on it.
With all of the changes going on in my life, my thesis has taken the back seat. In addition, I had completed 36 pages of my first thesis topic when it was decided that my project wasn’t sustainable and I had to start over from scratch. This week, there’s been discussion about delaying my completion date to Spring 2013. In my heart, I know this is a better option, because it will mean less sacrifice – less sacrifice of quality, and less sacrifice of time and good health. Yet, it means I’ll be prolonging the stress of this gigantic 150-page baby I’ll eventually be birthing, paying for another semester, and having to wear the hat of full-time employee + grad student for another 5 months.
So, I ordered a pizza for Matt and I for dinner, and while I flitted around the house trying to pack (have I mentioned this is my fourth trip out of town in three weeks? Yikes) I ate one piece. Then I ate a second. Then I ate a third. And then I ate a fourth. And then I stopped – and realized what I was doing, something I hadn’t done in a long time. I was emotionally eating. I was upset about my thesis and my possible delayed graduation, and I decided to push away that feeling by eating pizza. (Why does emotional eating NEVER happen with celery?). My brain was craving dopamine – an instant reward – and so I gobbled down the pizza, hoping to fill that feeling of sadness with something else.
It’s a shitty realization that sometimes your way of dealing with problems is just adding another problem to your life. However, there’s a bright side to every little cloud of doom and gloom, and this bright side is that today, I realized what I was doing. Before I started seeing my dietician, I never knew I emotionally ate. I think I knew it but I didn’t acknowledge it, didn’t know how to stop it. I’ll never forget the day one of my former bosses told me I was a disappointment – and how right after work, I drove to the grocery store, bought a bag of potato chips, and stuffed them into my mouth as I drove home. It was the only way I knew how to deal with that absolutely raw feeling of devastation. I’ve come a long way from this type of relationship with food, but tonight proved to me that I can’t ever fully cure myself of using food to pacify emotions. We live in a culture that encourages using food for feeling – the woman who just got dumped eats ice cream, the woman with PMS craves chocolate. After a funeral, casseroles show up at your door, and with a new job comes celebratory dinners. Birthdays mean cake and weddings mean champagne (and more cake), Christmas means cookies and Thanksgiving means turkey. Food is feeling.
Tonight, it took me awhile to get there, but I finally made that mind-body connection and thought to myself, “Stop it. You’re not hungry, you’re upset – and those are two different feelings.” That alone is progress – one that may not fix me feeling sad about a delayed graduation, but one that in the long term, will help save my life.