Posted on December 17, 2014 · Posted in Emotional Eating, Your Relationship with Food

Those feelings you most want aren’t going to come from somewhere new, someone special, or something wonderful. They’re going to come from within, where they now wait for your permission to be released – often in terms of somewhere new, someone special, or something wonderful.

How often have you eaten too much food to avoid dealing with an issue in your life and afterwards feel guilty for overeating?  When we use food to avoid dealing with an emotion, we are using a band aid to avoid deeper emotions that are trying to surface.

For over nine years I have maintained my lowest weight by being conscious of when I recognize food could become my “go to” because I’m avoiding something emotional  in my life.   I have been successful approximately 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time, catch myself so I get back on track of returning to eating healthy food and stopping when I feel satisfied.  Not when I feel full.  That is and has been my message not only to myself but to every client I work with as we uncover the deeper emotions that cause us to turn to food.

I’m writing this today to share with you an experience that was so profound in my life that offered a very deep, emotional lesson and how food became apparent in a way I had never experienced over the past nine years.

I belong to the Circle to Stage Storytelling Group which consists of five women that tell their stories to an audience in Mill Valley.  We begin in an eight week workshop meeting before the performance, writing, developing, rehearsing, editing and building a story that we ultimately share on stage.

Last February, I attended a one day workshop of Circle to Stage Storytelling to see if I wanted to become part of this group.  I had no idea whether this was a good idea; however, I was about to publish my book; Stop the Torment: Conquer Your Relationship with Food and believed I could tell a story about how my relationship with food began when I was eight years old driving to Jackie Gleason’s diet doctor every Tuesday night with my mother and her girlfriend.  I thought it could be entertaining and a new genre to post on my website.

I watched the seasoned storytellers get up and tell a story.  As I listened I learned the process and gave it a try.  The leader asked how it felt and provided positive, constructive advice.  I found myself enjoying the process so I joined the group to develop my story.  Low and behold, on June 21st, I performed for the first time.  I loved it.  And those of you that have watched it have given me positive feedback.

So based on that experience I once again joined to develop another story that was performed on November 15th.  The story I decided to write was based on my experiences with Christmas; more specifically the meaning of the Christmas Tree in my life.  Little did I know how this would relate to food, emotions and more than I could have ever expected. Here’s a video of the performance.

As I began rehearsing weekly in front of my adoring companions, I found myself crying during certain segments of the story.  Each week I was determined not to cry but I couldn’t hold back the tears.  Now, I want to emphasize that I’m not a big crier.  However, every time I stood up, one of the dear ladies would gently put the box of tissues in front of me.  I kept editing, rewriting, rehearsing so I would be comfortable in front of an audience and not break down in tears.  Even rehearsing hundreds of times alone, the tears were still flowing.

As the evening approached, I believed I had it all under control.  As the leader introduced me I walked out from behind the curtain with a Santa Claus hat on, and red ornament earrings.  I began telling my story and could tell the audience was with me.  Then all of a sudden, I stopped, I couldn’t remember the next line.  It seemed like twenty minutes; even though the story was only fifteen.  I said, “Sorry” and then continued as I moved further into the story.  I felt the audience was with me again and then the moment came as the one line that I could never conquer from crying had to be said.   I said it.  There was emotion.  I paused and finished with a strong ending.  The audience applauded as I stood feeling relieved I completed the story and also mortified that I let “my” audience down by dropping a couple of lines in the beginning of the story.

Many people in the audience friends and strangers complimented me on taking them back to their childhood or to being a single parent and how Christmas uncovered so many emotions.

The following morning, I was sad, disappointed in myself and quite frankly, miserable.  After I got out of bed, I went back to bed.  Then I got up and my husband made me breakfast.  After a shower, I decided to go to a movie by myself to take a break from my emotional turmoil.  As I entered the movie theatre, for the first time in nine years since I lost weight and maintained it, I looked at the counter thinking about buying a Haagen Daz chocolate covered almond ice cream bar.

What was I doing?  I coach clients about these moments and there I was ready to put a band aid on my feelings with ice cream.  I thought, “sure have an ice cream bar.  Is that going to take away the guilt and unhappiness you are feeling?  Yes, for about five minutes and then you will feel even guiltier.”  At that moment, I realized the guilt of the ice cream bar would be easier to deal with than the guilt I was feeling of not being perfect.

After the movie, I went to a yoga class hoping it would allow me to go inward and center myself.  Not only did I go inward but at the end of the class, I laid on the floor while the room of 50 yoga students was quietly breathing deep within, as I sobbed uncontrollably.  The only control I could conjure up was sobbing as quietly as possible not to disturb the 49 people surrounding me.  Once class was over, I hauled out of the spa and ran to my car crying profusely.

Then it hit me.  I was crying not because I let my audience down.  I was crying because I had never allowed myself to release the feelings I suppressed while raising two children as a single parent.  The feelings of not knowing if I was making the right decision, if I had the right answer, if I was guiding them appropriately.  I only portrayed confidence in my decision making so they would feel safe.

And then another burst of tears came when I realized that I had no parenting as a child, was left alone often while caring for my baby sister.  The tears represented me as a little girl with very little parenting.

I truly believe, if I ate the ice cream bar in the movie theatre, these profound feelings would not have surfaced.  Was it fun.  Absolutely not, but I must tell you using food to disguise feelings is not the answer.  Because since that Sunday in November, I feel I released feelings buried so deep within that I now can move forward in life with a lighter, happier connection than ever.

-Joyce Lillis