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You can’t find love in a cookie

Woman reaching for cookies in cookie jar, close-up of hand

The cover of a popular women’s fitness magazine caught my eye the other morning as I was getting ready for work.  The cover story was “You Can’t Find Love In A Cookie.”  It made me laugh because there are definitely times that I’ve found love in a cookie.  Then I started thinking about my past with disordered and emotional eating. I’m so grateful and happy that I’m no longer in a place where I do that. Sure, I indulge now and then, but that’s normal.

As a teen, I turned to food for comfort and love that I wasn’t getting in other relationships in my life. I had friends, but was often very lonely. My parents weren’t home very often (working) and when they were, they were too tired to spend any real, quality time with me. I twirled baton in high school and competed at a national level.  I was on the higher end of my weight range as a teen so my weight was a constant problem with my mother and my baton coach. I had to wear skintight costumes and they were always reminding me that I didn’t look good in them and needed to lose weight. I was embarrassed about my weight and found it hard to talk to my thin friends about my problems. Food was always there though. It tasted good and a bite of a cookie made all my problems go away. They say that nothing tastes as good as thin feels, but I disagree. After a long day at school, twirling practice and then being lectured about your weight by either your mother or baton coach, a bite of cake tastes better than anything. There would be times when I would get control of my emotional eating and lose a few pounds. My mother would be so proud and my coach would notice too, but a few pounds never seemed to be enough. I felt like nothing I did was ever enough for anyone. Food was my solace. It didn’t judge me and it felt so good to eat something forbidden.

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In college, I excelled in my studies and made a lot of new friends. Weight was never an issue. What a relief! I felt free from being judged and was surrounded by people that liked me just how I was. Eventually I stopped turning to food for comfort and ate to fuel myself. I was ready to lose the last few pounds, but did it on my terms. I researched and found a diet plan I could live with and the weight melted off. It took a while, but I was able to overcome my emotional eating. Here are some tips that helped me gain control and confront the issues I was hiding from:

  1. Find food-free ways to socialize. This was very helpful to me. I used to plan binges on days I knew I’d be going out with a friend for dinner. I would stuff myself with pizza and ice cream. It wasn’t about spending time with my friend, it was about the food. That’s just sad. Now when I spend time with friends, we get our nails done, go to the movies (bringing our own snacks), or go for a walk. It’s about the friends now.
  2. Keep tempting foods out of the house. I know this can be a tough one. Especially if you have kids, but it’s worth making the effort. You can’t binge on ice cream if it’s not in your freezer. Plus, it’ll make ordering dessert that much more of a treat when you’re out if you aren’t eating it at home all the time.
  3. Find Ways To Cope. When you’re emotional eating, you’re not eating because you’re hungry. You’re eating because you’re unable to cope with your feelings. In my case, I was lonely and had a terrible body image. Finding friends and enjoying life again saved me. As an adult, it’s not always that easy to make new friends or find that sort of outlet. There are sites like meetup.com that have different meetups for people interested in all different hobbies. If you really need someone to talk to, reach out to a family member you trust or look for a local support group. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to your frustrations.

I hope some of you can use these tips to cope with emotional eating. It’s a frustrating problem, but you can beat it!

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Melissa Howard
By: Melissa Howard

Melissa Howard is an aspiring health writer living and working in Boston, MA. Her approach to fitness is to focus on being healthy, not on losing weight or trying to live up to unreachable standards set by magazines or Hollywood. Her favorite ways to stay fit include walking, yoga and pilates. When she's not walking around the city of Boston, she can be found cheering on her favorite Boston sports teams and trying to teach herself to cook.