By Pratibha Pal Jan. 27, 2021
When I’d get caught up in a gyre of low self-esteem, pity, sadness, and loneliness, I’d scoop oodles of cream into the custard or binge on tubs of ice-cream. Food became my favourite weapon to beat stress and soon my cravings took over my life.
When I decided to give up my career spanning 15 years to look after my twin boys, I was ready to embark on a beautiful journey of motherhood. I knew it wasn’t going to be all rainbows and unicorns, but I wasn’t prepared for my whole life to be upturned. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer frustration that came with parenting. It didn’t help that I had a spouse who travelled often, leaving me to deal with two hyperactive boys who had minds of their own. What I also didn’t expect was that I’d turn to food when I needed comfort and this reliance on eating would become a means of emotional release, an addiction.
I distinctly remember the day when in the middle of eating my lunch, my thoughts wandered to what I wanted to eat next. I dismissed it as a craving, but little did I know that it would be the beginning of an arduous journey that would take me to dark places over the next few years.
Each time I found myself struggling to cope with my boys and their tantrums, I’d start eating something mindlessly, even as I was acutely aware that it was unhealthy. When I’d get caught up in a gyre of low self-esteem, pity, sadness, and loneliness, I’d scoop oodles of cream into the custard or binge on tubs of ice-cream. That extra burger and the creamy risotto became my favourite weapon to beat stress. I’d order it every time I was overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting. Midnight snacks after a complete meal or baking my favourite banana bread and minced-filled buns consumed all my spare time. There was hardly a time I’d look back with regret, because the only thought that raced through my mind was, “What should I eat next?”
Even three years after the boys were born, nothing changed. My only coping mechanism was food and more food. Obviously, I had put on weight and even though I strongly suspected that I wasn’t doing things the right way, a part of me was unwilling to accept it. It didn’t help that my family told me “it’s a passing phase” and all this was because bringing up two children is exhausting. Of course, they are more worldly-wise than I am, I convinced myself, pushing back any lingering doubt and moving on with life… and eating.
My only coping mechanism was food and more food.
This was until a friend pointed out that I needed help and that probably I was bordering on depression. At first, I shushed her. Depression? Me? That was unrealistic. But when I realised I didn’t know how to put a stop to the binge-eating, I knew that she was right; I needed help. Period. And then the emotions tumbled out: What if I really had depression? What would my family think? What if they could not relate to what I was going through?
The more I thought, the more I stressed, and the more I ate. After days of deliberation, I chose to seek treatment. As I walked into the therapist’s room, I emptied the entire tissue box at the clinic, unable to speak anything with tears rolling down my cheeks. That was also the day, my fears were confirmed. I did have depression which was related to my emotional eating. I had binge eating disorder (B.E.D), where you eat frequently and uncontrollably.
My mind was filled with a myriad of thoughts. And then came the phase of hatred for myself. I began to hate my looks; my body and I abhorred every inch of my existence. The self-loathing that came along with the condition made me cringe. To redeem myself, I resorted to throwing up, taking laxatives to shed what I had gained, but it was futile because B.E.D had taken over my life. No matter how any promises I made to myself, the pattern would repeat week after week. If I were to choose one word to describe emotional eating, it would be desperate. Desperate for that extra piece of cake, the umpteen cups of coffee, the extra scoop of ice-cream and more. This continued for over eight years.
Until one day, I decided it had to stop. Truth is always hard to digest, but I took up a challenge to eat mindfully, to eliminate the comfort snacking from my life. I didn’t opt for yo-yo diets or fads that promised you would lose five kilos a month. I chose to plan my meals and eat mindfully. This was tough initially because I was so used to giving into cravings. There were days when I had to literally hold myself back from heading to the refrigerator; there were days when my desire for food made me weep.
My mind was filled with a myriad of thoughts. And then came the phase of hatred for myself.
But with the guidance of my therapist, I’ve come a long way. It’s been a little over six months since I last went on a binge-eating spree. There are times when my mind often races back to food, but I distract myself by taking time out for walks, simple exercises and meditation. If I am feeling low, I call the one person who hears me rant. If I am anxious, I de-stress by taking a hot shower. If I am bored, I take a break. Indulge in Netflix, curl up with a book with some coffee. That’s more than enough to keep the cravings at bay. I am calmer and I think before I make an impulse decision.
Yet every once in a while, I crave for a plate of momos, and when I do, I order it and eat a piece or two, relishing the deliciousness of it instead of gobbling down two platefuls.
Pratibha Pal spent her childhood reading a variety of books that let her imagination wander and that's why she writes. She still hopes to come across the Magic Faraway Tree one day. When she's not rooting for eco-living or whipping up some DIY recipes on her eco-blog to share with her readers, she is creating magic with social media. You can view her blog at www.pratsmusings.com or reach her on Twitter at @myepica or follow her on Instagram @Pratsmusings