I’m an Emotional Eater

“What kind of supplements are you taking?”  That’s a question I get asked often.  

Powders, meal replacements, pills, surgeries, Biggest Loser, Lasers, Sculpting, Liquid Diets, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, etc. etc.  Any and everything to lose weight?  Any and everything to get toned/ripped?  I haven’t taken supplements since I was a teenager.  I’ve put most of my energy over the years into getting my consumption of vegetables up and my consumption of processed foods down.  No one will disagree with me on this strategy. But the problem is the fact that it’s tough.  Trust me I get it!  I grew up eating pop tarts, honey buns, drinking kool-aid and soda, everyday. I grew up on McDonalds and Pizza. As a matter of fact, I was and still am, an emotional eater.

I don’t know if we fully understand what psychological trauma on a consistent basis as a kid does to a person.  Often, when I’m at social functions I get offered something sweet and I’ll turn it down on the first offer.  Maybe, the second and third as well.  I’ve learned that people make the assumption that I am obsessive about my health and can’t allow myself to have one cookie.  People get offended by that or they get concerned by it, “Travis is so uptight about his diet.”  Here’s what they don’t know, when I was a kid I used sweets to self-medicate.  Food was a coping mechanism.  It helped me escape the misery of the verbal abuse and the disappointment of trying summer after summer to lose weight and seeing nothing happen.  I was also by myself a lot and would eat out of boredom.

It hasn’t been until the last 3-4 years that I have come to terms with this.  I always felt like it was such an embarrassing weakness and ‘Super Travis’ didn’t want to admit that he to, has a kryptonite.  When I do go ahead and eat that cookie at the party, I’m going to want to eat the whole tray.  I’m going to want to binge because that’s how I engaged sugar growing up.  I’ll restrain myself as best I can at the party, but, later when I’m by myself, I’ll go get a whole package of cookies from the store and I’ll eat them all.  In my car.  I’ll dispose of the packe in a garbage can that’s not in the house.  I don’t want to leave any evidence for my roommates to find.  I’m kind of like an alcoholic in that regard.  Once I quit the bottle I can’t have a another sip or I’ll go right back into addiction.  Food is complicated because it’s necessary for survival and sugar is a drug that’s accepted by our society.

When I abstain from the cookie/dessert, I’m setting myself up for success.  I’ve learned to let people be offended because when I cave into the pressure, I’m the one that pays for it. When you stay away from sugar on a regular basis and suddenly you binge on a whole bunch of it, life sucks.  I’ll go to bed (because it usually happens at night when I’m tired and my willpower is low) and the next day I’ll have a raging headache and feel like I’m in a fog.  My body isn’t as responsive and all I want to do is sleep.  I can feel that way for up to 2-3 days before getting back to normal.

I do have the ability to eat something sweet and stop, but I have to do it on my own terms, when I feel like I crave it.  When it’s being forced on me or I feel compelled by someone else’s judgement, it stresses me out, and the sudden taste of sugar just throws my cravings into hyperdrive, “I want more!”  When I cave and then binge later on, the whole cycle stresses me out which makes me want more sugar.  Then I’m pissed at myself and pissed at the people who gave it to me.  More stress, more sugar please. Downward spiral.


Of course, I seek to grow in my ability to engage sweets in a healthy way.  A large part of that process has hinged on being honest with myself and others.

“No thank you.  I’ll pass on that cookie today.  

Oh, you want to know why?  Well, I’m an emotional eater.

I’m not obsessed with calories.  

I can see how you might think I am obsessed.  Really, I’m not.  I just prefer to feel good and have a clear mind.

I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food growing up.  I know you may have but mine was very dysfunctional.

It takes time to unlearn those patterns.”

The main point here is to encourage people to understand that you can have massive weaknesses and still overcome.  Obviously I lost the weight and obviously I’m in good physical shape today.  However, in order to do that, I set my environment up to work with me.  I don’t typically buy desserts to keep at home.  I try to buy just enough, only when I crave it.  I try to make sure I have access to decent food at all times.  Particularly when I know I’m going to be tired.  Fatigue makes the sugar cravings go up.  Stress also makes those cravings go up.  Of course, willpower goes down in these times.  If I’m hungry, tired, and pissed, and there’s nothing around but donuts, donuts are getting eaten.  This is why I harp so much on financial peace, healthy relationships, and purposeful work.  It’s hard to kick addiction when it’s the only thing that’s pleasurable in life.

When was the last time you were truly honest with yourself about your vices?  All of them?  What are you doing to mitigate those issues?

Until next time…


2 thoughts on “I’m an Emotional Eater

  1. I love this articleTravis, and will add to my repertoire of food questions “why am I eating this? Is it satisfying true hunger? Or a vague emotional need?”
    Examining our relationship with food and emotions can truly be a lifetimes worth of work.


    1. Absolutely Agree LeeAnn. I’m actually fasting from coffee right now and I’m noticing how much of a comfort drink it was. At least there will always be a new thing to learn!


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