Please Stop Watching Me Eat!
By Rory Freedman
When it comes to emotional eating, I've been through the gamut. As a child, I was picky with what was put on my plate, so dinner was a constant battle of wills. According to my father, I had two choices: eat my vegetables or spend the night at the kitchen table. But I would not be bullied. I discovered an effective alternative: throwing up on my plate. I was excused.
As a teenager, I had long stopped letting a man -- my dad -- tell me how to eat. But apparently I still had some hurdles to clear. When my college boyfriend cheated, then confessed his infidelity, I lost about 10 pounds in two days. My roommates begged me to eat, even bringing me my favorite meals. But I felt empty inside; food had lost its allure. My body disappeared, along with my sanity and my faith in men. (Fortunately, my self-worth remained intact: I kicked that boyfriend's sorry ass to the curb.)
By my late 20s, I'd entered the take-charge phase of my life, and I hit my stride with food. (Thankfully, my faith in men had also been restored.) I cared deeply about what I put in my body and where my meals came from. I'd learned my lessons, and I wanted to share my insights with others. So, with my friend Kim Barnouin, I decided to write a diet and lifestyle book called Skinny Bitch.
Last May, Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, was photographed holding a copy of Skinny Bitch, and virtually overnight, sales skyrocketed. Although the global media frenzy was a gift from the publicity gods, I now find my diet and lifestyle under scrutiny: "How many rolls is she having?" "Did you see how fast she ate that?" "She ordered fries?!" Suddenly I feel weird eating in public. When I go to a restaurant, I can't shake the feeling that at any moment a photographer is going to pop out from under a table to try to catch me eating something "bad."
Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing to hide. I eat really well, almost all of the time. But I also indulge in occasional crap, which I don't feel the least bit bad about. (When it comes to cupcakes, the answer is always yes.) The goal was never to be some kind of robot eater, or to convince anyone else that they should be one. As Kim and I say in Skinny Bitch, "Just because we wrote this book doesn't mean we're perfect. If you see us eating junk food or doing beer bongs, don't hold it against us. We believe in enjoying life and maintaining a healthy balance. We're human." But the media never quotes that part of the book; they make it sound as if we tout a diet of lettuce and sprouts. Now I'm paranoid that they're out to get me: "Destroy the Skinny Bitch!"
My new challenge is not to let the recent attention spoil my greatest passion in life -- eating. So far, so good: I still refuse to be bullied. People can say what they want. I will eat what I want. And if that photographer ever does spring out from under the table, I'll invite him to join me. (Hopefully, he'll be cute.)
Freedman is the coauthor of the best-selling books Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch.
Denise Crew/Fitness MagazineConfessions of an Emotional Eater
By Karen Karbo
My name is Karen Karbo, and I am an emotional eater. I suppose I should feel some shame about this, but since I'm healthy and of normal weight, I've decided to embrace my moody appetite instead. The secret to my success? I understand well the urges that send me to the pantry. Some emotions -- like frustration -- require the immediate consumption of a pound of onion rings. But other emotions are better weathered by watching a rerun of CSI. When I'm fearful, for instance, or feeling blue, I have no appetite at all. (This is part of my dour, pessimistic Slav heritage. In fact, my glass-half-empty family is so skinny, I go home to lose weight.)
For my fellow EE Anonymous members, I have this advice: If every feeling in the human emotional pantheon sends you diving headfirst into the Entenmann's, you're going to have to re-prioritize, or else make "Big Is Beautiful" your lifelong motto. The better strategy is to connect different emotions to different food groups -- and learn which feelings require no food at all. That way, the greater your mood swings, the more balanced your diet becomes.
And here's another tip: It's a myth that emotional eaters live on ice cream and doughnuts alone. People tend to think that because we snack from the heart, what we reach for is always bad for us. Not so. When I'm consumed by pure rage, I prefer food I can tear with my teeth or crunch so loudly I can't hear a word anyone else is saying. In those moments, an apple or a big carrot is more satisfying than a soft chocolate chip cookie. Ditto celery -- known as a dieter's delight, but I like to think of it as Anger Management.
The best thing about embracing my emotional eating is that I've never fallen prey to what ruins so many less eccentric eating plans: guilt. In my world, all food is comfort food. What you eat simply depends on how you feel. And assuming I have a normal week, one where I rage at my cell-phone provider and feel delirious while riding my horse, content at a friend's party, depressed by the evening news and amused by Paris Hilton's latest shenanigans, I figure I've got the major food-pyramid departments covered. As long as I eat -- or don't -- according to my emotions, it balances out in the end.
It's not a perfect system, but for me, it works. Last time I hopped on the scale, I found I weighed the same as I did in college. You might say I'm having my cake and eating it too -- but only a small slice, with the frosting scraped off.
Karbo, a Pulitzer-prize finalist, is the author of the novel Trespassers Welcome Here and the nonfiction book Big Girl in the Middle with Gabrielle Reece.
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