Bernadette’s Quandary

My way of eating blocks emotions.

Recent activity surrounding the suicide of a friend’s daughter has driven home for me the extent to which I eat in order to not feel. In the present situation, the emotion was grief. But I have a long history of dealing with loneliness, boredom, and dissatisfaction with my work life in the same way. I eat to fill myself, but when my stomach is full I still feel empty.

I intellectualize everything. Of course I know what healthy food is. I know where I make my mistakes. I know my eloquent descriptions of the fare at gourmet shops is just a fancy way to trigger my comfort eating. But with all the thinking I’ve done, I still can’t tell what I was born with and what I’ve acquired. What am I stuck with; what can I fix?

I’m the child of a holocaust survivor, of Eastern European immigrants who raised me in a nice quiet town. My mother always blamed her extreme digestive misery on her tragic childhood. She ate hardly at all, only steamed vegetables and a bit of meat or fish. But she fed the rest of us great hunks of black bread and sausages or fried food. And the rest of us are all overweight. We were talking at Suppers about how weight and blood sugar issues run in families, and I had no idea if diabetes runs in my family. Overweight is easy to discern, you can tell by looking. Diabetes is harder to gauge because you can’t tell by looking. How would I know if my siblings have diabetes when we don’t speak of such things? Certainly most of the people in my family don’t know that I have diabetes. But what we do all have is digestive misery, and we can’t blame that on World War II.

The people at Suppers that I see getting better faster than me have goals and plans for how they are going to reach their goals. I don’t have a specific goal. I wish I did. I want to be healthy, control my blood sugar with diet, and lose weight without needing to work on a goal. I’m in a bind. I want the crutch. I don’t want the crutch. I want the crutch. I don’t want the crutch. If I throw away the food crutch, there will be nothing between me and pain.

After working The Suppers Program for nearly two years now, I estimate I eat clean about 50 percent of the time, which is good considering my history. In truth, I am weak. What am I supposed to do when my drug of choice is always in view? I don’t have to walk into a bar to find my trigger; food is everywhere, beckoning to me to neutralize all my uncomfortable feelings. Was I born this way? Did I create this misery by the way I eat? Does it even matter? You see how I am? I was thinking of something positive and drifted into my default setting of negativity! So let me try again to be positive: Suppers gives me people to admire and emulate. They find clarity without intellectualizing everything. They eat the way that works best for them. And they revise their plans based on new information. That’s what I need to do, get a plan and put it into action. I need to work it like my life depends on it – because it does.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if I was born like this or acquired it. I am the only one who will be able to sort out where clean living will carry me. And it’s a hard decision to make because I know if I clean up my act, I will be put in touch with my issues. So for a while longer I will simply be grateful that there is a place I can go every week where there are no experts, no one is judging the pace of my progress, and I can enjoy food that is delicious even though it does not sedate me.