My name is Erin, and I’m a stress eater.
For as long as I can remember, food has been very much a comfort for me. As sad as it sounds, food is the one thing that has never left me and has never let me down. It’s a weird sort of pleasure that I get from eating.
It started from an early age.
My childhood, to put it incredibly lightly, was not an easy one. Bullet points to make this easier to digest:
- My parents divorced when I was young. Truth be told, they had very little in common, and I agree that it was the best thing to do. However, my mother acknowledges that when the divorce happened, I was no longer the daredevilish little girl she’d come to know. And it became more and more apparent to me how emotionally distant my father was from me.
- My mother remarried a couple of years later. Unfortunately, he was an alcoholic and killed himself with alcohol before I turned 12.
- My father remarried a couple of years after that. You know, I entered kindergarten weighing a total of 25 pounds. And when my father was first dating his current wife, I’d get a bit of teasing for being an underweight, picky eater. How did I solve that issue? By eating. And the positive reinforcement started to roll in, and I found comfort in that. But by the time of the wedding, things started to change, and it became pretty obvious that apparently I’d gone too far and gained too much weight.
- Immediately after the wedding, it was like the light switch fully flipped, and every other weekend, I was trapped with a pair of emotional terrorists: One who made it pretty obvious that he didn’t know (or care to know) what to do with me, and the other who would berate me in front of her husband. This was a woman who literally said to our faces, “You may have been part of the package with your father, but make no mistake: You are not, and I will never consider you my children. You are white trash and nothing more.” And my father sat there. She could threaten physical violence, and he’d say nothing. He didn’t have to say anything; it was pretty implicit to a child that he didn’t care to set her straight.
- I endured countless cruel punishments at her hands, being threatened with worse should she find a thing out of place, should she catch me even breathing while being made to stare at the wall, should I not fold something correctly. And she was fond of punishing me and my siblings in public ways. One instance that I remember quite vividly is “losing” my bathing suit (though I have my doubts I actually lost it; I believe she actually hid it in order to punish me) one weekend right before a pool party with the neighbors. Upon her discovering the suit where it should have been, she then led me out in front of everyone and announced that because I’d stupidly lost my suit temporarily, I was no longer going to be swimming, and I was instead going to be made to sit and watch. She announced this with gleeful pride to everyone.
- The state that I grew up in allows minors to have a say in their own custody agreement at the age of 12. A couple of months before my 12th birthday, my father’s wife threatened us with physical violence during one of our visitations, and her tone suggested that it was no mere threat. It scared us so much that we called our mother and requested she pick us up. Upon climbing in the car, I repeatedly told my mother that I was never going to return. I kept that promise, and the custody agreement was amended to give my mother sole physical custody of my sister and me.
- My father often preferred to have vacations or house renovations more than he did paying child support which amounted to a grand total of $13 every 2 weeks for 3 children.
- I think it’s pretty clear I have little to no relationship with my father and his wife. Anything I do is done out of obligation or to keep the peace (not a big fan of conflict), and it’s always done on my terms, because I still get a bit panicky going onto their property.
- I was bullied a lot. I was one of the poor kids in a town full of people that were upper-middle class at the very least, and being fat on top of it didn’t exactly help.
- My mother married for the third time when I was 14. Thankfully, she finally got to experience love that didn’t involve emotional (and physical) torture. We had our ups and downs with him, but he was an incredible man. Sadly, he died in 2010, after losing some of his own weight thanks to weight loss surgery, which unfortunately cannot solve the heart problems that plagued him until his death. We had hope near the end that he would eventually be able to get a transplant, but because he didn’t tell anyone when he was starting to feel ill, he passed the point that his body would be able to survive that kind of surgery, and he passed quite quickly and unexpectedly. To this day, I’m still a bit destroyed inside by it.
- Sometime during college, I developed a rare, severe illness, Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Thankfully, they did catch it early, but I still lost the use of my legs (and some use of my hands) for a while, and I had to relearn how to not only walk, but take care of myself. I’m luckier than some people who do not catch it early, but it’s still not fun. And unfortunately, I still have residual nerve damage as a result, causing pain.
- Another result of the GBS was fibromyalgia. As it was put to me by the pain specialist that diagnosed me, fibromyalgia tends to develop after trauma to the body, and it’s pretty clear that GBS is pretty decent trauma to happen to someone’s body.
- Sometime in 2010, we also discovered the root cause of the back pain that has been plaguing me for years (even before the Guillain-Barre). It turns out that I have a vertebra that is broken in the lumbar portion of my spine. Both facets are broken, and it appears as though the breaks will not heal (especially because they haven’t healed yet). I’m nowhere close to eligible for spinal surgery, but I still have to deal with daily sciatic pain that radiates down both legs, and weakness in my core causes a decent amount of pain. I’m currently unable to drive thanks to these issues.
- Mental illness
Thankfully, I’ve also had a lot of good:
- My mother is one of my rocks and the best role model I could have ever asked for. If I can be even half as selfless as she is as a mother, I can still pass along amazing positive traits to my children.
- My husband is my other rock. We come from two different worlds: Him, from a fairly affluent but loving family, and me from a rather poor background and a bit of a shaky start. But he’s shown me just how amazing and transformative love can be, and he’s more patient than I deserve.
- My relationship with my siblings is pretty strong. What we went through as children (our own separate experiences in and of themselves are ridiculous enough that we’ve made it out alive) would normally tear families apart, but my relationship with my brother, sister, and mother is as strong as it can be, and I’m so thankful for it.
- A special few people have made it far enough to be lifelong friends of mine. I’m not a very trusting person, but a few people have been able to find a way over my tall walls to find me and support me. I don’t deserve them, but I am so happy to have them.
Outside of my mother’s side of the family and my few friends, food has been the one thing that is always there. About two and a half years ago, I started to pay a personal trainer to help me lose a few pounds before my wedding. I didn’t really lose a lot of weight, but I did get stronger and more toned. After the wedding, I finally got my ass into gear. I dropped 70 pounds, and I was the lowest weight I’ve been since about my senior year of high school.
Enter this year. My husband got a job here in New York starting about a year ago, so I had to leave my trainer behind. I was going to a gym here, but I started quickly dropping my healthy habits in favor of my less healthy, more comforting ones. As much as I loved the praise I was getting, the stress was kicking up pretty heavily. Then at the beginning of this year, I lost my job.
And then I lost the plot.
It’s pretty clear to me that being dealt this blow has been devastating in more than just an ego hit or money woes. I placed a lot of pride in doing a good job. I put my blood, sweat, and tears in for over 6 years, only to be a casualty when they held massive layoffs. The writers in my business segment were largely gutted, and I was left wondering why that guy that needed his hand held was the guy they kept. What was wrong with me?
I’ve put back on 30 pounds. And it’s started to be that same depressing cycle: I’m sad, so I eat. Then I’m sad that I’m eating, so it makes me sadder. So I eat more.
My name is Erin, and I’m an emotional eater.
I deserve better than this. I deserve better than to dread going back to visit my family over the holidays, having put back on that weight. I deserve better than to hate myself when I look in the mirror. I deserve that happiness that I used to get every time the number on the scale was smaller than the last time I looked at it.
It starts today. Healthy habits are kicking back in, gradually as I did before (it’s the only thing that worked).
Someday, I hope to look back and be able to say:
My name is Erin, and I no longer depend on my food for happiness. That happiness leads to sadness, and I know I deserve more.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey back to a healthier me.
I plan to update this at least once a week with progress reports. At the moment, I’m not willing to post pictures of myself, and I’m certainly not going to post my weight at the moment. At the end, I’ll show everyone just how hard I’ve worked and reveal the true number I started at.
We all deserve more. We all deserve happiness from experiences and loved ones, not just the food that often accompanies those times.