The Food Diaries: Why We Eat
Confessions 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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