Are you an emotional eater?
I am not a doctor or a dietitian or even a coach. This article is written by a normal woman, a mother of three, with a lifelong passion for fitness but a struggle with emotional and binge eating. I’m not going to throw out medical research or statistics but rather tell you a bit about my story. In reality, my story is completely connected to the reason Devotion Nutrition became a company in the first place, but let's go back way further.
I wasn’t the best student. Actually school was extremely difficult for me and often caused me to feel a lot of stress and anxiety. I can remember being as young as grade school, struggling with my homework but feeling relief when it came to snack time. Everyone needs to stop working for a snack break, right? Afterall, we need to eat to survive! Food became a comfortable escape for me at a young age. The more stress added up from school work and social pressures and the more sports I played, the more comforting food became. It was my “friend”. Food was always there and felt safe. It wasn’t uncommon for me to come home from a long day of school, after tennis practice and play practice, and polish off a few big bowls of cereal with a banana and milk with a few cookies before I even had dinner with my family! I don’t really know what happened but as my responsibilities as a young adult grew, so did my appetite. The more pressure I felt for performing well in school, being class president, being good at my sports and getting into college, the more I used food to escape the pressure and calm my nerves. Before I knew it, I added yet another pressure on myself, weight gain.
As I blossomed into a young woman I started to care how I looked in my clothes and noticed how my body compared to other girls. I knew I didn’t have a body that would ever be ‘skinny’, but I caught the bug for fitness and bodybuilding by the age of 17. I wanted to look the part too, like the women in the health and fitness magazines. This is when the world of “dieting” and exercise took on a whole new meeting. I had already been athletic since I was 12 but this was another level. Without a ton of knowledge about dieting available in 1997, I would try to eat like the suggested diets in magazines. These diets were often super low calories and consisted of a lot of chicken and broccoli and other bland foods. I got into doing cardio and lifting weights every day. The pressures of college and life (I was headed to school in Miami), were growing stronger. I could diet for days but after a few days of a pretty restrictive diet, I would turn to my old, reliable “friend” food again. I wouldn’t just eat a little something to take the edge off, I would indulge in super large portions of food while convincing myself “I deserved it”. After all, I exercised hard all week and we need food to survive! After consuming massive quantities of food, I felt awful so of course I hit my diet and training and cardio even harder. College school work was equally as stressful for me so after a few days, I was binging and indulging again. Most of the time it didn’t appear like a binge. It would be big meals out with friends after I taught spinning classes and large portions of sweets that I craved that stuffed me to the point of discomfort. This cycle went on for years. Weight was always my battle because this type of emotional and binge eating cycle never truly allowed me to lose weight. As a young woman I lacked the emotional maturity or education that came with what was happening. So the cycle continued because it was all I knew. I described it like a horrible roller coaster ride I couldn’t escape.
By the time I turned 21, I finally had no choice but to face my demons. I was a senior at the University of Miami and my parents announced after 25 years of marriage they were getting a divorce. Their divorce was extremely stressful and far from civil. I turned to food to comfort me. The dog I got in first grade and brought to college with me needed to be put to sleep. I was feeling pretty sad about that so I turned to food. A few nights after Valentine’s Day the guy I had been dating since freshman year was killed in a car accident driving to my house. I was completely shattered. I had never had to deal with the sudden death of someone that close to me. I used food to fill the void in my heart and ease my pain. I can remember sitting in bed, in the dark after his funeral, and my bed was covered in snack foods when the phone rang... It was a childhood friend calling to tell me my best friend since kindergarten was out running and was hit by a truck. She was airlifted and fighting for her life. My world felt so dark and out of control. I didn’t turn to alcohol or drugs to cope but once again I turned to food. At this point, I honestly didn’t even enjoy the food or taste the food. The food was self medication. In one month I gained 30lbs. I didn’t know how else to ease my pain and handle my emotions. Food was my “friend” and comfort but this was no longer a way to live.
I confronted my mother and said, “Mom, I need help.” My parents checked me into the Renfrew Center in South Florida. Therapy sessions were scheduled from the time I woke up until the time I went to sleep. I showed up at my first session and the very first thing the therapist said to me was, “Dana, it’s not about the food.” I looked straight at her and said, “What are you talking about? Yes it is! I love food! I need food!” This is when I discovered I was an emotional binge eater. This is when I realized my battle was going to be life long. The truth is we can’t escape food but we can learn to recognize when we are abusing food. Through therapy, I started to realize I was using food to avoid feeling stress, pain and discomfort. It wasn’t about the food! Of course I still love food and enjoy how food plays huge roles in our lives but food can’t control our lives and it’s not going to solve our problems. Being thin and lean didn’t solve my problems either. You know what solves my problems? Addressing them, facing them and handling them. I had to learn to recognize the times I felt stress and have “tools” In my tool box to cope with stress without the use of food.
These days I still feel a tremendous amount of stress from life. Most of us with busy lives, busy careers and children, just can not escape stress. I’m now a single mother after going through my own divorce, with three young children, a puppy, a home, new relationship and a business. Stress is almost a daily occurrence. At almost 41 years old I’m still pulling from my tool box. I have my mother and friends who allow me to openly vent and verbalize my stress without judging me, I journal and make lists. When I feel a binge coming on, I get out of the kitchen and go outside to walk the dog. I consistently take yoga to help calm my nerves and clear my mind. I have recognized foods that can be triggers for me and I won’t even keep them in the house.
Just recently I took my children to a restaurant for dinner. I was already having a high stress day. The kids were acting up and my nerves felt shot. Just looking at the menu options made me anxious. The lack of healthy options made me recognize that a binge could happen if we stayed so I actually asked my children to get up and leave. We quickly chose a healthier restaurant where I could get a big salad and feel satisfied without feeling the guilt of a stress filled binge. This might sound extreme but these are things I must do to preserve my physical and mental health.
Devotion Nutrition didn’t come along and launch to the public until I was 35 yrs old but the products were invented years before because I knew it wasn’t going to be realistic for me to always run from food. I needed a solution to not feel deprived. I didn’t want to always have to say “NO” to my daily sweet tooth. I believe we should be able to have a delicious morning latte without the sugar and calories. I want to make pancakes and waffles and have a big soft serve protein ice cream without always feeling guilty. I knew if I didn’t ever feel deprived, there was less of a chance I would binge. Devotion protein was my answer! It has truly been my solution to staying on track and controlling my cravings and binges. Plenty of mental and emotional work went into my recovery but Devotion is a huge part of my tool box. Now, being able to help other people with these products has now been my passion. Every time I get an email or direct message from someone who has achieved their goals with the help of Devotion, it reminds me that the tough road I took to get here has been completely worth it. Being able to help others stay devoted to their health and goals is my mission. #UntilItsDone
Dana Lynn Kaye, Founder & Owner of Devotion Nutrition