"Losing weight is easy," she told me. "Stop eating for emotional reasons, and only put food in your mouth when you're hungry. The hard part is not losing weight. The hard part is managing your thoughts."
"But I am not an emotional eater," I responded. "I just love food."
"It's never just about the food," she said.
I have always been unemotional. I lost count of how often someone has told me "you seem so calm." "How are you so unaffected by things?" The two times in my life when I felt depressed I actually stopped eating. I lost my desire for food.
It never occurred to me that if emotions could lead me to turn food away, they could just as easily cause me to overeat.
A strange thing happened when I decided to purposefully consume food, just for fuel. I planned what I would eat for the day and vowed not to put anything in my mouth in a reactionary way.
In the mood for a handful of popcorn? Nope, not on my plan. Pop a wedge of cheese in my mouth as I'm fixing the kid's dinner? It's a no.
Without the little food fix here, or swig of wine there, guess what started to bubble up?
A whole mess of feelings. Some wonderful, most of them awful, and the downright tedious process of allowing my emotional life to be there.
Turns out it's not always peaceful. The water is not always placid. I was just really good at shoving it all down with food. I didn't think I was an emotional eater because my feelings were never given the chance to surface. I pursued food like it was my full-time job. And for awhile, it was.
"What do I do with all this negativity now?" I asked her. "It seems like I'm carrying around a ton of emotional baggage."
Anytime a craving started knocking, food could not come to the door. Wine could not answer it. I had to just listen to it and start wondering. Where was it coming from? What was it there for? Eventually the urge would stop, the door would open, and I could look whatever it was in the face. Fear, shame, guilt, sadness, joy.
"Did it ever to occur to you that those emotions have always been there?" she said. "It's not that there are so many more of them now."
True. I had been carrying that emotional weight around the whole time. It was in my stomach, my thighs, my face. It was there, hanging on, where it could not be processed.
"Now you are becoming attune to what has been there all along," she said finally. "Would you rather be aware or stay unconscious?"
Good question. All of the sudden it was no longer about the weight loss. No longer just about the food.