May 18, 2010

part three: open at your own risk.

hey again!
we made it through monday! that's a reason to celebrate, in my book.

so this week, i thought i'd pick your brains about something near and dear to my heart - emotional eating. yeah, i know it sucks, but it's been brought up in so many conversations the last week i had to talk about it!

at the 10k i cheered for the other day, i got the opportunity to chat with a dear friend's mom while she ran. my friend has been struggling through some health issues for quite some time, and recently has been frustrated with the weight she's gained during the process. the problem? since she is so healthy (trains for marathons, teaches pilates, studies nutrition, etc.), she is exponentially more frustrated with the extra weight. she keeps her diet perfectly... counts calories, eats whole foods, etc... but when she gets sick, she really struggles with emotional eating. i think it's so normal for us ladies to put on a few pounds when we don't feel good - we comfort ourselves, no? i know i do.

i also was blessed to meet with christie from honoring health on sunday, who is one of the most honest ladies i know concerning her experiences with emotional eating. it's something that after growing up as one of three sisters and seeing all of us struggle, i believe probably every breathing female has struggled with, in one form or another... can't we all relate?

these ladies encouraged me to give you guys my story. i hope it can only spare y'all some of the frustration and heartbreak i went through as i navigated a healthier relationship with food.

my journey to health, balance, and peace.
as a child, i never feared food. in fact, i was a pretty hearty eater! i was a competitive swimmer from an early age, and as you can imagine, that requires a fair amount of food. this was all well and good until i got mono my junior year of high school...

when i got sick, i got really sick. i dropped everything. i missed weeks of school at a time, i didn't leave the couch all day, and i successfully watched every episode of every season of ANTM to date... i know, i know. but unfortunately, you know what i also dropped? exercise.

so when you go from 7 two-hour swim practices a week to NOT EVEN SCRATCHING YOUR NOSE, you might gain a bit of weight. and gain weight i did... about 30 or 40 pounds. i just kept eating like i was still burning 2,000 extra calories a day... but i wasn't. at all.

i was never fat, but at the time, i felt straight-up like Free Willy.

of course, this all happened right before i left for college, so on top of wanting to lose what i had gained, i was terrified by the thought of seemingly certain doom: the freshman-15.

enter: exercise.
what was this!?! i had totally forgotten what it meant to exert muscular force (other than channel surfing, of course...). i started running 3-4 times a week with my gorgeous roommate, who also was trying to slim up... and the weight started to fall off.

at ellwoods a few weeks ago... healthy!

after a while, i started to examine my eating habits. i found it was easy to be healthier - i swapped salad for cake, water for sprite, and cereal for sausage. not surprisingly, i lost a bit more. i was in shape. i felt really good...
andddddddd then, i met my (now ex-)boyfriend.

enter: emotional disaster.
at first, it was a confidence boost to have a new guy. i felt pretty and desired for the first time in a long time... before the emotional abuse began. i won't go into the nitty gritty, but after dating him six months, i ended up at home, on drugs, destroying my body, with no clue who i was anymore.

how could this happen to me? i was so strong and proud of who i was. i spent the next year stumbling around, making more bad decisions, trying to uncover a shred of who i used to be.

one of the ways i regained control in my life was by losing more weight. i started working out twice a day and eating just enough so i didn't pass out on the treadmill. while i looked "healthy," i was depressed and starving. sure, i weighed less, but was i happy? no. i still hated my body. inside, i was still ugly.

if drugs couldn't mask the pain, i thought for sure wearing a size 2 would solve my problems. right? isn't that what you read in magazines?

... but there i was, weighing less than ever, in a place so dark i barely had the will to get out of bed.

the binges begin.
if thinness wasn't the answer, what was? i begin searching for something to fill the hole in my heart, and i thought i found it in running. i started training for a half-marathon, so once again, i needed a lot of food. it started out harmlessly enough. like a lot of athletes, the line between fueling and binging can be sneaky... when you're training hard, why not reward yourself with 2 bowls of ice cream? you deserve a whole bag of chips after that run. after 2 years of focusing on nothing but weight loss, i allowed myself to relax... a lot.

and so, the pounds crept on. i was self-medicating my wounds little by little every day, until i realized i had gained 20 pounds back! i worked in my bathing suit that summer, so i was desperate to lose the weight. i started restricting what i ate way too much while still running twice a day. i did lose a bit, but eventually, i couldn't do it anymore... i cracked.

my body was crying out for food, and my broken heart was crying out to be healed. i wasn't ready to face my emotions, so i tried to cover them up. i felt controlled during they day because i barely ate, but when i came home at night, i was hurting, lonely, and starving. i would eat everything i could get my hands on. i didn't know why i was eating, but i just kept crying and eating. i guess i figured maybe something would taste good enough to make me forget how alone i was.

well, it never did. i just ended up not being able to wear my pants. awesome. i kept restricting, and i kept binging. i remember thinking the only way i would be free from binging was if i was dead. how hopeless and twisted is that? it had to stop. there had to be an answer. there must be a way to be happy with your body... right?

enter: the epiphany.
one day, i had eaten enough. i had to buy all new clothes, and honestly, i was just... embarrassed. i was ready to move on. i realized the problem wasn't my appetite, but my broken heart.

all my life, i was terrified of my feelings. i couldn't handle emotions, so i stuffed them down inside myself and moved on. i never let myself deal with anything - i just ran away from my fears and pretended everything was ok. no wonder i was so broken inside... i never allowed myself to heal!

i realized the answer to my struggles with food wasn't at the bottom of a carton of ben and jerry's, but it also wasn't in having perfect six-pack abs, either. the answer? i had to get real with myself. i had to be OK with the fact that i had some demons that needed facing, and it was going to be scary. it was going to be hard. but you know what? i would get through it. i would move on.

once i stopped running to food, i had to ask myself: what was i running from? this was the hardest part of my journey to health. it's uncomfortable to look inward honestly and really process how we feel about ourselves. but it is the only way we can find peace with ourselves, and i don't know who or where i'd be if i hadn't.

two ways i escaped self-destruction:

1. lose the perfectionism! no, seriously. do it now! this is SO hard to grasp, because it seems counter-productive at first. the reason i started binging in the first place was because i was trying to be too perfect during the day. i thought that if i wanted to lose weight, i had to do it by eating as little as possible... no cookies, no bread, no juice, no snacks, NO FUN! if i "messed up," the day was a loss, and i might as well eat some cookies and start over tomorrow.
but this is so not true!!! there is never a point where you should say "well, i've blown it, so i might as well give up." don't let yourself fall into that trap!

we are humans, and humans aren't perfect. what you eat and weigh isn't a barometer of how amazing of a person you are, so cut yourself some slack! girls are MEANT TO EAT, so don't allow yourself to think you have to be "good" and starve yourself. it always backfires, because humans need food. we can't live without it! it's not about you or your willpower being "strong enough."

change your perception of perfection. successful should mean healthy, happy, and active - not starvation.

2. face your demons. you will never find peace with food until you dig deeper. i love the quote from the t.v. show Ruby... "it's not what you're eating, but what's eating you." this is crucial. if i was honest with myself, i would have realized i was binging to try to replace the feeling of contentment... the feeling i got from being safe, happy, and in love.

all those years, i looked to guys to try to fill that void in my heart. i tried to be the best girlfriend with the funniest jokes, the most friends, and the hottest body, and maybe that would be enough.

well, it wasn't. it took years of struggling through damaging, failing relationships for me to realize no one person would ever be able to make me happy. no boy could ever be charming, responsible, or sensitive enough to solve my problems - that was God's job. people can make my life enjoyable and help me sort through my feelings, but only Jesus Christ can satisfy me.

that doesn't make me weak, desperate, or a freak - God designed it this way! He designed His love to fulfill me when cookies can't... how awesome is that? only after i stopped trying to jump through the hoops of weight loss and dieting did i find i could rest on God. i didn't have to run away anymore. i was finally safe.

that's my story of why i feel at peace.
i had to struggle a lot with binging and destroying myself through drugs and guys. sadly, because i am so stubborn, it took going through all that before i was ready to stop spinning in circles and accept the fact that i am not perfect and never will be.

... but none of us are!
why should we have to live with the pressure to be something we can't ever achieve?

please do two things for me.
1. please see yourself as you really are - gorgeous, healthy, and alive! i don't care about what you weigh, and no one else does either. why waste your energy beating yourself up? let's be realistic about our bodies, because we deserve that. life is hard enough already, right?
2. please ask yourself the hard questions - because you deserve to be able to heal and move on. you literally could run away from your emotions your whole life... but you don't have to! why should you carry around a burden that will only make you miserable? letting my fears go didn't ruin my life... it gave me the life God intended for me to have all along. freedom.

thoughts? questions? comments?
i would love to hear your stories of victory, or the ones you still struggle with.
please don't hesitate to email me either.
- rebekah


  1. Beautiful post, my new dear friend.

    Thanks for being so open and honest. You are beautiful and your spirit is a bright and shining!

  2. wow i enjoyed reading every single line of this. i am so amazed at how similar i can relate my story to yours and even more shocked at how many people i know that also relate to this. sadly i agree that i think every female at some time during their life will be affected by emotional eating. i had no idea of your story and am so proud and thankful that ur sharing because being able to relate can make a world of difference to people! some will spend their whole lives and never get control over their empotions, constantly using food to cope.. and some will be able to channel their stressors into something more healthy.. and end up living fulfilling lives. i think it is so beautiful to see how you came out ontop of it all.. food, drugs, rebellion, boys, all of that! you are simply amazing. im sort of left speechless <3

    thank you!!!

  3. Girl, you are incredibly strong and brave and this post is further evidence of that. I applaud you for bearing your soul on the blog this way. You are beautiful and I'm so glad you now have a healthy relationship both with food and with yourself!

  4. I just want to give you a big bear hug right now...because I am otherwise speechless. I loved every. single. line. of this post - you are SO, so real, and SO, so inspirational. I know I've said that twenty times, but I hope it never gets old - because I know I'll be saying it many more! I truly respect and look up to you for your courage and strength, and sharing your story with us. Love ya, girl - and again - THANK YOU!!

  5. love this post!! you are so right NO ONE is perfect and no one will ever be <3

  6. Amazing post Rebekah! I loved reading your story and appreciate your honesty soo much. I am SO happy you've found peace now :)
    P.S. the whale photo made me chuckle. just a little bit. =P

  7. You are so brave to share this with us, Rebekah.
    You have been through a lot, and to me it seems like it has made you stronger and wiser.
    Based on your past you now know what to focus on when it comes to health and happiness, and that food is not the single answer to our emotions. Our emotions must be confronted with mental reflection and through being honest with ourself.
    Your journey is one I can identify with. Trying to cover up emotions with both restricting, bingeing and then restricting again, without ever asking why I used food this way. Was it my relationship with guys? My feeling of never being good enough? The fact that I never fit in?
    You are amazing, and I am proud of you.
    This post is important, very important.

  8. so awesome of you to share!=)

  9. Thanks for this post! I am struggling with posting some personal things on my blog around body image/food and your post made me feel not so scared to share. It's always good to know that we aren't alone in our struggles.

  10. I read this yesterday and thought I commented but I didn't!

    Beautiful post. <3 I really admire how well you can talk about this stuff. I've never been an emotional eater, because when I'm upset I actually eat less, but I do understand the struggle. And I feel you on the ANTM thing. That wasn't my show of choice but after a while my family started consulting me regarding what was on at certain times and I could tell them as though I were a human TV guide. Which wasn't good. :S And it is amazing how well exercise works on people with fibro. It seems counter-intuitive, to move when it's the last thing you want to do when you feel sluggish and pained, but it's a beautiful thing. I can't run very long before I need to stop because I'm tired but I always feel better and more accomplished when I do it. :)

    Oh, and my horrible memory is the reason why I completely forgot to THANK YOU for the adorable card you sent me! It really lifted my spirits. :) I'm still not sure when I can do lunch though. Near the end of the school year I get too busy for my own good. :(

  11. WOW. This is such a strong post. You make a great point, we all struggle with emotional eating from time to time, and it's natural. It's the way our body copes with things that are going on in our lives that aren't so great. And like in your case, it sucks when you go from exercising like you said 7 hours a day to NOTHING- clearly your food intake will need to be tweaked, but it's hard to adjust to all those new things! You are so right about everything you said in this post and I hope more girls out there get the chance to read this!! <3

  12. you are such a beautiful, honest, & open person. ♥ thank you for being you.


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