Emotional eating and food addiction are just like any other addictions. But the biggest difference is that food is placed in front of us multiple times a day, because our body needs food as fuel. I admit I struggled with emotional eating, emotional bingeing and food addiction. I used food to fill a gap in my heart and in my life. I idolized food and it started to run my life. But now i can confidently tell you that I am winning this battle with emotional eating and food addiction. Everybody has struggles. This is mine. And if this is yours, I’m right there with you. So, let’s talk about it because if we don’t we feel alone and feel like we can’t conquer this thing but I know we can!
In This Episode, Allie Discusses:
What emotional eating is and how it differs from food addiction.
How emotional eating is like any other addiction, only it is something placed in front of you multiple times a day (food is everywhere and your body needs it).
What she does to win the battle over her emotional eating and food addiction (and how you can too!)
The power of adjusting your relationship with food as something that is needed to fuel your body, not an obsession.
Mentioned in this Episode:
The Simplified Grocery Shopping List is something I have created (for free!) that will help you simplify the process of grocery shopping, planning your meals, food prepping, all that good stuff because we do have to eat so often during the day and it can be really complicated. So, if you're looking to make some healthy changes and simplify this area of your life, kind of take a minimalist approach to all of that, I've got you!
who doesn't love a GIVEAWAY?
Reviews are everything on iTunes! Would you take a minute and click here to leave a review? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a screenshot of your review on iTunes. You'll be entered to win one of Allie's amazing courses for FREE!
Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and I know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Hey friends! Today I want to talk about something that's kind of heavy, definitely raw and vulnerable and might be difficult to hear.
I think a few months ago it would've been difficult to share too, but today it's not. I'm ready. I feel peaceful. I even feel excited to let you in on this part of my life. I'm really hopeful that it'll help somebody out there listening.
But before I dive in, I want to let you know that we're going to be talking about emotional eating, emotional bingeing and food addiction.
This has been a struggle for me pretty much my entire adult life. I think this can be a really sensitive topic and I want you to know that I do not mean to point the finger at anyone or make you feel awful about yourself. If your health or your weight has been something that you've struggled with in your life, please know that this isn't directed at you.
I want you to know that this episode is just me sitting at my desk in front of my microphone sharing and opening up about a very private struggle in my life, something that has been a part of most of my life and has totally ruled me at many different points in my life.
This episode is about me and my struggle and I want you to know as the listener that you can do whatever you choose to do with this episode. You could take it to heart and make changes if that's where you feel led, if that's what you want to do after listening. You could turn it off right now and not listen to the rest of it. You could listen and do nothing because you don't struggle with this area of your life or you do struggle with it and you're not there yet. You're not ready to change.
My hope for this episode is that it would bring a light and shine it on this problem area that not a lot of people are talking about in our world and that it would uplift somebody. I don't want it to bring anyone down. I want it to be really open and honest and I want it to be a help to somebody.
A few months ago, I was doing a live stream in one of my Facebook groups and this topic came up. I casually shared a little bit about my history with emotional eating and food addiction and the response was so overwhelming. Even now, I get messages and emails from the women who happen to catch that live on a regular basis asking if I would ever consider opening up more, doing an episode about it, or a blog post, or even write a book or something.
I honestly had never really thought about it. I think I was so caught up in the battle, of actively fighting this battle in my life that I didn't really think about, “Oh, this is something that I'm dealing with. This is something that I could share about.”
But now I can confidently tell you that I'm winning this battle with emotional eating and food addiction. And I'm happy to open up and share now that I have a little bit of hindsight. It’s still very present. It's kind of like yelling. It's still something that I struggle with and I will probably always struggle with, but I know who I am, where I stand, and I know what I should and shouldn't do. I've got a good grip on this. So much has been done in my life in this area that I'm ready to share.
And so, I just want you to know what my intent is with this episode. I know that things like anorexia, bulimia, a negative body image and all those things are very, very real things. I just want to be really clear that my intent is simply to open up, kind of peel the curtain back on my own life. This episode is about me and my struggle.
So, let's first start with going over, what is emotional eating and what does it look like when it's lived out? I've read in the past that emotional eating is unavoidable, that it's just something that we do no matter what. And I would have to very strongly disagree that it's unavoidable.
I think that we absolutely have the choice of what we put into our bodies. I think that's a very hopeless statement. I remember reading that at a difficult time in my life when I was struggling with this, and feeling like I used it as an excuse, like, “See, even science says that it's unavoidable, so it's okay,” and it's not okay.
I was using food to fill a gap in my heart and in my life. I was basically idolizing food and it started to run my life. I would have a hard day or we would be going through something. This was really prominent in the time of me and Brian's life when we were really broke. (If you haven't listened to Episode 6, you can get that story there.) Things were just really hard. It was a constant struggle and food was kind of my sanctuary. It was an escape.
Junk food is cheap. Having sugar and having junk food releases hormones and chemicals in you and it gives you a reaction. It is addictive. It gives you a high. And I was actively seeking out food - fast food, junk food like Oreos, candy, sweet, salty - all different types of food that was not good for me and was binge eating it.
For a long time, it was pretty much every night. I'd go through little bouts where I would stop and then I'd come back to it. Maybe I'd stop for a few days, maybe a few weeks, maybe even a couple months. And then I would come back to it. It was an addiction and it absolutely had a hold on my life.
This is something that is embarrassing to me. It's embarrassing to admit that I binge ate food, when my closest friends are fit, skinny, health-minded and they've never struggled with this. I always felt like the only one. But I know I'm not.
And so, if you're listening to my voice right now and you struggle with this, please know that I wish with everything that I have right now that I could just hold onto your hand and look at you and tell you that you shouldn't be embarrassed.
Everybody has struggles. And this is ours and I'm right there with you.
So, going back to the source of the problem, it was using foods that taste good and are terrible for me, to cope with what I was feeling emotionally. That's kind of like the definition of emotional eating. That's what it looked like for me - actively seeking it out and going and getting junk to act like a salve to myself because I was feeling emotions that were difficult or not positive and fixing it “with food.”
What I have struggled with goes beyond a little bit of stress-eating. It was full on “pigging out” to avoid dealing with something that felt too big for me.
Side note: I have a really good metabolism. From what I can tell, it's great. I did emotional eating for most of my adult life and didn't really start to gain a lot of weight until after I got married, especially after I had kids. But for how badly I was eating and how much I was eating, I feel like I should have been much heavier. And because I wasn't, it was easy to just keep going.
I am not one of those people that has a slice of pizza and then you can see it on me the next day. Actually, my husband is like that and it really sucks and I feel so bad for him. He works so hard and he eats really well and he just has the hardest time losing weight. He has had tests done, doesn't have any thyroid issues or anything like that, but it's just his metabolism. It's just the way his body is. I don't have that, so it takes a lot for me to gain weight.
Having said that, I gained over 50 pounds at one point very quickly purely because I chose to be inactive, and I ate my emotions on a daily basis. I would wake up in the morning and decide today I'm done. Today I'm going to “be good.”
And then that night after dinner I'd be hungry. I didn’t want to make a mess in the kitchen again. The day was hard, there were stresses. I didn't want tomorrow to come because my life was so difficult at one point that I would just cave and get food.
I would actively seek out going and getting food. Brian would enable that and go and get it for me. We kind of just tag-teamed this unhealthiness. It was so, so bad and even as I'm saying it I'm embarrassed, but that's the reality and that's what addiction looks like. And we need to stop pretending that it doesn't exist, or that none of us have any of that.
Maybe you don't, but not everybody is like you and some of us have actual addictions. I want to address food addiction because it is one of the only, if not the only addiction where your vice is placed in front of you multiple times a day. You have to eat multiple times a day. There's no getting around it.
It's not like with alcohol that you have to drink alcohol multiple times a day and you just have to control how much you drink of it. It's not like with heroin that you have to get a certain amount of heroin every day to live a healthy life and you just have an addiction and you have to watch how much of it you take in.
Even with things like pornography, it's just not that way. Yes, temptation is there, it can be addictive and it's there all the time, but food is really the only addiction where you have to take in what you're addicted to on a regular basis and just control how much and what kind you put into your body.
And that is what makes it so incredibly addictive and difficult to overcome. And I think that's also what makes it not a big deal in our culture. Nobody really is talking about this.
I used food to avoid my problems for a long time. Specifically, when things got really hard. When we were in Arkansas, we had moved away from all of our friends and family. (Again, reference Episode 6 if you don't know this part of our story. It's very powerful and very real. And this kind of ties in with that.)
We were super broke. I didn't know why God had moved us out to Arkansas. I was angry with Him and was giving Him the silent treatment. Things were just really difficult. We had no friends and family. It was so hard. This is when I gained 50 pounds. Things just got so hard that at a lot of points there really was no solution. It was just a waiting game to see what the heck we were supposed to do.
Especially at night it got very difficult. It was just so much easier to eat than to deal with things and come up with solutions. The brain has a reward system that hard wires us to want to engage in behaviors that we find pleasurable, like eating tasty foods. So, when we eat junk foods, the reward circuits within our brains activate and release the chemical dopamine. Our brains can become overwhelmed by the pleasure from these rewarding foods. In response, the brain adapts and makes more receptors for dopamine. I hope this is making sense.
What this means is that a greater amount of junk food is needed to get the same kick, making us eat more and more, in the same way that an addict develops a tolerance to drugs and has to continue to increase the amount of drugs they're taking. So, our brains are hardwired to seek out and want rewarding foods making us crave and desire sweet and fatty foods.
I had to realize that I had a problem and as embarrassing as it was to admit what that problem was, that was my reality and it was owning me. Food had become this idol in my life. I started to plan my day around it. Everywhere I went, food was at the front of my mind.
I remember this one time I had to go to the mall to get something. I don't know what it was. I walked into the mall and I was in the Food Court. Just the sights and smells of the Food Court overwhelmed my senses. I had been trying to again “be good and be healthy” and I wasn't dealing with the heart issue.
It wasn't a self-control issue. I had an addiction that I was sweeping under the rug. You can't just decide to be healthy. You have to deal with the heart and the root problem which is addiction and addiction is serious.
I remember walking into that Food Court and just being so overwhelmed with all the smells. I started to act like an addict, the addict that I was. I got really hyped up and excited. “Oh my gosh, what can I eat? What am I going to eat for lunch? Okay. It's 11. I’m definitely going to be here at lunchtime, what am I going to eat?” And I started planning out my food, being obsessive about how I was to get to eat something really bad and really good.
And again, this is embarrassing for me to share. I don't like to sound like a cow, you know? I don't like to sound obsessed and food driven like that. It's unfeminine. It's embarrassing. It's humbling. But this is the reality and this is addiction.
Listen to the way that I'm talking about this. Listen to the way I'm talking about how I felt and how I reacted. That's addiction. That's what addicts act like. Just because it's food, it doesn't mean that I'm dramatic, “Stop calling yourself an addict, Allie. It's not what it is.” Yes, it is!
It's just that my addiction is something “normal.” It's not heroin. You know, it's not pot. It’s not sex. It's this thing that is normal every day that I have to deal with, and put in my body every day and I'm having a hard time. Everywhere I went food was at the front of my mind.
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So that gives you a really good idea of where I was at, what was going through my brain, what I mean by saying food addiction and emotional bingeing. That's where I was and that's where I stayed for years.
I bounced back and forth between doing good and stopping my habits, eating really healthy, not eating late at night, and then I would come right back to it. I flip-flopped between these habits. It made me just stay the same size and so no one really noticed that I had a problem.
It wasn't until in Arkansas when we moved away that I really gained a ton of weight because I just took it to a whole new level. I didn't have any of my family and friends around me, so nobody really knew. It was just really bad.
There is a photo. I have one photo of myself during this time and it's so hard for me to look at. I have one pair of jeans. I actually gave them to my mom because she is a sewer and she uses denim. She hasn't used the jeans yet, so sometimes when I'm over there I'll go into her sewing room and pull out those jeans and just hold them up and want to cry.
Not because, “Oh my God, I was so huge and I just looked so terrible!” But because I made my body alter its state so dramatically because I was addicted and I was seeking out food instead of Jesus and it was so hard. So, that's kind of where I was. That's the truth of this struggle and what food addiction looked like for me.
I want to talk about the process of coming out of this and how I'm winning this battle. I'm not getting into all the history because I don't want this episode to be five hours long, but there's little things from me growing up and to being a teenager, to being a young adult, to being married, and being broke and married, and then having kids, that all ties into how I got there. But that doesn't really matter. What matters is the struggle, the battle, the realization and how I got over that.
I had to take a hard look at my relationship with food and put it in its place. It's to be enjoyed. You can't look at the foods that God gave us and tell me that He didn't intend for food to be enjoyed, but it's supposed to fuel your body and not be an obsession. Anything that's taken like the way I took food is an idol, and it's not supposed to be that way.
And so, kind of summarizing this, basically we were going to move back. The business had started. The business had taken off. We were going to buy a camper and start traveling the country and come back to California to see our friends and family after being away for two years. And I panicked because I knew I was bigger. I knew no one had seen me and I didn't want to go back like that.
And so, I started to look into what are the ways that I could drop this healthfully but quickly. And I knew because I had gained so much weight that it would probably come off pretty quickly because, you know, typically if you're a pretty overweight for your normal self and you make like immediate dramatic changes, you'll drop the weight pretty quickly in the beginning.
And so, I started to research. Whole30 was becoming a really big thing at this time, but I hadn't done it yet. I looked up the Whole30. If you aren't familiar with it, it was created by Melissa Hartwig, co-created by her. Basically, it’s a way of eating where you're really just eating clean, whole foods. Vegetables. Meats that are not processed, meats that are organic, free-range and grass-fed finished. Really high quality good foods.
Thankfully at this time we were newly able to afford to eat this way. Brian and I did Whole30 together. I actually did it twice in a row and the weight just fell off. This is not about looking good, being thin and losing weight. That was my original intent and I'm just being honest with you about that.
The main drive for me, making this change in my life, was my appearance. My skin was awful. It was so broken out. I had gained over 50 pounds. I was multiple sizes bigger than I was when I left California. And here I was about to go back. I'm a blogger. Taking photos was a part of my job. I was embarrassed.
As you know the camera already adds weight, it really does. I still have goals and I have work that I'd like to do. I would like to continue to get healthy and hopefully, you know, smaller and fitter. But even now I will get photos done and I'm like, “That's not what I look like.” Just your posture or the angle, it’s so many different things. The last thing I needed was to truly be much bigger than I normally was. I just didn't feel good.
So, my original intent was definitely appearance-driven. I was just so embarrassed to go back that way, so I did the Whole30. I did it twice in a row, but I think we headed back from Arkansas about halfway through my second round, so it was like the Whole 60, I guess.
About halfway through my second round I felt much better. I had lost almost all the weight. It went very quickly. I was definitely working out too. We came back and nobody noticed anything. In fact, the first time that I saw everybody, my mom and then I saw my best friend, and every time I saw somebody new when we got back they commented that I looked really great and that felt really good.
But in the process of doing Whole30 twice in between leaving Arkansas and coming back to California, something had happened. My heart had shifted.
I went into this with the intent to look better and not let people know my embarrassing secret - that I was addicted to food and I had gone way off the deep end with that. Totally idolized it and let it take over my life. That I had gained so much weight. Let my skin get like that. Let my body get like that. That I just looked so different. I felt awful, you guys. I just felt so awful about myself.
And so that was the original intent. But through the process of this, my heart changed and the Lord really used Whole30 to get ahold of me.
The Whole30 is the opposite of how I was eating. It's clean vegetables, fruits, no sweetener of any kind, not even honey. It's basically created to help you revamp your relationship with food and realize if there's anything bothering you. Getting everything out so you can see, “Wow! Not having gluten, I feel so much better. I think I might have a gluten sensitivity.” It's kind of like almost an elimination diet of sorts. It's really clean and really wholesome and really good for you.
It was really hard coming off of eating Taco Bell every night and Oreos and “Hey, I really want some hot tamales. Let's go get some.” And binge eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
Coming from that to Whole30 is really difficult. But I'm competitive. I cared about how I looked and I was determined to change.
As I went into this process, I started to have withdrawals. I remember many nights screaming and crying into my pillow because I wanted sugar and my body was aching. I was having a headache. I had fevers and chills. This is how bad I had let my food addiction get. This is how I was reacting from not eating the way I normally was. I would cry because I was embarrassed in front of my own self, in front of Brian, in front of God, that I was so addicted that this is my reaction to eating healthy, eating the way that He designed us to eat.
What happened in those couple of months was I realized that I had idolized food so much and Whole30 became an act of worship. It became me laying this idol down and giving it to the Lord and realizing that it was my everything. That I wasn't going and thinking through my problems, brainstorming, being a proactive person and coming up with new ideas. “How can we fix this? Okay, how can we make this better for ourselves?” I was just avoiding all of my problems and going to food.
I wasn't praying. I wasn't reading my Bible. I wasn't reading books. I am such a big reader. I had just gone all in with food.
Whole30 really taught me to lay that down and to give that up. It taught me how to be a person without being obsessive about my next meal, without going somewhere because of the food that's there like the mall situation that I told you guys about.
Now I do Whole30 every once in a while. I'm actually doing it right now. I'm in my last week and it is such an act of worship for me. Whole30 is kind of how I eat all the time now. This last round that I'm doing right now that I'm finishing up, I really decided you know what? I'm just gonna eat this way.
I'm not going to be crazy and not have honey. I like turmeric milk in the evenings and there's a little bit of honey in that and turmeric milk is incredibly beneficial for you. It really helps my skin and my gut. I need to put a little teaspoon of honey in there to make it drinkable, so I'm not going to do things like that.
But in general, I want to live on a clean, whole diet like Whole30 and Paleo because this is keeping my addiction in check. I needed to realize that I have an addiction, that I have a problem, that I can't mess around with food. I can't be like everybody else and just eat whatever and be okay. That if I'm choosing to go ahead and have a slice of pizza at a graduation party, I'm mentally having to work through like, “Okay, I'm going to have one slice and that's it because I can't handle having any more.” Or I don’t have any at all.
Recently we did go to a graduation party (that’s where that example came from) and there was pizza from a restaurant that is new in our area that I have heard everybody that I know just raving about it. I had been dying to try this pizza. There was also cake and soda and beer. Those are all my favorite things basically. And I was doing the Whole30 and that night was so difficult for me, even now after overcoming this.
This is just the way that I am. I know it'll get easier as time goes on. As you know, a lot of people who overcome addiction say that. But this is the reality and I can't feel stupid about that and ignore it and shove it under the rug like it's not a problem because no one talks about that and I'm just being dramatic. This is me. This is where I've been and this is my struggle.
And so, I have to just be different. I love food. I enjoy food so much. Cheeseburgers are my favorite thing. I enjoy the things that I love in moderation. I try to eat Whole30 about 90 percent of the time. I'll have a little bit of honey. When I'm making dinners and stuff I always get Whole30 recipes, and for my lunches and my breakfast and stuff. When I'm at home I'm eating Whole30 all the time because my body just does so well eating that way.
There will be times where I will do an actual real Whole30 with no honey, no turmeric milk, no sweeteners of any kind and I will really do Whole30 again as a reminder of who I serve, as an act of worship, as a reminder to myself that “You're strong. You can do this.” And just kind of keeping myself in check in that way. And I really enjoy it.
So, I had just finished up another round of Whole30 and I was going to do it again, but I had a week in between where I was eating normal, just eating really clean and healthy, but you know, I'd have honey, be normal.
It was Sunday after church and we went to this place called Burger Lounge where I can get a Paleo Burger. It’s no cheese, no sauces. It's layered over Zucchini. It's really healthy and really good. But I was just in such a mood for a regular cheeseburger. That is my favorite food, hands down. I got a giant regular cheeseburger on a gluten-free bun because I didn't want it to bother my stomach. Sometimes a lot of gluten will bother my stomach.
It was a great quality, grass-fed burger with cheese and sauce and I devoured that thing and it was awesome. But it wasn't an obsession where my addiction was flaring up and I was like obsessive. Like, “I gotta get the cheeseburger. I'm going to leave at 10:30 PM and go and drive and get a cheeseburger because I just can't deal with these emotions. I can't go to sleep until I get that rush of dopamine.” It wasn't like that. It was just a girl who loves cheeseburgers, enjoying a nice big cheeseburger and that was it. I was satisfied. I was happy. I didn't have a soda with it or anything. I just enjoyed my lemon water with it and I was good. I didn't have fries or anything. I just enjoyed my burger and that was it.
It's about balance and practicing healthfulness, mindfulness, and self-control. I would encourage you to also go back and listen to my episode with Robin Long on this show because I love the way she talks about this. It's about balance. It’s not about punishing yourself or never having anything again. It's about balance and knowing yourself. Knowing when you can have a little bit and when you can't handle that.
Whole30 really taught me that. It really taught me to take care of my body as an act of worship and as an act of self-care. Laying down my flesh and my obsession and just saying, “This is hard, this is real, this is my struggle. This is really hard, but I don't have to live this way and this isn't going to own me. I'm going to take control back and at the same time give control over to God and have him help me through this addiction problem.”
I hope that's helpful. I know I didn't go over so many details of this is exactly what I did and exactly what I do now, but I just wanted to open up the door to this dark part of my life. Be honest and say this is something that I've struggled with. It's been really humbling and really difficult and this is what I learned and what I did to get control of it.
Now my life is very different. I'm actively getting healthier, losing weight. I'm learning to love to exercise. Because I eat so clean all the time, exercise is much easier for me. I think that was a big problem. I can handle little bits of gluten and dairy, but I don't do well when I am eating either of those things all the time. And so, when I'm eating Whole30 and I'm eating this way and I'm barely having anything like that my body functions way better and running is so much easier.
I think the problem was I never liked exercising because it was so difficult for me because I was eating so terribly. I felt like there was always a brick in my stomach and I just couldn't perform. And now I love to go for walks and runs. I love Pilates and Yoga. I do Pilates every single day. Yoga occasionally. I'll give you guys the link to where I do Pilates. It's at home, it's online. It's awesome. Robin is amazing. She's an incredible teacher. I'll give you guys that link.
I love kickboxing. I do that in my garage because we have a garage gym now. I'm active. I'm happy. I'm getting healthier and in turn getting smaller and fitter and noticing things like my strong arms. I’m loving my body better even though it has its imperfections and I wished it would go faster. I wish it was already smaller. I don't focus on those things anymore.
I love myself. I take care of myself and every time I'm going to make a meal, I think to myself, this is an act of worship. I used to be so different than this. I'm treating my body well because I have a job to do and I cannot live my purpose, take care of my kids, run my business, show up for you guys, show up in my marriage, be happy and healthy, go to speaking engagements, do all of these podcast interviews, if I don't feel good. That's a big deal to me.
So, that's my journey. That's what I have learned in this area of my life. That's how I used to be and where things are kind of at now. Oh my gosh, you guys. I hope that this was just a huge encouragement to somebody out there and if that's you, please, please let me know. I would love to hear from you.
Okay. There is a freebie for you guys that goes with this episode. It's the Simplified Grocery and Meal Planning pdf. It's a fan favorite. It's been floating around on the Internet for a few months. People really like it and it's something that will help you simplify the process of grocery shopping, planning your meals, food prepping, all that good stuff because we do have to eat so often during the day and it can be really complicated. So, if you're looking to make some healthy changes and simplify this area of your life, kind of take a minimalist approach to all of that, go get it. It's totally free. You can find it at alliecasazza.com/shownotes/062.
This was an episode of The Purpose Show. Did you know there is an exclusive community created solely for the purpose of continuing discussions surrounding The Purpose Show episodes? And to get you to actually take action and make positive changes on the things that you learn here? Go be a part of it. To join go to facebook.com/groups/purposefulmamas.
Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are ready to uplevel and really take action on the things I talk about on my show, and get step-by-step help from me, head to alliecasazza.com. There are free downloads, courses, classes, and ways to learn more about what the next step might look like for you and to focus on whatever you might need help with in whatever season you are in right now.
I am always rooting for you, friend!
See ya next time!
Hey mama! Just a quick note, this post may contain affiliate links.