As the papers, exams, assignments and projects started to build I felt that familiar feeling. The one where you know there isn’t enough time in the day or enough energy in your body to get all the work done. As the pressure mounts and writers block sets in, I cave. Like a wild animal I viciously attack the cupboards and refrigerator, nothing seems to satisfy and I will stop at nothing until my stomach has stretched beyond maximum capacity. My hands move at lighting speeds shoving as much in my mouth as it can hold, hardly chewing, just swallowing. I could go for hours, mixing the most horrendous of items like rice and peanut butter, cereal and hummus or ice cream and croutons. Finally, I breathe. I survey the damage with a look of horror on my face. I did it again, I binged. Not one for purging or laxatives I am stuck with the repercussions of my actions, knowing all of my hard work at the gym the last couple days has just been swallowed up in my tornado of a stomach.
The aches and pains I feel after one of these sessions is worse than any flu or cold. My insides feel like they are ripping me apart from the inside out. This is my one weakness. It is the one time I feel completely out of control and helpless. Nothing has worked as of yet to stop this vicious cycle. I have gone so far as to ask friends to rip the food out of my hands, the fork out of my kung-fu grip and the Chinese take-out box of my white-knuckled hands. This is a true confession of a stress eater.
“When you experience sudden danger, your brain instantly signals your body to turn out a hormone called cortisol. Your stress response system has built into it the capacity to turn itself off. The stress hormone cortisol acts as its own shut-off signal. As the situations that give rise to stress endure, they keep ramping up production of cortisol. You go into an inner Code Red, marked by anxiety, vigilance, and hyper-alertness” according to Psychology Today. When you are under extreme stress your capacity to turn your stress response system off is derailed and your body finds other ways to cope with it, mine is binge eating.
I tell you this not because I am proud of my weaknesses, as a matter a fact it has taken me a long time to admit this much less write about it for the world to see. I am telling you this because everyone has their weak moments when it comes to food, exercise and staying healthy. I don’t want any of you to think I don’t practice what I preach but I do what you to know that nobody is perfect, and I am no exception.
I have struggled with stress eating the last few years of college and still slip up from time to time. It is the most defeating, devastating feeling ever but I learn each time. The next day I pick myself up, dust myself off and get back on track. Letting it all go because of one bad night is not the way to go. Even the most health conscious have their weaknesses and struggles. Learning to control these situations, whatever yours may be, and not giving up is the most important lesson.