Eating Your Feelings

I’m fairly well-known for talking about eating one’s feelings. Usually in a “Bertha-esque” voice I jokingly proclaim that I, or someone close to me, should eat their feelings. A pint of ice cream. A bacon cheeseburger. Whatever food it is that evokes feelings of comfort or security. Or maybe a ridiculous level of indulgence that transcends moods and lifts you from the dredges of life.

It wasn’t until last Friday afternoon, over a bacon cheeseburger in the lounge at Bourbon Steak, that I understood the alarming truth in those three words: eating your feelings.

I’ve been going through a bit of a rough time, friends. Life has thrown me some emotional curve balls. I am a fairly resilient person, not easily shaken by change. But when said change flips you on your head and changes what your every day looks or feels like – there’s no ignoring it. I’ve taken the last few weeks to not even deal with the changes in my life, but just accept them. (They say it’s the first step…)

Not to discount the positive, I’ve also had some really amazing and wonderful changes happen over the last month. Alas, even positive changes can mean leaving your comfort zone.

So, it was after a particularly “red zone” type of morning with work emails rolling in, tripping my way to work, hot coffee in hand, tourists standing on the left (DC people will get this) and, of all things, Amazon servers going down and taking out HootSuite (my new job is nothing but social media so this made for a particularly “WHAT THE F*CK!” moment) I found myself craving a bacon cheeseburger. Red meat cravings, for me, are a sure sign of emotional eating.

Well. You try to resist the bacon cheeseburger from Bourbon Steak.

Yeah.

After I had consumed the entire burger I sat back, looked at my fellow diners and said, “You know. I actually feel better. Like. I’m in a good mood now!” We all laughed about it but. Wow. Truer words hadn’t been spoken in at least a couple of weeks.

More after the jump…

Was this alarming? Kind of, not gonna lie. Am I losing sleep over it? Nope. Do I feel like I should probably get back to running my three miles, five times a week, stat!? Yeeeep. It also got me thinking more about my relationship with food. Beyond being a well-documented recreational eater, food writer and maybe even a freelancing food writer, I have a relationship with food that goes way beyond eating to live.

Before I start beating myself up though let’s consider that eating one’s feelings doesn’t always have to be a Bridget Jones vodka, cheese and ice cream binge session. We eat our feelings when we’re happy, too. Birthday dinners. Christmas brunches. Baby showers.

Eating and sadness are as cliché as surf and turf. People scoff at it. Make jokes about it. Eating and happiness though? Well, that’s the foie gras of the menu. Celebrated, indulged in.

But so, here I am, two weeks after a particularly “two roads diverged” moment in my life and I’m eating bacon cheeseburgers to make myself feel better. I’m somewhere between “there has got to be something better than this” (oh, I don’t know, like, running) and “oh hell, just ride it out.”

I know I’m not the only one who’s ever realized food plays a role in sifting through the aftermath of an emotionally jolting situation. Whether it’s eating it or cooking it (anyone remember Izzy Steven’s muffin baking break down on Grey’s Anatomy?), food can be as cathartic as neurotically cleaning your entire house or working out three hours a day, all equally unhealthy on some level. Especially for those of us who’ve thrown ourselves head first into the food world. I guess what I’m thinking though is…there’s something okay with it? For now, at least. I think we can be a little forgiving, a little “oh hell ride with it” and come out just fine on the other side.

Until I change my mind, or put on my running shoes, I think I’m going to find a huge plate of pasta to throw myself into. Maybe Domenica Marchetti will let me hang out in her kitchen for a while….

23 thoughts on “Eating Your Feelings

  1. Hey Alejandra, sorry to hear that you’ve been going through a rough time. I’d love to get together to catch up sometime – it’s been too long. As you know, I’m a vegetarian, but let me tell you that cheeseburger looked awesome to even me — and I haven’t eaten a burger in probably 15 years. Sending positive thoughts your way!

  2. Having recently come out of my own “two roads diverged” moment that was particularly surprising and painful, I totally agree with everything you said here. Sure, maybe jogging would be a better outlet/relief, but damn did that jumbo slice of cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory make me feel relief, even if only for the 20-25 minutes I was savoring every bite. EVERYONE eats their feelings at one point or the other. The issue lies (as with all things!) in whether or not you are abusing that release to the excess, to the point when you are relying on eating as your only way to find emotional catharsis. But honestly, in the first few days or weeks of a major life crisis or change, who the hell cares how many cheeseburgers/cheesecakes slices/etc. you eat. You have to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself and if that involves a big mac or a bacon cheeseburger, then you do what you gotta do.
    There’s no blueprint for coping with life’s challenges. It’s individual and unique to each person and you have to trust what feels best and works for you.

  3. When I knew I was an emotional eater: I lost an important document at work and my BOSS said “Do you need me to go get you some fries, Lexa?”

    Whoa.

  4. Frijolita, you are welcome in my kitchen anytime! We can make pasta together and then dive right in. There is (almost) no ailment that a nice dish of pasta can’t cure. I hope your rough patch ends soon. p.s. I do wish my own neuroses would express themselves in housecleaning sprees or three-hour workouts, but alas, either has yet to occur.

  5. Sweet Pea, I’m sorry you’re going through a rough time. I’m sorry we (yeah, um, that’d be “I”) have been so out of touch. Shall I pack up my silpat, vulgarly shaped-cookie cutters (come on, you know you wanna see them), and – hello, Maker’s Mark, natch! – and come over for an evening? I’m not above forcing you to turn that frown upside down, and if you’re not careful I’ll start singing (badly) to boot.

    Say the word, I’m there.

    xo -Lori

  6. A., You have increased by quantum leaps my taste experiences since presenting that delicious Tuscan (?) thyme lemon cake on Sunday. Please post the recipe when you can. The Torrentes was perfect for the day- fragrance of a summer orchard — fruit and balance to augment the warm breezes coming out of the southwest. Thank you. I totally agree with your food/life philosophy. Sorry I didn’t know about the needful bacon cheeseburger a day earlier. Taste memories far outlive the ineffable aches and pains (and joys) of human interactions in all their complexities. Long after thoughts of a time in love have slowly disappeared into the ocean like Atlantis, you will recall a spumante you sipped at San Vigili and you will be a happy woman.

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  8. Re: Eating one’s feelings.

    I have been carrying this Hemingway around in my heart for some time.

    “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
    — Ernest Hemingway (A Moveable Feast)

    chefjoseandres José Andrés
    Good night all! Ask yourself but you’ve done for a better world! If nothings pops up, go to sleep and wake up with more will to change world

    and

    We can not be silent anymore, @chefjoseandres says, about hunger and obesity #rammyawards

    Chef Andres words got me, I could not sleep, so I wrote, as writers sometimes do. 3:00 AM

    “In search of nourishment I found my soul,
    the honesty of food is love.” ©

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