Nightmare on Eat Street: How My Food Cravings Gave Me an Upset Life

Pratibha Pal
·5-min read

When I decided to give up my career spanning 15 years to look after my twin boys, I was ready to embark on a beautiful journey of motherhood. I knew it wasn’t going to be all rainbows and unicorns, but I wasn’t prepared for my whole life to be upturned. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer frustration that came with parenting. It didn’t help that I had a spouse who travelled often, leaving me to deal with two hyperactive boys who had minds of their own. What I also didn’t expect was that I’d turn to food when I needed comfort and this reliance on eating would become a means of emotional release, an addiction.

I distinctly remember the day when in the middle of eating my lunch, my thoughts wandered to what I wanted to eat next. I dismissed it as a craving, but little did I know that it would be the beginning of an arduous journey that would take me to dark places over the next few years.

Each time I found myself struggling to cope with my boys and their tantrums, I’d start eating something mindlessly, even as I was acutely aware that it was unhealthy. When I’d get caught up in a gyre of low self-esteem, pity, sadness, and loneliness, I’d scoop oodles of cream into the custard or binge on tubs of ice-cream. That extra burger and the creamy risotto became my favourite weapon to beat stress. I’d order it every time I was overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting. Midnight snacks after a complete meal or baking my favourite banana bread and minced-filled buns consumed all my spare time. There was hardly a time I’d look back with regret, because the only thought that raced through my mind was, “What should I eat next?”

Even three years after the boys were born, nothing changed. My only coping mechanism was food and more food. Obviously, I had put on weight and even though I strongly suspected that I wasn’t doing things the right way, a part of me was unwilling to accept it. It didn’t help that my family told me “it’s a passing phase” and all this was because bringing up two children is exhausting. Of course, they are more worldly-wise than I am, I convinced myself, pushing back any lingering doubt and moving on with life… and eating.

My only coping mechanism was food and more food.

This was until a friend pointed out that I needed help and that probably I was bordering on depression. At first, I shushed her. Depression? Me? That was unrealistic. But when I realised I didn’t know how to put a stop to the binge-eating, I knew that she was right; I needed help. Period. And then the emotions tumbled out: What if I really had depression? What would my family think? What if they could not relate to what I was going through?

The more I thought, the more I stressed, and the more I ate. After days of deliberation, I chose to seek treatment. As I walked into the therapist’s room, I emptied the entire tissue box at the clinic, unable to speak anything with tears rolling down my cheeks. That was also the day, my fears were confirmed. I did have depression which was related to my emotional eating. I had binge eating disorder (B.E.D), where you eat frequently and uncontrollably.

My mind was filled with a myriad of thoughts. And then came the phase of hatred for myself. I began to hate my looks; my body and I abhorred every inch of my existence. The self-loathing that came along with the condition made me cringe. To redeem myself, I resorted to throwing up, taking laxatives to shed what I had gained, but it was futile because B.E.D had taken over my life. No matter how any promises I made to myself, the pattern would repeat week after week. If I were to choose one word to describe emotional eating, it would be desperate. Desperate for that extra piece of cake, the umpteen cups of coffee, the extra scoop of ice-cream and more. This continued for over eight years.

Until one day, I decided it had to stop. Truth is always hard to digest, but I took up a challenge to eat mindfully, to eliminate the comfort snacking from my life. I didn’t opt for yo-yo diets or fads that promised you would lose five kilos a month. I chose to plan my meals and eat mindfully. This was tough initially because I was so used to giving into cravings. There were days when I had to literally hold myself back from heading to the refrigerator; there were days when my desire for food made me weep.

My mind was filled with a myriad of thoughts. And then came the phase of hatred for myself.

But with the guidance of my therapist, I’ve come a long way. It’s been a little over six months since I last went on a binge-eating spree. There are times when my mind often races back to food, but I distract myself by taking time out for walks, simple exercises and meditation. If I am feeling low, I call the one person who hears me rant. If I am anxious, I de-stress by taking a hot shower. If I am bored, I take a break. Indulge in Netflix, curl up with a book with some coffee. That’s more than enough to keep the cravings at bay. I am calmer and I think before I make an impulse decision.

Yet every once in a while, I crave for a plate of momos, and when I do, I order it and eat a piece or two, relishing the deliciousness of it instead of gobbling down two platefuls.