I am addicted to Netflix. There, I said it. “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “The New Girl”…I could go on and on.
When it is late at night and everyone has gone to bed, I pick up the remote and a sense of calm washes over me. I can escape into an imaginary world and leave my daily troubles behind.
During the day, I make every effort to take care of myself. I exercise on the days that my daughter is in pre-school. I try to make smart choices when it comes to what I eat and feed my family. I pay our bills and clean our house and do the laundry and run errands and I genuinely enjoy my life. I get to spend several days week writing, and I know that is such a privilege. I am useful, and a major piece of our family puzzle.
During the evening, though, all bets are off. The TV goes on, the goldfish crackers come out, the snacks that are in the cabinet start banging on the door and there is no way to silence them except to eat them.
It is not every day, and it’s not always bad food. However, the feeling of using food to push down my feelings is one I have had since before I was a teenager.
You can be addicted to food —it may not be exactly the same as other dependencies, but the emotional aspect is similar. And there’s a social stigma, too. Heavier people are seen as lazy or non-caring, and I can assure you that I am neither. I am trying to break my negative cycle and understand why I make the choices I do.
It is not easy. Obviously.
I think it’s because I want so much for everything to be “right.” I want my husband to be happy, my daughter to be carefree and smart—and I want my family and friends to all be content as well. I want to be there for everyone and still put myself first.
That’s impossible. Obviously. So when I can let go and lose control, whether with food or the TV, it can feel like huge relief.
I tell myself that binging is just not that healthy in any form, and I can’t do it anymore. I have to put down the remote and pick up a book. I need to step away from the kitchen once meals for the day are done.
I do not want my daughter to grow up in a house with no food because her mom can’t control herself. But I also do not want her to grow up thinking that food is bad or that eating in secret is an option. I want her relationship with food to be simpler than mine, free of the moral weight I put on food.
Part of being a parent, a big part, is putting the needs of your children first. So I’m telling myself to remember that every time I make a bad choice, I am showing her that that choice is ok. Sometimes it may be fine, but often, it is not.
Many people I know have addictive personalities, or trouble with self-control. I am certainly not alone in my struggles. I wish more people would talk about emotional eating and how it connects to feelings of self-worth, because I think we all need reminders that we are more than our weaknesses.
I know I am.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.