How My University Experience Birthed My Emotional Eating

Sep 16 · 4 min read
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Photo by Bradyn Trollip on Unsplash

My first two years of university, in hindsight, were great. I went to all my classes and had a decent balance between coursework and working part time.

I remember being able to attend class and still have a multitude of healthy snacks at my disposal. I consistently ate things like almonds, yogurt, bananas and bell peppers in class. I also meal prepped many of my lunches and sometimes supper when I worked till late.

Those were my first two years of nursing. The last two years were quite different.

In the third year of the program, we were introduced to hospital rotations, content such as pathophysiology (the study of things that go wrong in the body) and pharmacology (drugs that cure these problems).

I had two days of the week in hospital and the other three days in class. I needed about five hours of prep for each class just so I could follow along with the professor. This didn’t even include the time I required to understand the material. Add on top of that, the part time work I kept because I wanted to position myself better financially.

My weight crept up slowly as I ran out of time and energy to meal prep, as I went to the gym less and less. I also bought my lunch or dinner at the hospital and just stuffed my face with these delicious poutine fries that always seemed to make a busy shift better. I spent my weekends ordering cheap fast food so I could have more time to study and make my way to work.

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Photo by Francisca Alvarez on Unsplash

I was going to explain poutine fries, for those of you that didn’t know, but I think this picture does it better. I realize that, to some, this doesn’t look very appealing but it always seemed to hit the spot.

I literally don’t remember anything fun that happened that school year other than the content that I stabbed in my brain and that my school wispily brushed through. The concept of balance was non-existent that year.

In six months I gained 15lbs, and birthed mindless eating habits. Three years later, I’m up a total of 35lbs as I still struggle with emotional eating on and off.

Some bad habits I developed include:

  • Eating while driving
  • Eating while studying
  • Eating while bored in front of the television
  • Eating to destress before an exam
  • Eating to destress after an exam

I think you’re getting the point. Over the course of a year eating became my number one coping mechanism. I became an emotional eater.

You know what… it worked.

I graduated my program, relatively sane, became a registered nurse and began to take care of patients. But instead of reaching for a glass of wine at the end of a shift I often reached for a hearty dessert or a nice meal at a buffet.

These habits weren’t sustainable in the long term. It was about three years ago when I realized that my emotional eating was becoming a problem; partially because of the weight I gained but mostly because of how eating made me feel after. It no longer provided that same relieving aspect I craved. I still felt void and still felt my problems. It was then that I learned that I wasn’t dealing with my stress. I was using food to forget them.

Then I journeyed into a downward spiral. I’d become overwhelmed by a work event or personal problem then eat to forget about it. I’d arrive to my senses shortly after eating then feel guilty about over eating. I think a lot of people can relate to this downward spiral.

As I became increasingly uncomfortable with my own physical appearance, I cocooned myself in a protective social bubble and continued to guiltily revel in my emotional eating tendencies; feeding it my negative emotions.

The lack of control and compulsiveness have the characteristics of an addiction but, I’d be hesitant to label it that. It’s definitely an ongoing struggle, something that becomes easier to deal with somedays and then insurmountable on others.

Unfortunately, this story comes with no happy ending, only an ongoing journey. I still struggle with eating my emotions. It’s slowly becoming more distant as I catch my emotions before eating. I’ve been exploring other, more therapeutic, hobbies to ease my stress but that’s another story.

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