Lighten Up, Literally (a post about emotional eating)



“There’s a huge emotional component to weight loss.” Carnie Wilson

This last decade, I’ve gained an average of two pounds a year – this was the least painful way to express it. The weight added up so gradually, I’m not sure if the gain started in 2005 after Dad’s death or when we moved to the beach about three years later. I used to walk daily, a practice I started when I was 25 and pregnant with my firstborn. People in town would ask, “Aren’t you the lady that walks all the time?”

When we moved 700 feet from the ocean and near an almost constant breeze, I stopped walking. Crazy, right?

I didn’t know how crazy (I was) until I looked back at my declining mental health, the downward spiral of our finances and marriage, and my lack of purpose because my kids didn’t need me anymore. I needed something to numb the pain and fill my soul’s hole. I also needed protection because I felt emotionally unsafe. I could have turned to God. Instead, I turned him into an enemy because he wasn’t intervening like I thought he should, and I turned to an old habit since childhood, emotional eating. My mom kept a candy drawer stocked with PowerHouse candy bars, Baby Ruths, and Little Debbie snacks. She baked Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Making s’mores for her and snacking on the dessert together is my fondest memory with her.

For a long time, I was okay with my weight gain. I’m sensitive, so the more I padded my body, the more I protected my emotions, or so it seemed.

Even though I felt safer from the world, I suspected I was letting myself down like I wrote about in my last blog post. Overweight wasn’t something I wanted to be and when, in a workshop about healthy eating, the speaker compared our fat to carrying around several five-pound bags of sugar, I couldn’t shake how heavy and tired I felt. I’ve never had good posture, but I starting slumping. For comfort and because of the weight gain, I wore sports bras instead of regular ones. I walked with a drag instead of a bounce in my step. To top it off, try trying on a pair of pants or dress you thought looked good on you, and imagine shoving bags of sugar in the outfit with you. It got tight in there.

I’ve had my moments of exercise and weight loss the last 10 years, like before our daughter’s and son’s weddings, but mostly my routine back to a healthier and lighter lifestyle has been start, stop, start, stop, start, stop, stop, stop.

It’s interesting that we never know when enough is enough. We don’t know when we’ll get sick of ourselves and make a change. Sadly, we can’t manufacture the mood, but when it happens, we know it.

My husband, John, and I ate a perfect meal at our favorite mountain restaurant. We walked down the street to an open-air market with freezers full of fresh made food labeled with directions for reheating. He said, “What are we doing about dinner?”

Something snapped. I could almost physically feel it. I felt irritable and anxious and really heavy. We left there and bought four cupcakes at a dessert place. They’re big and with a lot of icing, so after dinner, we ate all of them. After that, we talked.

“We have to figure out fun things to do besides eat,” I said.

“I know,” said John, almost like it was his fault.

It wasn’t. We both had gotten lazy, gained weight, and given into a boring routine. I thought back about a video shown to alcoholics in rehab when I was working at The Commission for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. The speaker in the video said God gave us two natural pleasures, eating and sex, but not to abuse. To enjoy. This is stressed with addicts in recovery because they can seldom answer, “What do you do for fun?” That is, unless they’re honest and say they drink or drug.


Looking at our empty cupcake box, I related a little too much to the addicts in rehab. Life wasn’t as fun now that I substituted eating for other enjoyable things like evening walks, hiking, and walking for miles in downtowns when we’d take daytrips. We swapped all that for driving around to find the closest parking space to restaurants and bakeries.

I was irritable the next few days because I was coming down from a sugar high and having to face why I gained weight in the first place. I wanted to change several habits, but, at first, I hated doing the work and the workouts.

However, like I said, something snapped. Since then, I’ve made a few adjustments to detox from junk food and junk living. And, no, I didn’t give up all white foods made with sugar and flour because I’ll never stick to that kind of diet.

I committed to reasonable things I would actually follow through on like …

  • Going to the gym, walking outside, or both at least five days a week.
  • Walking with John at least one evening a week.
  • Aiming for an average of 15,000 Fitbit steps daily.
  • Tapering off chocolate.
  • Eating one brown sugar cinnamon pop tart for a midnight snack instead of more calorie-intense sweets. (Don’t even think about suggesting fruit or yogurt.)
  • Cutting down on bread since it’s not a favorite food anyway.
  • Drinking even more water than what I already consume.
  • Making a list of fun things to do besides eat. #GettingYourOwnLife
  • Speaking up when I need to, so I’m letting go of junk instead of eating it.

Mostly, I’m overriding a thought I’ve let discourage me for years, “What’s the use?” Since pounds don’t drop off as quickly as they used to, I’ve given up easily the last few years. This time around, my new and improved saying is, “I’m not responsible for the result, only the effort, so keep moving and making healthy choices.” Also, I’m dealing with my emotional stuff, and you can read all about that in past posts if you haven’t already.



After all this heavy talk, I’ll leave you with a funny story about a bathroom scale and my three-year-old granddaughter, Claire. I took her to a friend’s bathroom and when she spotted the scale, she wanted to stand on it. It registered 28 pounds.

“Aw, Mammy. It’s broke,” said Claire. “I one, two, three years old.”

When I stood on it, she said, “Wow, Mammy. You’re old.”

That’s when I explained that scales measure your weight, not your age. While washing my hands, she got on and off of it enough that it showed an E for Error, which she thought was a 3.

“Oh, good, it’s working. I three years old,” she said.



That kid and Erma Bombeck (her quote’s below) can even lighten up coming face-to-face with my bathroom scale. And I need to lighten up figuratively and literally. It makes getting your own life so much easier.

“In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”


In This Together,

Thanks for the pix, Pixabay.



6 responses »

  1. From Facebook (Kim Henson) ~

    Gayle Sloan, Laura Howard and 16 others


    Ruby Sessions Hart I do it and don’t even know I’m doing it.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 6 at 5:42pm

    Kim Henson Me too, Ruby Sessions Hart. I’m more aware now than ever before because I’m talking about this sort of thing on here, which helps circumvent it. I try to figure out what’s going on emotionally, but I’ve buried it under food and other bad habits for so long, sometimes it’s not easy. Thanks for your comment. ❤
    Like · Reply · 1 · October 11 at 11:13am · Edited

    Megan Hunt Dell This is all so true. From constant stress and chaos, I've put on 25lbs since we got married almost 5 years ago. After working incredibly hard at underlying problems for the last 3 months, I'm finally starting to feel up to the task of heathy eating and regular exercise again.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 6 at 7:28pm

    Kim Henson Megan Hunt Dell, I sure understand. I've been working on underlying issues for years. It's hard work, but worth it since I believe if that stuff isn't dealt with, it makes us sick … dis-ease. Thanks so much for your comment! ❤
    Like · Reply · October 11 at 11:03am

    Jana Greene I just went on a binge…it's a constant battle. Thanks for this, dear one ❤
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 6 at 7:59pm

    Kim Henson It's constant here too, Jana Greene. I have figured out it helps me to admit this sort of thing on my blog and to list solutions that have worked. Keeping silent has never worked! Thanks for speaking up also. Love you! ❤
    Like · Reply · October 11 at 10:53am

    Jana Greene Love you too ❤
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 11 at 10:54am

    Delilah Lewis Kim Henson you are something I need to lose about 10 pounds myself, but when I do Helen and everybody tell me I am too small, but I weigh more than I want to. I think a lot of it is being sick all last winter and most of the summer. Love you 💖
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 6 at 9:12pm

    Delilah Lewis I just sat in my recliner and didn't feel like doing anything and everything I ate went to fat thru my middle. I am doing more now .
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 6 at 9:14pm · Edited

    Kim Henson Delilah Lewis, I didn't know you had been sick for so long. What in the world was wrong? I'm so sorry.

    I think we help each other by sharing wit each other and talking about this stuff. That way, we can figure out what's going on inside of us and als…See More
    Like · Reply · October 11 at 11:09am

    Delilah Lewis Kim Henson I was really sick I took. I went to the emergency room twice last winter, and when I went to Grand Strand last spring they checked me out good and said that I had pneumonia something during the winter and I had fluid on my left lung. I went …See More
    Like · Reply · October 11 at 11:42am

    Kim Henson Delilah Lewis, I'm sorry you went through all of that, but so happy to hear you're better. ❤ I know what you mean … I can't do as much in one day either, so we downsized to a 1000-square-foot house. A little too small, but REALLY easy to clean. LoL.
    Like · Reply · October 11 at 1:11pm

    Christy Young Hit home.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 6 at 10:44pm

    Kim Henson It hit me too, Christy Young. These kinds of topics are wake up calls for me when I put them into writing and know I'm going to share them for anyone to read. It's different than laughing about it around the table. I'm so thankful for friends like you who encourage, so I have the courage to keep writing. Love you lots. ❤
    Like · Reply · October 11 at 11:13am

  2. From Facebook (Kim Henson) ~

    Anjana C. Duff, Adelee Russell and 7 others


    Donna Feddick Fagerstrom Love, love, love this!❤
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 11 at 10:17pm

    Kim Henson Thank you, Donna Feddick Fagerstrom. I appreciate having you as a reader. ❤
    Like · Reply · October 11 at 10:45pm

    Elizabeth McNew Good for you, Kim! I admire your willpower and honesty😃
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · October 12 at 9:52am

    Kim Henson I'm giving it my best shot, Elizabeth McNew. I do so much better after I admit it in a blog post. 🙂 Thanks!
    Like · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 2:09am · Edited

  3. From Facebook (Jana Greene’s page) ~

    Holy cow, Kim Henson, you really nailed this one. I can relate to every single word. I like everything you write, but this one is my new favorite. Thank you!

    You and Maria Franken

    Kim Henson Awe, Jana Greene. Thank you! ❤ I appreciate you sharing this post, your friendship, and your encouragement. Always. You're a dear writer friend. I can't wait to read your latest blog post when my Internet connection stops acting up. It's taking everything twice as long to load.
    Like · Reply · October 11 at 11:16am

  4. From Facebook (Summer Turner’s Success for Introverted Women’s page) ~

    October 11 at 4:04pm

    I love Kim’s reframe of the question “What’s the use?” to “I’m not responsible for the result, only the effort, so keep moving and making healthy choices.”

    Reframing is powerful!

    Show Attachment

    Kim Henson Thanks, Summer Turner. ❤ I didn't think about naming it, but it is "reframing." I'd like to be more intentional about practicing it.
    Like · Reply · 1 · October 11 at 11:29pm · Edited

  5. Kim, it always fascinates me how we share many issues and agree on conclusions, yet come at them from entirely different angles. I saw this in your post about being a mom and now in this one. Here’s what I mean: you’re dealing with emotional eating, and I’m dealing with “emotional non-eating.” When you’re under stress you reach for those cupcakes, and I stop eating or forget to eat because I have no appetite. I guess that explains why I still weigh only 100 pounds at the age of 68. I am not advocating this method of weight loss, by the way, because it has its own problems. I’ve had to face, not why I ate so much, but why I ate so little and why I obsess about food choices even in the middle of a hurricane. When my husband was so ill in the hospital last year, Pam W. (the health coach) had to urge me to eat something, anything, even if it wasn’t the healthiest possible choice. So I think you and I are fighting many of the same battles but they present differently. Interesting. Your blog always gives me much food for thought.

    • It is fascinating, Mary. For a long time when friends talked about eating disorders, I only thought of bulimia and anorexia, but there are so many other ways to abuse food. Obesity is also an eating disorder, as is binging and not eating and skipping meals to eat sugary snacks, and on and on.

      The bottom line is we’re all dealing with life and our not-so-healthy ways of reacting to it. I love when we can relate because I believe this is what helps us heal, grow, and do what we were put here to do.

      Times are a little confusing, especially lately with weather and politics and violent outbursts around the country, but when I hear from friends like you, I settle down, know I’m understood a little bit more, and understand myself better. And live better.

      Thank you! ❤

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