Emotional Binge Eating: The Holiday Edition

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Disclaimer: This post may induce a desire to binge on the foods that are tied to happy memories.

Shall we unpack this title? Great, thanks for your affirmation.

Some emotions are good; therefore, some emotional eating is because of said good emotions. I am a binge eater.

I appreciate you walking with me as I confront an unpleasant personal characteristic and type out this post about a food near and dear to my Christmas-y heart… Buckeye candies.

Just to recap, I am from Ohio, and we have RIDICULOUS levels of state pride! We eat, sleep, breathe, watch, and play EVERYTHING Buckeye. Buckeye candies, if you’ve never been blessed to eat one, is a confection made from confectioner’s sugar and peanut butter dipped in chocolate (it looks like a horse chestnut, a.k.a, a buckeye).

We ONLY ate those at Christmas and adults and children alike would fight over these little balls of yumminess to be take home, frozen, and eaten with great relish throughout the year. HOWEVER, what REALLY ended up happening with me is that I would hoard the buckeyes, stash them in a hidden corner of our deep freezer, and eat all of them (possibly 10-20 large truffle sized candies) within 2 days.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Hit the brakes! You mean to tell  me that you ate your entire stash of peanut buttery goodness in 48 hours? What happened to savoring each chocolate dipped ball of happiness?’

I can honestly answer that 25 years later.

I was eating a chocolate dipped ball of HAPPINESS. My brain had equated the euphoria of Cooper family Christmas dinner to the buckeye candies that were stashed in the deep freezer. I wanted to live the happiness of that day as much as possible and I was holding on to those memories so tightly that my brain had linked the intangible memory to the very tangibly melting buckeye in my mouth.

Sitting here at 32 years old, I can STILL describe in detail the memory associations with eating each candy. It’s gonna sound weird, but stay with me.

The weight of the candy in my hand is linked to the initial feeling of picking the candy up off one of the numerous cookie laden trays sitting on top of the washer and dryer in my aunt’s basement. The lights are out in the washroom, but there is a window above the dryer that lets in the light from outdoors. I can see all of the powdered, glazed, sugared, and chocolate-dipped cookies and sweets, but I was hunting for the best of the best.

The smell of the chocolate and peanut butter is linked to the voices of my loved and loving family members calling out, “Don’t take all of the Buckeyes!”, “Leave some for the rest of us!”, “Kaira, bring me two buckeyes, please”.

The texture of first the smooth chocolate and then the faintly gritty peanut butter and confectioner’s sugar mixture is linked to happiness and admiration. The way my cheeks would balloon out as I tucked a candy into one as I chewed made me look like my beloved grandfather who was my hero. You see, he had dentures and he had to eat food using his molars. He had to push the food into his cheeks to be able to grind it on his back teeth. Picture a squirrel stuffing acorns into his face to carry them home for the winter and you’ve pictured my grandfather.

The taste of the sugar hitting my taste buds is linked to joyous wonder. Christmas was the day you got a stocking filled with all kinds of delicacies like exotic fruit and nuts and some packaged candies. Ohio does not grow oranges and grapefruits, so we bought citrus fruit that the high school band sold for a fundraiser and would divide those bits of sweet sunshine among our family. My stocking also contained shelled walnuts and pecans and almonds. The appearance of these brown jewels ensured that my Gram and I would sit down and bond over cracking each nutshell and seeing how many times we could pull out an entire half nut. A bad crack job meant that you would be shaking broken pieces of nuts out of an improperly cracked and shattered shell, which meant that you might eat a piece of walnut or you might chip a tooth on a piece of shell. Now that I think of it, eating those broken nut pieces was like playing Russian roulette. Most importantly, this is the one time of year when we indulged in sweets: cookies, pies, confectionery candies, chocolate milk… these are all Christmas foods to me.

Christmas was the best day of the year in terms of food, because I grew up on a farm in the pre-Walmart Midwest. What we didn’t grow ourselves we bought at the local co-op, which sourced its stock from local farms. We ate locally and we ate seasonally. Also, we didn’t have desserts in my house because they had to be made from scratch and no one had the time or the energy for all of that after pulling potatoes out of the ground, scrubbing the dirt off, washing them, boiling them, mashing them by hand, and serving them with the other dinner components that were harvested and prepared that day.

The joy of Christmas became tied to the Buckeye candy in my mind. Eating the candy would bring each memory and emotion to life. Today I acknowledge that I emotionally binge ate Buckeye candies because I wanted to relive my childhood Christmases. Today I disassociate emotions and foods. Food is fuel. Emotions are indications of situations. The two are not meant to be related. This post was really difficult to write; I started hyperventilating and tearing up as I named parts of myself that I had buried deep inside. Thank you for walking with me as I confronted binge eating, which is an uncomfortable aspect of myself. I pray that you find the courage to confront your own uncomfortable character traits.

Catch y’all later!

Love always,

Kaira