I’m an emotional eater. It is hands-down my biggest dietary downfall. I know how to lose weight. I know exactly what I need to do. And when things are good, I can stay focused on my goals and get the job done.
But then there are times when it feels like my head is spinning. Somebody’s digging through the fireplace ashes, somebody else is constructing an elaborate obstacle course of danger and destruction in the living room, and somebody else is throwing a tantrum because he wanted to wear his Ghostbusters t-shirt for the third day in a row. (My sister says I should just let the kids do what they want so they will be happy. She might be right.) The dishes are piled up. There’s a mound of dirty clothes lying on the kitchen floor, begging to be added to the laundry that is also piling up. The dog’s hair is rolling in tumbleweeds across the living room. And the million tiny Lego pieces, which I just finished picking up so the baby won’t eat them, are scattered all over the living room floor. Again. I don’t even know when it happened. My heart is racing and I’m barking commands like a well-practiced drill sergeant.
Put some clothes on. We don’t cook in the nude (giving new meaning to the term ‘Naked Chef’).
Stop trying to eat the stroller while I’m pushing it.
Books are for reading. Not eating.
The bathroom is not a play place.
Somehow, the very same things which are my life’s greatest blessings are also the source of my greatest stresses. I often find it difficult to embrace this time in my life when somebody is always crying or whining or complaining or needing something. Whoever said you should live in the moment and be ever present in your life, clearly didn’t have a screaming baby in his arms or small whirling dervishes tearing the world apart around their feet. I don’t want to live in those moments. I just want to get through them. I’m sure they will all seem more magical in retrospect.
My life is beautiful. It’s joyous. It’s filled with amazing blessings. But it overwhelms me sometimes. And when I feel like I’m spinning in everyone else’s needs, with my heart pounding from my inability to keep up, I console myself with food. I can’t take a break or go for a run when the stress builds to explosive levels. Deep breathing doesn’t usually work. A spontaneous dance party sometimes does. But when it doesn’t, I eat. And eat and eat. Until I’m stuffed and refueled enough to pull myself together enough to clean the yogurt off the wall and wash that Ghostbusters t-shirt for the fifth time this week.
Of course, the emotional eating usually just makes me feel worse in the long run. I’m conscious of that fact even as I’m shoveling the food into my mouth, but it doesn’t really matter in the moment. All this goes to say that my head’s been spinning extra fast and extra often lately (these things always seem to come and go in waves) and my progress towards a healthier me has suffered. I was open about my goals and successes when I set about my New Year’s resolutions, so it’s only fair that you know I’m struggling to stay the course right now. I’m remorseful, but not defeated. I have every intention of pulling myself together with some good, healthy, satisfying meals, like this super tasty, protein-rich salad.
This salad came to me in a half-conscious dream, in the middle of the night last week. The baby was in bed with me, sleeping poorly (all four of his top front teeth have come through in the past two weeks). The two of us were in and out of sleep for hours that night. And every time I was stirred, this salad was on my mind. Chicken. Apples. Peanut Vinaigrette. I spent a lot of drowsy time that evening trying to decide whether that flavor combination made sense. I decided it did. We tested it last night. It’s a winner. (The bacon wasn’t in my dream, but it was in my fridge and was screaming to join this salad. A very welcome addition, indeed.)
I know I’m not the only emotional eater out there. What strategies do you use for getting through those stressful moments without overindulging in food?
Chicken, Apple, and Peanut Salad
- 8 cups lettuce or mixed greens, chopped
- 6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
- 2 apples, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
- 2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced*
For the peanut vinaigrette:
- 1/6 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/6 cup olive oil
- 1/6 cup peanut butter
- 1/6 cup water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon red curry powder
To prepare the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well blended.
To assemble the salad, arrange about 2 cups of lettuce on each plate. Top with the sliced apples, bacon, and chicken breast. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Drizzle with the peanut vinaigrette.
Makes about 4 salads