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Do you struggle with the nighttime Oh Thank God the Kids Are In Bed, Pass the Cookies habit too?
January 15, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Treating Parenting Stress with Junk Food: How I Traded One Addiction for Another

Posted by Linda Sharps 
on January 1, 2013 at 8:13 AM

My highest non-pregnancy weight was around a year and a half after my first son was born. I was sick of feeling uncomfortable in my own skin -- and sneakily relying on maternity-waisted sweatpants when I was at home -- but I had developed some very bad eating habits. Well, it wasn't so much habits, plural, as one major diet-sabotaging routine: every evening, after my child went to bed for the night, I collapsed on the couch in front of the television and mainlined whatever junk food struck my fancy.

I knew it wasn't healthy, but the entire comforting ritual had becomemy reward for making it through another day. Those precious few hours between my kid's bedtime and my own represented the one time a day I was allowed to be as selfish as I wanted, and what I wanted was to completely unplug … and treat myself. With, say, an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream.

Breaking that nightly "But I deserve it!" habit was the hardest part, when I eventually got ahold of myself and lost the weight. Like many bad habits, though, it never went away for good. Time and time again, I fall right back into it.

Years ago, I bragged that I didn't have a sweet tooth. What I didn't realize is that 1) not having a sweet tooth doesn't actually make you a superior person in any way, so shut up, jackass, and 2) I did have a sweet tooth, I was just drowning it in sugar-laden booze. After all, why have dessert when you can have another glass of wine? Or, you know, five. Plus two beers. And maybe a G&T chaser.

When I quit drinking, I turned immediately to food. I tried all the other relaxation techniques that had been suggested to me, and a few even worked (to this day, I take a hot bath before crawling into bed, because I got so used to doing so in the early days of learning how to sleep instead of passing out), but food -- particularly sugary foods -- became my new indulgence.

Food addictions are tricky to deal with. I can attest to the fact that stopping an out-of-control drinking problem is no fun at all, but there is the small, cold comfort of not having to decide how much alcohol you're going to drink, or what type, or when you're going to have it. With alcoholism, you stop drinking altogether. (Or, okay, I shouldn't speak for everyone. That's the tactic I took.) With food, well, you can't just ban it from the house. You need to learn to eat like a normal, non-self-medicating human being.

And if you're me, you have to learn how to enjoy the childfree part of your evening without overdosing on pizza-flavored Combos and Nutter Butters while watching Deadwood. Not that there's anything wrong with any of those things, mind you ... unless maybe you're wearing maternity pants and you haven't been pregnant for at least 18 months.

In the fullness of time, I started replacing junk food with healthy snacks and herbal tea, I exercised while the TV was on, and I worked to fill my life with non-parenting activities that I drew enjoyment from, so I didn't feel quite so desperate in those evening hours. I relied on everything I'd learned to get back in shape after my second son was born, and I never fell into quite the same rut the second time around.

But (you knew there'd be a but, right?) it's insidious, that couch-snacking habit. It's crept back lately, since the weather's gotten wet and cold and it's dark out at 4 PM, and I've been a happy, but increasingly lazy, homebody. By the time the evening comes I just want to chill out and revel in the fact that my work is done and I have another adult around, and yes, after the boys go to bed I've been far too tempted by the plethora of holiday treats on hand.

What is it about mindlessly shoving food in my mouth while zoning out in front of a movie or a TV show? It has nothing whatsoever to do with hunger, that's for sure. It's like I'm telling myself that it's okay to completely switch gears -- that it's okay to stop thinking, stop exercising any form of discipline. It feels like the ultimate relaxation, and yet it eventually creates all these bad feelings as my fitness levels decrease, my pants stop fitting, and I start feeling self-conscious and unattractive.

Anyway, the hard part is taking the steps to make healthy changes, but something that always helps me is writing it down. So here I am, making a public commitment to break out of my junk-rut -- and if it's a bit of a cliché to do that on New Year's Day, well, SO BE IT. 

Do you struggle with the nighttime Oh Thank God the Kids Are In Bed, Pass the Cookies habit too?

Image via Linda Sharps

Replies

  • trfgirl56701
    January 15, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    I don't but only because I go to bed the same time as ds. Last night he went to bed early so I finished the dishes and then crawled into bed to get a little extra sleep :)

  • Nighttiger
    January 15, 2013 at 12:28 PM
    Sometimes but not often. I would rather work out, jump on cm, or play a game with dh.
  • WonderWomanSV
    January 15, 2013 at 12:50 PM

     Not too often. Once in a great while I'll have a small treat, but I usually snack on fruit, same as I would give ds for night time snack.

  • flutter523
    January 15, 2013 at 4:45 PM
    I do! I'm guilty of having a big bowl of ice cream and watching the biggest loser. I try to only do it a few days a week now but being pregnant doesn't help
  • 4monkeykids
    January 15, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    I do it, I shouldn't but I do.

  • Marti123
    January 15, 2013 at 8:57 PM
    I have to work from home after DSs go to bed. No pleasurable down time for me! I don't want crumbs or stickiness on the computer!
  • saucymama519
    January 15, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    I like to blame being pregnant for me doing this but honestly... I've done it ever since I can remember. I also tend to do it with whatever candy strikes my fancy if I'm lucky enough to do the grocery shopping alone once in a while.... Bad habit, but I honestly don't intent on breaking it anytime soon.

  • southernbelletx
    January 15, 2013 at 11:32 PM
    I will do the 100 cal pop corn bags and put garlic powder and salt on it. Yum. A few forkfuls of pumpkin pie out of the can can cure a sweet tooth. I don't think it's healthy if you're eating to keep your mouth entertained.
  • OceanGoddess
    January 16, 2013 at 9:15 AM
    It it such a hard addiction to shake!! At my heaviest I was 280lbs..4 years later I managed to get down to 145. I still go up and down 15-20 lbs over the corse of a year..ESP after going back to college. But other than that I've been maintaining it fairly well. It's hard not to snack when food looks sooo yummy!
  • supermeof3
    January 16, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    I feel like I could have written this!!!  ...well, except the booze party hehe  I'm not a big drinker, but I do loooove snacks!    I do this after the kids are in bed also.  I also sometimes catch myself doing this during the day here and there when (I'm a SAHM-I saw your post on the homepage and had to look) I sneak into the kitchen for a little something (a bite of chocolate or something quick).  I actually wanted to thank you for posting this and being so open and honest....now I know I'm not alone.   ;)   I'm working on this issue right now too!

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