The warm chocolate chip cookie melted in my mouth. Was that my sixth or my seventh one? Holding my stomach, queasy from too many sweets, I sat down at my kitchen table that cold January evening in 1990 and thought, I've got to stop eating so much.
Shame over my lack of control filled me, adding to my growing sense of failure. A client couple I'd counseled for months was getting a divorce, and as a beginning psychotherapist, I felt I'd failed them.
The truth is, I felt out of my league. I came from a working-class family, not a professional one. While I believed I was living God's dream for me, shaming statements I heard as a child came back to me: Aren't you getting too big for your britches? I felt inadequate whenever I read articles about counseling; was I doing therapy right?
Chocolate chip cookies took the edge off my feelings of inadequacy and fear. Sugar and fat: my friends. I often sought reassurance from my husband and my colleagues. But nothing calmed my anxiety like chocolate. And it was always available.
Sugar and Shame
But the self-punishing voices were always there too: When you're seeing your clients, you act like you have everything under control, but your eating is out of control. You're going to be a fat slob. You know better.
Just that morning I'd asked God for self-control—like every other morning for the past two years. But I still ate too much. Up to size 16—172 pounds on my 5'4" frame—I hadn't weighed this much since I was nine months pregnant with our daughter 15 years ago. I felt tired and embarrassed.1