The Spanish Ham in My Underwear Drawer

Hi and happy Feel-Good Monday!

This is where we share our favorite tips, tricks, secrets, and ways to “think like a healthy person” so that you can find your own delicious path to healthy living.

“Feel-Good Mondays” are meant to help us get back into that place of feeling energized, nourished, and ready to take inspired action for the week ahead.  

“The Spanish ham in my underwear drawer,” or,
“How I was hungry for so much more, and the shame I felt in feeding myself.”

I’ve resisted telling you this story for a while, because I was embarrassed. After years of working on “feeding” myself on many levels (emotionally, physically, spiritually), this felt like a part of my past that I’d rather not dig up. Over and done with, right? So why look back?

And yet here I am. Because in hearing my clients many stories of shame, vulnerability, and discomfort when it comes to feeding themselves on a deep, nourishing level, I’m feeling the need to come out of the closet and let you know: I GET IT. I’ve been there. And I can tell you that there is a way out – when you’re ready.

When I was 18 years old, I spent a year in San Sebastian, Spain, as an exchange student. It was a scary, exhilarating, transformative time in my life. It was the longest I had spent away from home, speaking another language, away from everyone I knew. Part of this was extremely liberating and incredibly fun.

Here’s the 18-year old me in Spain

The other part felt horribly uncomfortable, terrifying, and extremely lonely.

And did I mention that my Spanish host-mother offered to help me “slim down” and be a “proper” girl? (I was a chubby 18-year old who wore Doc Martens and ripped jeans… She was not impressed.)

I often felt alone, out of my element, and watched like a hawk. So I found some quick new friends to keep me company, keep me comfortable, and help me numb out: Ham, chocolate, and a wide variety of Spanish candies.

I would tell my family I was going for a walk on the beach, only to quickly duck around the corner from our apartment, out of sight, and practically jog to the local “chuchería” (candy store) for piles of licorice, chocolates, and gummy bears.

My lingering walks home from school brought me to pastry shops, tapas bars, and vending machines.

But most of all, my heart remained with the jamón: thinly sliced Spanish ham, which I could get in neat little packages, that I could easily tuck away and stash in my room… in my underwear drawer. This seemed as safe a space as any.

After a particularly hard or lonely day, I would go home, close the door, and pull out the sliced ham. I’d eat it by the handful at times. It felt familiar, a bit rebellious, comforting… and it also brought up feelings of deep shame. Why was I so hungry all the time?? Why couldn’t I just eat dinner with the family and call it a day? Why did I go burrowing into my underwear drawer and eat handfuls of ham?? What was wrong with me?!

When I look back now, I want to give that 18-year old me a gigantic hug. I can see now that I was so very “hungry” for those very things I was desperately craving: acceptance, support, inclusion.

I didn’t know how to ask for those things (I barely knew that I needed them). So I ate my feelings. And then I would hate myself for it. But that felt more familiar to me than allowing myself to feel. It was what I knew.

Today, I am around 50 lbs lighter, but I still LOVE food. I still find it incredibly comforting, fun, and exciting. But our relationship has changed.

Visiting San Sebastian in 2012

I have worked on being present through the discomfort, joy, and unknowns that life can bring. (This is a work in progress, but I’m working on it nonetheless.) This means feeling my feelings, instead of eating them.

This means I can be present with my food, too. It means I can make conscious choices (when I want to indulge, and when I want to focus on clean, nourishing foods). It means I can actually hear what my body is craving (support? attention? smoked salmon?).

With this approach, everything changed. As the girl who ate handfuls of ham out of an underwear drawer, I can tell you that approaching food, hunger, and nourishment in this way feels so much better (physically, emotionally, spiritually).

If you feel caught in the emotional eating/vulnerability/shame cycle, please reach out. When you’re ready to deeply nourish and love your body, we’re here to support you. And when you’re ready to experience food freedom, food fun, and food love, we’re here for you.

Sending you a big hug.

And the Moss Wellness Team