Healing my dysfunctional relationship with food
I love food.
For as long as I can remember, food has been one of the most important parts of my life. But it hasn’t always been a healthy relationship. In fact, up until a few years ago, I’d describe it as almost torturous.
For me, food wasn’t about fuel. It wasn’t about nutrition or health.
I assigned it meaning in plenty of other contexts though.
Food was either good or bad. There was no grey area. Eating ‘good’ food meant I felt elated, superior. Eating ‘bad’ food meant I felt like dirt. Stupid, lacking in self-control, worthless. My self esteem was entirely tied up in what food I was consuming.
I did Weight Watchers (many, many times), the 12wbt, counted calories, ate only protein, ate only veggies, ate nothing. I stretched it out as long as I could each time before dissolving into a sobbing mess and eating a bag of cookies.
I binged, and binged, and binged until I was sick.
Then I would have to eat nothing the next day (or days) to ‘even it out’.
I was always hungry. (Who knew that eating a tablespoon of fat free yoghurt wouldn’t fill me up??)
I would exercise so I could eat more, only to realise that exercising made my appetite bigger!
Even if I was losing weight or toning up on the outside, my mind was a TOTAL mess. Nasty negative thoughts and glimpses of pure self-hatred.
It’s freaking FOOD! I would yell at myself. For millions of years people have been handling this tiny part of life just fine! But you have to go and create this enormous, insurmountable issue for yourself. You are so stupid. You are so useless, worthless, ridiculous! If you can’t get a handle on eating, you will never be happy. You don’t deserve to be happy.
Then, following some yucky life events, food started being the only thing that would comfort me.
Happy? Eat food.
Celebrating? Eat food.
Sad? Eat food.
Missing someone? Eat food.
Angry? Eat a ton of food.
On piled the weight. But I couldn’t bear that empty feeling. That hunger. That space that threatened to let my real feelings come to the surface. I desperately needed the warm, comforting feeling of a full belly, all the time. And of course fat people are judged for eating in public, so plenty of this eating would take place in secret. I even ate some cake in the work toilets once. In that state of mind, eating cake in the toilet is preferable to being seen eating cake by your workmates.
The more I suppressed my feelings, the more I did things I didn’t really want to do. I had no sense of worth. Dated guys who weren’t right for me (or downright awful), said yes to things I wanted to say no to, hung out with people who I had nothing in common with, worked at jobs I hated. Food came in handy as a distraction in those long afternoons in my cubicle. I looked forward to it all day.
I didn’t believe I was worth anything.
I wasn’t worth even spending some time to make a nutritious meal. What was the point? I was too messed up, I had too many food issues! Binge eating, bulimia, emotional eating, comfort eating, eating because I was bored, unhappy, tired. I’d googled these things and there was no solution for someone like me who was across the whole spectrum!
I felt lousy. Tired, grumpy, frustrated. I was so unhappy with myself for creating this life I didn’t want. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was sick all the time. My skin had rashes and cracks and pimples.
So I decided to make a change. I decided to change one thing I felt I had control over – dieting.
I decided to never diet again.
Holy guacamole. That felt amazing.
I no longer needed to read ‘lose 5 kilos in a week’ magazine stories, or attend meetings. I threw out my Weight Watchers tracking books (of which I had accumulated many), deleted my calorie apps.
(Diets have their place for some people, but I knew they weren’t for me. After all, I’d been dieting for years and ended up a fat mess.)
I started taking steps to rebuild my relationship with food. I saw a counsellor. I read books such as Breaking Free from Emotional Eating and You Can Heal Your Life. I learned about intuitive eating, and getting back in touch with my body. Eating what I want, when I am hungry (groundbreaking, huh?).
And I found out that when chocolate chip cookies aren’t forbidden, and I could have one whenever I wanted, I was much less likely to eat 30 in one sitting.
I’m not trying to make out like this was easy. Of course there were temptations to restrict and diet, and I still binged occasionally, but I just took it day by day, and my significantly improved mental state kept me on track.
After doing this mostly on my own for a couple of years, I was still using a big portion of my brain power thinking about food, and decided I needed help.
I signed up to a 6-month program with a Health Coach. It was a significant investment but I figured these problems had plagued me for 20 years and I was more than ready to get past them.
That was 5 months ago.
I cannot express how glad I am that I took the leap and hired a Health Coach. SO much has changed for me since then. I left my job and started my own business. I am eating better, sleeping better, exercising more. My skin is better. My finances, relationships and home life are better. I feel amazing. I no longer have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. My fears are dissolving. I make incredibly nutritious food for myself DAILY.
But most importantly, my relationship to myself has improved a million-fold. And this self love and self esteem work has been the pivotal centrepiece of all my improvements.
Learning that I am worthy, that I am beautiful and powerful and clever, and believing it, is the gateway to creating the life I’ve always wanted.
Food and worry no longer take up 99% of my mind space. I can actually look in the mirror and like what I see. I am happy and proud of myself. I compliment myself instead of berating myself.
I have been so transformed by this experience that I am training to be a Health Coach myself.
I have been there, in that dark place, and I want you to know it is possible to get out. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
I want to pass on what I have learned and help women realise how amazing they really are.
If you’d like to find out about my coaching packages or just want to say hi – send me an email at alana @ rayofsunshinewellness.com
I would love to hear from you!
Love + wellness,