Life without chocolate? Never!
As I am just sitting down mindfully enjoying a few squares of dark sea salt caramel chocolate, I am reflecting on just how much my relationship with food has changed in the last thirty something years.
For those of you who may not have read my books or seen me speak on the topic, I used to have THE most terrible relationship with food. From about age 8 or 9 and in my teenage years, I used to hide food, throw away food, chew food and spit it out then binge on my own on anything I could find. In my late teens and early twenties, it was even worse. I went through periods of starving myself and over exercising then going to the dairy (or corner shop as we call them back home 😉 ) and buying THREE family sized bags of Maltesers and eating them all. Sometimes I ate so much I was sick, other times I just cried my way through the third bag. Once I ate 2 litres of ice cream in one sitting. I still don’t quite know how. Every day I woke up and told myself it would be different today, EVERY SINGLE DAY I would hope and pray it would all go away and that I would just be normal, eat normally and feel normal, but it never happened.
At the age of 18, in the thick of it all, I decided to go to University and learn everything there was to know about food and nutrition. I also became a fitness trainer to try and be on top of that side too. I hoped that I would be able to sort out my eating and also, I guess I hoped in the long run that I would be able to help other people to not go through what I was living through. It was utter hell and nearly resulting in me ending my life, but luckily a friend of mine intervened. Did all the new knowledge and 4 year full time degree help me? Well, ironically, no. I learnt A LOT about food, nutrients and tube feeds (I trained as a clinical Dietitian) but really, nothing with my eating changed and in fact, it probably got worse. It seems sometimes the more you know, the worse off you are.
After many ups and downs, twists and turns and a few more years under my belt I finally figured out that what I KNEW about food wasn’t the real problem, and the fact I had tried so many times to ‘not eat chocolate for a month’ or ‘give up bread’ had actually only made it all worse. It was my relationship with food that was the problem and that meant I had to deal with what was going on in my head to help me make things better with what I was going to put on my plate.
If you are looking at 2019 with the goal of being healthier and getting in better shape, please, PLEASE don’t go down the route of restrictive dieting, deprivation and living your life for what the scales say. It is the most soul destroying and unhelpful thing you can do. Anything too extreme that makes you think about what you are eating all day every day, requires you to weigh what you eat and makes you feel like you are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as a result of a meal or square of chocolate is not the answer to a healthy or happy life. I know, I learnt that the hard way.
I know when it comes to working out what to eat, as human beings we love rules (some personality types more than others 😉 ) and it makes life easier to know what you ‘can and can’t eat’. I also know that following diets and plans can work in the short and medium term (occasionally long term) and you can feel a lot better, but if it’s not sustainable, your likely to regain any weight you might have lost and probably gain extra too … and feel worse about yourself in the end.
Yes, eat more veggies, look to reduce the amount of processed foods you buy, have less temptations at easy reach and aim to cook healthy balanced meals but DO NOT feel like you have to live without the occasional square of chocolate or ice cream to be classified as ‘healthy’. That is NOT healthy. That’s a tad obsessive and if that’s what you are being told you need to do, question it. Enjoying these things MINDFULLY, on purpose, without guilt is the goal.
People who live the longest in the world and have the highest rates of happiness are NOT on and off restrictive diets, they enjoy all food, in balance and take pleasure from eating. They don’t however eat because they are bored, tired, or because ‘they can’t say no’.
Make this the year to sort out your relationship with food. Examine what drives you to eat, look at what feelings you are trying to manage when you have half a packet of biscuits after an argument with someone or what you are REALLY looking for when you have that third wine at home by yourself on a Tuesday night. Look with curiosity (rather than judgement) at why you eat how you do. You can re-programme your taste buds and food preferences to make it easy to make healthy choices that make you feel good.
Now back to the salted caramel chocolate…I rarely eat chocolate, maybe once a month, possibly twice, but when I do, because I have fixed my relationship with food, I am able to sit and eat a few squares and ENJOY them – and this is from someone who could eat uncontrollably a whole jar of Nutella with a spoon without stopping.
I honestly never believed it would be possible to not think about food all the time, to not want to jump on the scales every morning and not worry about if I had been good or bad. When you fix your relationship with food, you will also probably find that you will naturally become a healthy size that is right for you without having to try and think about being a certain ‘number of kilos’. I no longer have scales at home and many of our clinics at Mission Nutrition don’t use them either.
I am planning on running workshops this year to help people fix their relationship with food and get into a better space with it all as well as answer any of the hot topic questions about health and nutrition. If you are interested in coming to hear me speak, let me know below and make sure you sign up to my monthly email list here so I can keep you in the loop about them 🙂
Wow, big story for a piece of chocolate, guess that happens when you free type?!