My Battle with Food
Addictions occur when you seek to fill an emptiness inside of you with something outside of you.
Food has always played a central part in my life. I don’t mean in terms of its life-sustaining properties; but rather the fact that every celebration, every significant life event, many of the happiest times of my life somehow involved a beautiful meal. Having grown up, and then worked, in the hospitality industry; generally, in the 5 star fine-dining sphere; I am quite a foodie. I love the creativity of a great chef blending unusual flavours; the subtle aromas of the herbs and spices; the contrasting textures; and of course, the perfectly complemented wine.
Growing up, my family at one point owned a coffee shop with an ice-cream parlour. Ice-cream became a daily ritual for my sister and me. My father was renowned for his authentic Italian “gelato” and we were spoilt with this sinful treat. Still today, ice cream is my number one favourite treat.
My gran, who on occasion lived with us, would keep treasures of chocolate stored in her cupboard. These treasures acted as rewards when we were good; something to soothe us when we were hurt or sad; and a bribe when we wouldn’t behave.
As I grew older, I bought into the myths and misinformation taught to us about what healthy eating is; and turned to the multitude of carb-and-sugar-infested foods because they were sold as healthy; not realising the addictive nature of these foods.
It was no wonder that, as an adult, when I didn’t feel good about myself, was stressed; feeling blue; angry, empty, lost, scared, lonely, misunderstood, or not enough; I turned to food to comfort me. And so the vicious cycle of guilt started – feel bad – eat to feel better – instead now I feel guilty for eating – so I feel worse – so I eat more to feel better – etc, etc, etc. I spent close on 20 years stuck in this holding pattern of emotional eating.
Today, my eating is very different. And, yes, I do still have ice-cream and chocolate; but they are conscious decisions and never a comfort for my emotions. Today I eat more mindfully; but to get there I needed to find other healthier, more effective ways to deal with my emotional issues.
Food is the most widely abused anxiety drug; and exercise is the most potent underutilised anti-depressant.
Top points from the podcast
There are two sides to dealing with emotional eating; and it is important to tackle both sides to in order to successfully overcome / manage emotional eating:
- Firstly, we need to understand and deal with our emotions. What are your triggers? We are often conditioned to believe that showing emotion is a weakness. As a result, we bury these emotions and let them pile up till they become too overwhelming for us to deal with. So, we soothe our emotions with food. So how do we break this vicious cycle?
- You need to actively work at building your sense of self-worth. Often, we have low self-esteem that comes from the wounds that we carry. Often, these wounds are the source of this pent up negative emotion. You need to counteract this by actively showing yourself love and respect. You can look at techniques for self-love in this post.
- You need a healthy outlet for the emotions:
- Journaling – let everything that is on your mind, in your heart and in your soul out by writing it in the privacy of a journal. Don’t think about what you are writing, just let it flow.
- Talk it out – if you have a trusted friend who you can talk to in a safe, non-judgmental, compassionate way then this will help bring perspective to your emotions. If you don’t have such a confidant, then finding a professional to speak to like a coach or a therapist could be the answer.
- Find a physical outlet for your emotions:
- Exercise is obviously a great tool – not only does it help get rid of pent up negative energy; it also triggers endorphin release that will make you feel happy.
- If you are having a physical reaction from your emotions – e.g. you need to scream or cry – then don’t deny yourself that. While it may not be appropriate in all settings, find a space where you can do this privately – perhaps scream into your pillow in your room
- The second part is to understand nutrition. Educate yourself about good healthy nutrition. Good guidelines are:
- Eat whole natural food – found in the refrigerated section of your supermarket – not the food that has a shelf life, as these are often highly processed, laden with sugar, and very addictive – read more here.
- Surround yourself with healthy snacks – so when you have an emotional trigger you can turn to healthy food that you enjoy.
- Drink plenty of water – this helps to keep cravings away. See more about water here and here.
- Get at least seven hours of sleep – sleep plays a critical role in the management of certain hormones which affect our bodies ability to deal with hunger and cravings. Learn more about sleep here.
The space between hunger and eating, where you make the choice you want to make, isn’t empty…
it’s filled with awareness.
It’s easier said than done
I was exceptionally fortunate to be in a position of being surrounded by great support when I went through this life-changing journey. Perhaps had I not had that support, things may have turned out differently; and today, I could be bitter, negative, sad and living a life of little meaning. It’s my mission to share what I have learned the hard way, so that you too can find the meaning, fulfillment and joy you deserve.
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A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
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What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear from you. What has your experience been with this topic? Do you have some tips or strategies in addition to the one’s mentioned above? Maybe you have a burning question? Perhaps you have the solution to someone else’s question.
The best growth and learning comes from engagement and sharing, please comment below and share your thoughts, questions and personal experiences.
Looking forward to the broadcast! I think this is a battle that more people struggle with than one would imagine.