Since I can remember I have been in a perpetual diet/binge cycle. My weight has always fluctuated from a place where I feel happy in my self and my body, before quickly derailing to a point where I couldn’t stand to even look in the mirror. It is an exhausting, draining and sad cycle, which so many of us find ourselves in to varying degrees of extremity. For me it all began as a teenager when I would flick through magazines and newspapers and see all these stunning, size zero supermodels and felt that that was what society deemed as beauty. I suddenly looked at my normal 14 year old body and felt completely unworthy.
Fast forward to the explosion of Instagram into our lives and I wasn’t just comparing myself to a few images a week, but to thousands of images every day which would constanstly project this so called ‘perfect body’ and images of beauty. HELLO INSECURITY! The irony of it all is that thanks to FaceTune and Photoshop, even the people in the pictures don’t look like the people in the pictures. We are literally striving for an unreachable goal meaning that satisfaction in ourselves is never quite within our grasp.
My binges were always extreme, as extreme as the subsequent diet would be in an attempt to undo all the damage. Sugar was my best ‘frenemy’ and I would over-indulge to the point of feeling sick regularly. What followed was always the same; self-loathing, guilt, shame, regret. This only fuelled the cycle further: I’d hate myself and so comfort myself through another binge. This would go on for a few weeks, and then I’d go on a retreat or on a ‘health kick’ and be super, super clean and restricive and after a week or so I’d feel amazing again. But even in those times I always saw this good feeling as temporary. It was always an unsustainable diet (so really not healthy at all) so I always thought to myself “I’ll enjoy feeling this good for now”, knowing that it wouldn’t last. I was always just one birthday party, or night out with friends, away from another binge cycle.
At the beginning of 2018 I focused all my attention on personal growth; I was determined to find a way out of some mental issues I was suffering with and by the start of summer I had manage to all but cure myself (that’s a whole other story)! Yet the food thing was still a lingering issue that I hadn’t figured out yet. I needed to break the cycle once and for all. How could I stop ‘dieting’ and just make healthy living a lifestyle that felt effortless and didn’t need to start and end, but one that could just be a part of my life. How could I end the bingeing and the endless striving for perfection accompanied with negative self-talk?
The first step towards this discovery was to find out why I was in the cycle in the first place. We often hear the term ‘emotional eaters’ and I had a feeling I was one of them. Was I simply eating my feelings? Is that what so many of us our doing? By applying mindfulness I was able to build awareness around my eating: was I really hungry or was I just tired, bored, agitated and upset? I realised that over-eating and bingeing is just another form of escapism, just like alcohol/drugs/etc. It might sound cliché but this awareness really was the first step for change. I realised that I had totally forgotten how to listen to my body and work out when I was actually hungry. Because I was only reacting to my emotions, what I chose to eat was reflective of that: sugary, fatty, salty foods with little nutritional benefits but that gave me temporary highs that would distract me from my problems.
Right, so I have the awareness of why I binge, over eat and choose ‘bad’ foods. Now what? The next step was to start to change the way I see food; to see it for it should be: NOURISHMENT. When we eat a meal, we should feel energised and satisfied. We should not be feeling lethargic and sluggish. I started to notice what foods made me feel which way. When I eat a meal filled with nutritious food such as vegetables, legumes, protein, I felt a hundred times better than when I ate a packet of M&Ms. We all know this, yet we choose to ignore it so often. Once you start to treat your body with respect and put food into it that makes you feel good, after a couple of weeks you very quickly find that you no longer crave sugary, salty foods but instead you become so in tune with your body that you instead crave the good stuff. It is this that makes it SUSTAINABLE. It is not about thinking about what you CAN’T have, but instead think about what you CAN have that makes you feel good. It is not about deprivation, but about what you GAIN!
Some of you might be thinking, well if it was that easy to just listen to your body’s needs wouldn’t we all be doing it? You’re not wrong. I guess the main thing that I learnt that really was the key to making this change long lasting was that I needed to understand that at first it would be hard. You cannot undo decades of unhealthy eating patterns in a few days. It takes commitment and yes, sometimes, hard work. The start was challenging at times I’m not going to lie, I did just want to sit on the sofa and eat a pizza followed by half a tub of Ben & Jerry’s because I’d had a rubbish day at work. But I had to remind myself of this: I genuinely wanted to get out of this cycle, I didn’t want to keep feeling sh*t in my body and feel tired all the time. So yes, I had to sacrifice some initial desires at the beginning. But I remembered this: Self-Discipline is also a form of Self-Respect. What was my priority, what made me feel good? If it’s really going to make me feel good to change my relationship with food, then practicing some self-discipline for a few weeks was a small price for this huge benefit that I could have for the rest of my life.
It’s now been just over 3 months since I began this and I can honestly say my whole life has changed because my relationship with food has. Not only am I not bingeing, I am also not then doing the opposite which is to then go on a crazy restrictive diet. I simply have a healthy relationship with food- something I never imagined was possible. I don’t think about calories, or portion size, I simply listen to my body: I trust that my body now tells me what it needs. I eat 3 healthy meals a day and of course I still treat myself when I feel like it. I don’t eat sugar anymore, simply because the craving has now totally gone, but if I want a huge bowl of chips or I’m craving a pasta then I have it. No guilt necessary! The best thing about this change is that I have so much more mental energy to spend on everything else in my life! I can’t really believe now how much time I waisted thinking about food, whether it was because I was on a diet or in a binge – how tedious and unproductive that was!
I honestly never would have believed I could get to this point and no, it wasn’t easy at the start, but now it really is EFFORTLESS. I truly hope that reading this might help/inspire some of you because I know how destructive the whole thing can be for our self esteem.
Lots of Love
Tagged in Diets