At 16 I dropped out of college and hid away from the world. For 12 months I had no job, and all I would do is pretty much stay in the house and watch Jeremy Kyle, Big Brother, and Trisha (lol! do you remember that show?).
I’d watch TV and eat a bunch cr*p (chocolate, sweets, crisps, Mc Donalds, Dominoes, Pizza Hut, you name it!
I was in a bad place, I didn’t realise it back then but I was depressed. I’d cover up my emotions and binge on food. I’d eat so much that I would throw up.
Back then I was living at my mums house, and when she was out I would pop down to the Co-op and buy 5-10 chocolate bars and eat them all at once (Augustus Gloop?). I’d then hide the evidence by burying the chocolate bar wrappers deeply in the bin, sometimes I’d even wrap them up in a black carrier bag, before burying – to hide the evidence further.
In private sometimes I would force myself to throw up by sticking my fingers down my throat.
It was a pretty low time for me and I didn’t want to speak with anybody about my situation because I felt so alone, and I was extremely embarrassed about my lack of inadequacy as a human being. I felt utterly ashamed.
Food back then was my friend, a comfort and a substance I could rely on that wouldn’t judge me. Despite the fact that my unhealthy relationships with food were making me more and more unhappy, I didn’t know how to fix my problem.
Over the past 10 years I’ve completely restructured my life, piece by piece and have learned quite a few things regarding building more positive relationships with food.
In this post I will share with you what I have learned, to help those of you who are struggling or would like to gain a better understanding of food relationships. I’ll also share some effective strategies that I’ve used successfully on myself and with clients.
It’s Not Your Fault…
I don’t believe that anybody makes a conscious decision that they want to be obese or unhealthy. Most of the time it’s actually conditioning over years which makes us who we are today. First things first it’s not your fault, so stop blaming yourself.
When we are born we are solely reliant on our parents/carers, hopefully they support and protect us, and help guide us through our early years when we are vulnerable. As time goes by we grow up, we become more independent, and are exposed to many new life situations which are largely out of our control…
The person we are today is made up of a combination of these factors: our upbringing, past experiences, the places we’ve visited, the school playground, friendships, teachers, the media, different environments, the list goes on and on… Over time these experiences shape our personalities and make us who we are today.
We are conditioned with food from an early age as well, and form association throughout the years, do any of these feel familiar…
#1 Cinema – Pick n mix, Popcorn
#2 Friday/Saturday – Takeaway Night
#3 Weekends – Pub & Nightout
#4 Pancake Day
#5 Christmas – Booze and Mince pies
#6 Morning Coffee and Cake with friends
Food plays such a big role on so many occasions. I’ve only included a few examples above, there are plenty of others, but the point I’m trying to make is that over the years we associate these places with certain foods and find it extremely difficult to break our habits because we/ our environment have conditioned ourselves otherwise.
Pavlov’s Dog Experiment…
Right now think of a food which you love, your favourite, imagine the texture and taste in your mouth…
How do you feel when you experience this?
The likelihood is that you want to go to the shop and buy it! Even just the thought is enough to trigger your salvation, and depending on your conditioning and strength of the association – will depend on whether you actually go and eat it or not.
There’s a famous experiment which was conducted by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. Basically he would feed dogs food, whilst at the same time ringing a bell. Overtime the dogs became conditioned to associate the bell with food. The dogs eventually became so conditioned, that the bell would ring, without food being present and they would still salivate anticipating the food.
Pavlov’s experiment is a great example of how we as humans are conditioned in a similar manner.
Using Food As A Reward & As A Coping Mechanism…
It can be easy to use food and drink in all life situations…
- Happy mood – “Yes! i’ve got a job promotion, let’s go and get absolutely hammered to celebrate!”
- Bad mood – “I’ve had a long and challenging day so i’m going to have some wine to relax”
- Bored – “Nothing much is going on tonight, the TV is crap..let’s order a takeaway’
The examples above are using food as a reward/coping mechanism, something I see very often.
When food takes hold…
Even with all the good intentions in the world i.e. you know in January when most of the country decide to go on a health kick and lose weight? But after 4 weeks they ditch the gym and 51 weeks later they are back in the same place as last year (some in an even worse position!).
The problem is that the part of your brain that wants to change (consciousness) is overridden by the more powerful subconscious mind and unless you change this you’ll always end up slipping back into old habits and behaviours. 95% of our mind is made up by the powerful subconscious compared to only 5% which is conscious. The subconscious is far superior with regards to overall power.
To create long lasting change this is where we need to delve deeper…
Building A Healthy Relationship with Food : Strategies & Solutions…
Here’s a bunch of strategies that have helped me and LEP clients over the years. It’s by no means and exhaustive list buts I’ve found these strategies to be particularly successful…
#1 Be honest
They say honesty is the best policy? and in my opinion that’s absolutely spot on. You’ve got to be totally honest with yourself, stop telling yourself these stories and holding on to an identity which is ultimately making you miserable. The best thing you can do to move forward is be totally 100% honest with yourself.
#2 Ban Trigger foods
If you cannot control your intake with a certain food just ban it. Simple. It will be very difficult to start with because you’ve conditioned yourself to overeat this food. For me I banned chocolate because I would not stop until I was sick, sounds crazy but it’s true. I could not eat 1 piece and leave the bar alone, I would devour bars and bars! Ban trigger foods. Overtime you will re-wire your brain and your old subconscious thought patterns will slowly lose their power.
#3 Create A New Identity
It got to the point where i’d had enough, I couldn’t keep yo-yoing. I made a commitment to change. I made a promise to myself to not be that person who used food in unhealthy ways. Instead I decided I would make myself stronger and cultivate new and healthier relationships with food. Although it didn’t happen over night, and I had many relapses, overtime I made lots of progress as I learned more and more about myself, subsequently gaining more and more strength along the way.
#4 Keep a food log
Write down what you eat everyday for the next 3 weeks. The aim of this exercise is not to necessarily make changes but it’s to increase awareness and look for your patterns of food behaviour.
#5 Become more Aware of your emotions
If you have poor relationships with food start to become more ‘conscious’ of how you feel before, during and after you eat. To start with don’t try to change how you feel just notice and become more aware. Notice the patterns and thoughts that you associate with food. Then you can start to question your thoughts and beliefs.
For those of you who follow my work you’ll know that i’m an avid reader, always reading books on self development and looking for ways to improve. Here’s 5 of the best books that have really helped me with regards to building a better relationship with myself and food…
- Breaking the Habit Of Being Yourself
- The Power Of Now
- A New Earth
- The Brain That Changes Itself
- The Brains Way Of Healing
#7 Hire a coach
One of the best things I spend my money on each month is coaching. Over the years I’ve spent well over £60,000 on my self-development/education and it’s helped me enormously. In fact I couldn’t have rebuilt my life without the help of such mentors. Sometimes you need to pay for expertise and for another person to challenge your belief systems in order to change.
Taking time out each day to sit with your own thoughts can make way for some remarkable discoveries and create a gateway for self-improvement. Most of my biggest insights/realisations have come during meditation sessions. Here’s a more detailed post I wrote on Meditating if you want to know where to start and more about how it can help you.
Eating to Live Rather Than Living to Eat…
Nowadays I’m largely the happiest I’ve ever been, I still have my moments but one things for sure that’s no longer with food binging episodes! I now lead what I would consider to be a balanced lifestyle, free from restriction and full of abundance. It’s not been easy but my god has it been worth it. Nowadays I eat to live not live to eat.
With a strong will to change, consistent hard work and a relentless desire to improve your life you can achieve incredible things with your mind and body. I’ve experienced this with myself and with hundreds of LEP clients. We all have that inner power and strength, that little thing between the ears (the brain!) is exceptionally powerful, use and train it wisely.
Thank you so much for reading. If you have your own story that you’d like to share or have any questions please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I would love to hear from you.