We had a lovely family day yesterday: a birthday meal, plenty to eat and drink, lots of laughter, a really lovely day. I went to bed feeling blessed and happy. And then I had a horrible dream: the only bit of it I remember clearly is being told I had put on a lot of weight. I woke up feeling awful, and then sad that this obsession I have with my body, my eating, my weight, could impact on me so strongly and spoil the end of a lovely weekend.
The primary feeling I had was shame or embarassment. Perhaps the idea that I could enjoy a family day without monitoring all I was eating and drinking was too much for my subconscious, perhaps it was trying to inflict my old ways of thinking back on me? I sat and thought about it, remembering I hadn’t actually eaten that much so why were these negative voices so strong? And even if I had eaten more than normal why did it matter that much? We don’t do this every day, every week or even every month so one day wouldn’t have a huge impact. It just all seems so pointless and negative.
I don’t want the focus of my life to be on this, I want food to be simply fuel but it seems like parts of me are fighting back and I hated the feeling of shame, the idea of someone really hitting me where it hurts: the way I look and the way I feel about the way I look. I imagine every mouthful causing my hips to expand and I am fighting this really hard, talking to myself with the kindess I use with other people, but it is still fighting back. I still look at photos of friends from school to see if they are bigger or smaller than me: what a sad way to judge the world and the people in it. I realise the fight has just begun just when I was hoping it was getting nearer the end!
I have found it hard to focus on what I am eating whilst I am eating it. I find it quite easy to think about what I want to eat, do I want savoury or sweet, hot or cold etc but slowing down my eating, thinking about how the food feels, being aware of feelings of fullness I have found much more difficult. I think it’s because food has been so many more things in my life other than simply nutrition, fuel, something to keep my body going.
I know the theory: sit at the table, look at my food, smell my food, chew slowly, consider how it feels whilst I am chewing it, how does it taste, but I find it really hard to do that. I have a habit of reading whilst I am eating so simply being with the food feels alien. I can do things like put down the food between bites, take my time but it still feels like something I am doing without really being engaged with it. I don’t know why I am struggling with this so much: I want to make it better and know this is a step I have to take so I suppose that I am trying to bypass it and go straight to “normal eater” state whilst knowing I can’t do that.
Perhaps this is just another way in which I try to sabotage this process, allow myself to drift back to the yoyo habits that have occupied so much of my life. I need to work harder at this.
The problem with having to think differently about a thing like eating is that it takes a long time to change my mind and I’m not very good at waiting: I want to be different now! It’s hard going through stages, taking my time, having something on my mind all the time when I am trying not to think about it at all. Yes I know I have to take my time but I don’t want to.
So I have to learn to eat slowly, mindfully, be aware of what I am eating, how it makes me feel. I think (or should think) about these things before I start eating, when I am choosing what I want to eat, rather than just stuffing food into my mouth to fill a hunger, whether that be physical or emotional.
I have learnt (though thinking) that I often eat too much because I want to have my fair share of the food that’s available: I think this has to do with me equating food with love which is a strong message from my childhood. I remember eating quickly as we were a big family and if I didn’t finish quickly I wouldn’t be able to have anymore. I think my mother didn’t know how to show her love for us other than by providing good, warming, wholesome food and I wanted to have at least the same amount of that as my brothers and sisters. I am aware of that feeling, I am aware of my irritation with my partner when he demolishes his dinner and rushes for seconds before I have finished what I have put on my plate. There is usually plenty (I still cook for the whole family even though most of my family no longer live here) but I do feel cross and I think this is about the fact he doesn’t think about anyone else. He is focussed on his meal, making sure he has enough, regardless of what anyone else needs or wants. That selfishness brings back a lot of difficult memories and I can see that a lot of my emotions are tied up with food and hence my need to eat more than my body wants.
This isn’t simple.