health

"No, I'm not on a diet." Last night, I realised I have a problem with food.

I went to an “emotional eating” course last night. Even typing it I feel ashamed. Like I am admitting I have a problem with food.

Before last night I would have told you I don’t have a problem with food and mostly meant it. Even though my size has never been constant. I break in and out of fads more often than a Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper headline: gluten free, low carb, no carb, low fat, high fat, cabbage soup diet, tuna salad diet.

Then I go through really lazy periods and I know it, my clothes know it, as do my low energy levels. I think “tomorrow I will fix this” but for now pass the Maltesers.

Spoiler alert, I am in “a lazy period”.

Five tips on how to deal with the habit of emotional eating. Post continues after video. 

I don’t ever keep unhealthy food at my house. If my husband smuggles it across the border he knows to hide it. Whenever I go to a friend’s house and they have an abundance of lollies, freezers with different ice creams or bars of chocolate my first thought is to wonder how they even survive with this much temptation at their fingertips and the second thing I proceed to do is scoff my face with whatever forbidden contraband I can get my hands on.

When I find the newest hidden location at home I am straight in there like a truffle pig and I make sure I don’t tell my husband I have found it until I am satisfied to have it hidden again.

See? No food issues at all…

So the course started by asking people if they are on a diet and I put my hand up and smugly said “No, I’m not on a diet. I don’t really know if I am emotionally eating or just mindlessly eating. But my jeans are not even close to fitting”. (I don’t weigh myself).

They asked more questions, like what did I eat today? Well I skipped breakfast (periodic fasting is all the rage I hear) then I had a smoothie at 11am (clean eating) and a healthy high protein microwave meal at 2.30pm and then while I was cooking dinner I found myself stuffing my face with a heap of cheese, crackers and the kids’ leftover pasta. Then I scoffed a portion of the curry I had made for my actual dinner before I came here and am now uncomfortably full.

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The holistic nutritionist looked at me with an expression I can only describe as pity and said, “so you live in a constant state of fasting, restricting and then binging?”

Um, well I guess when you put it that way.

She said, “you are binging at that time mindlessly because you are denying your body enough nutrition during the day and you are so hungry that you trigger a primal drive to overeat.”

*mic drop*

“Did you even enjoy any of the food you ate? What were you doing while you ate those two meals?” I barely remember eating (drinking) the smoothie and was doing emails. The healthy microwave meal was actually really revolting and I think the cheese scoff was more of an outer body experience, so, no?

Then she told me about “intuitive eating”. It’s an anti-diet culture way of living, where you trust your body to choose when and what it feels like and importantly put back the pleasure into all eating experiences – you sit and savour a meal and eat what your body actually feels like. You remove the stigma and all shame from eating. There are no “bad foods” or “good foods”. No rules. If you want a biscuit, you eat a biscuit. You have health goals within it, keeping your body well-nourished, but if you want a burger for dinner then you eat a burger and you remove the stigma and take the shame away. It’s a practice that honours hunger but also respects fullness.

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I started thinking about why I am the way I am (dangerous). We never had unhealthy food in our house growing up. When we were being looked after by my Grandma we would sneak into the treats cupboard and smuggle chocolate. I remember being weighed in Primary School by health nurses and they called out everyone’s weight to record it. Mine was the heaviest out of the girls. I was mortified and I think this is where that sneak/shame mentality began.

As a parent, what can you do if your parents or in-laws refuse to stop feeding your kids unhealthy food? We speak to Butterfly Foundation Founder, Christine Morgan. Post continues after audio. 

Even my husband who lives with me was confused when I said I was doing an emotional eating course. “You don’t eat too much,” he said. “You drink too much champagne”.

Thanks Janet.

But I know I can eat too much, just not around him. It made me realise I was still behaving like this small girl with food bans, who would sneak food and then not be able to control myself when I was around it.

Sadly I realised I’ve lost all the joy from cooking and preparing meals. That I’ve only been eating to fuel with foods that I think I should eat, and denying myself foods that don’t fit with the latest Instagram fad.

Then when I do eat what has been conditioned in our culture to be “bad food” like pasta, bread or burgers, I feel bad about it. Before, during and after.

No more.

I am going to slowly but surely change my relationship with food, and make peace with it. I am going to listen to my body; honour hunger, respect fullness and let go of the shame. In the words of Rachel Hunter “it might not happen overnight, but it will happen.”

How freeing.

Annaliese Dent is a Podcaster, Presenter and Writer. You can see more from her on Facebook or Instagram.

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