31 October 2018

MY THOUGHTS ON FOOD & MENTAL HEALTH


^^ A few of my favourite recipe books ^^

(grab a cup of tea and settle in for this one...)

I've been putting off writing this post for a long time because, to be totally honest with you, it is one that is so personal that any time I dig into the topic it physically hurts, not to mention wears me out mentally. Yep, that sounds really dramatic, especially since I write very freely about my mental health in great detail, but that had the same affect on me too when I first started writing about my experiences and medication etc. This whole food thing is one of the very final things I have to conquer and, f**king hell, it's a hard journey.

I have been pushing aside food issues for years now; some of which are totally out of my control, thanks to a constant imbalance of hormones, but many are things that I have full control of, but just fail to keep that control. Maybe control isn't the right word to use, it is more a case of balance.

I have literally done all the 'diets', everything you can imagine, from severe restriction of food, to every food replacement shake you can imagine. Sometimes these things have worked, sometimes they haven't but, only recently have I realised that each and every diet I have been on, despite its success levels, has slowly been chipping away at my confidence, self-esteem and mental health. There have been a few acceptions to the rule, such as the coach I worked with for a short time over at my current gym, Serene, who has a different, more supportive approach to things, which isn't focused on the things that can bring you down, but overall I have found that I am less myself after each attempt to control/balance the way I eat.

Naturally I am curvy and store more body fat, that is my build and, to a certain extent I can get my head around that; I genuinely wouldn't want to be super small, I like muscle on my body too much anyway, but I know that I don't always help myself and that have got myself into a binging cycle, attaching food to all the emotions and using it to almost medicate my mood. I am sure we have all been there to some degree or another, am I right?


Something happened to me at the end of my most recent attempt to shift a sh*t load of weight on an extreme diet this year; I spent basically three months crying, anxious and miserable, my weight wasn't dropping like it did the last time which, upon reflection is probably a: the stress put myself under whilst trying to do these full-on diets and regimes and b: my bodies way of saying 'hey there... I'm not sure if you are aware of the fact that I'm struggling to regulate your hormones and all this restriction is really not helping me, so I'm gonna just store all the fat in-case I need it, okay?'.

Everyday on the program I berated my body and pushed myself to constant post-exercise migraines and just wanted to sleep all the time; I dreaded every single meal because I was exhausted at weighing out everything and feeling nauseous all the time because I didn't want to eat another bloody egg. After the twelve weeks, rather than feeling proud and like I had accomplished something, which I did (I lost some fat for sure), I felt suicidal and more depressed and low than ever; I felt like everyone would be judging me and thinking 'wow, she's such a failure, she lost weight and now shes going to have to keep it off and she won't'. The voices turned on me and I went rapidly downhill in my head.

In the downward spiral of the whole thing I just kept thinking to myself 'if I can't get to where I want to be on the extreme programs, how am I ever going to be able to live in my body on a 'normal' day'; I felt like just eating food was becoming more and more of an issue for me. The problem with the restrictive diets is that you crave all the crappy food and when you can have it again you just don't know where to draw the line. It takes a lot of work to get to a healthy mindset with the whole thing and I needed some help.

One of the best things I did was to read the Mel Wells book I am constantly harping on about, 'The Goddess Revolution'. This book helped me more than I can ever articulate, and I really recommend it to anyone and everyone who struggles with self image or food or both! The thing with my specific issue is that I am all over the place with food, either binging or restricting and so it was hard to know where I was at any point, this book helped me to understand my thoughts more, as did her second book, which I have just finished, 'Hungry for More', which was great, and I do recommend it, but the first one was the game changer for me.

After reading that book my mindset started to gain a little light within the darkness, and it was at that moment that all my Christmases came at once and the stars aligned for me; the beautiful soul that is Peta was studying to become a food psychologist and asked if I'd like to work with her (hell yes please!) and I have been working with her now for several sessions and it has been truly wonderful. (As a side note I will be doing a post with Peta, all about Nourishing Soulfully, her new business very soon, so stay tuned for that).

Peta is the kindest, most nonjudgmental person you could wish to work with on these things and during our sessions we chat about all kinds of issues that don't all relate to food, but also things that can trigger the way we eat or look at food. Opening up about some things in that area wasn't easy at all but she has helped me move through certain behaviours and really look at why I did/do them and guided me through doing the work to unpack the reasons. This is the thing you see, you have to do the work in order to make changes! Is it easy? Bloody hell, no. But it is worth it.

With Peta giving me journaling prompts, homework to do (generally things that unpick something I have brought up during a session or positive affirmations to practice) and food diary work too (which is so interesting to observe), I am gradually starting to see things differently. Seriously guys, contact Peta for an initial chat if you could do with some help, she is wonderful in every way; so kind, super supportive and goes way above and beyond what you could imagine (she created a Pinterest board of recipes for me to look at bless her socks!).



Let's be real here, any issue that has been around since childhood should not and cannot be covered up with a quick fix (at last I have realised that!) so what I am focusing on now is trying to be a bit more gentle on my body and mind and learn more, thanks to Peta and Mel Wells, what my body actually wants to eat and when it wants to eat, rather than thinking 'it's 1 o'clock I should be eating'. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of thought to realise the things you do out of habit and really tune into your own body, but it is so worth the work (and I am only a little way into this journey).

I am now trying my very best to listen to what my body is saying in terms of the sort of foods it wants and when, and this includes taking 'bad' out of my food dictionary and just thinking of everything as food. Clearly there are foods that are more beneficial to our bodies and that is important but, in my case anyway, by labeling something as a 'bad food' I just want it more, whereas if I think of everything being in abundance and always available to me, it takes the frantic need for that food away. Thanks to Peta I am no longer binging on huge packets of peanut m & m's, just buying some as and when I fancy them and making them last.

I have also begun to listen to my body when it comes to evening meals and not just cramming food in; I try and understand how much food I need and don't dish up too much all at once, with the knowledge that I can always have more. 

The strangest thing has also happened recently... I have started to want less and less meat and have been cooking chickpea curry and black bean chilli. Don't get me wrong, I'm not quite a vegetarian just yet, but I am tuning in more and more to my body and that is what I am hearing... eat less meat. It feels good and so I am going with it right now. 

It is only since working with Peta that I have realised how much I go through the motions with meals, often not really tasting food or taking time to really enjoy it. That is changing. Things are still difficult in terms of body image and my mental health, but I am getting there... baby steps but steps nonetheless!

That is my food story, past and present, and I am certainly working on a much brighter food-future, because life is way too short to be in a constant state of worry, plus there are so many delicious meals to be enjoyed!
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