I love food. Like, really, really love food. I love buying it and I love cooking it but most of all I love eating it. This blog post is about controlling issues I have had with food; it’s hard work talking about food and diet these days. So let me make some things clear; I did not improve my food habits because I wanted to be thin and beautiful. I mixed a few things up because they were getting dangerous for my health, and because they were related to underlying issues of self-control.
For the past few years, I’ve had the tendency to binge eat; eating an unacceptable amount of unhealthy food in one go. I’d be good and eat healthily for the whooooole day, then blow it all by eating a whole pack of caramel digestives in one sitting. One jammy dodger was never enough, because there was no off-switch in my mind. It was like a compulsion; nothing in my mind was telling me to stop. Unhealthy foods were no longer classed as a ‘treat’ in my head, they were more like a divine right, sent from God, to reward me for planning/starting/finishing/editing an essay.
I knew it was a problem, but I hadn’t the energy or means to combat it until I started my mission of self-improvement.
I began reflecting on why this was such a problem (so that I could work out how to combat it, and if it was worth combating.)
- It’s unhealthy – our bodies are not made to be loaded with that much sugar.
- When I became a veggie, I had decided to give up dairy products too. But this binge-eating compulsion and lack of mental reasoning meant that I often couldn’t help but reach for the Dairy Milk.
- It was linked to a bigger issue; lack of self-control. I’ve recently realised that self-control plays an important role in our lives – we can’t just give into all of our earthly desires.
- So much GUILT. Guilt isn’t always justified and sometimes needs to be targeted itself, but in this case, it was definitely normal to feel guilty after seeing off a big bag of Kettle Chips.
I undertook this project for all of the reasons above, and not because I wanted to be thinner/had self esteem issues. If, after this stage of reflection, I had concluded that I wanted to stop binge eating because I was too fat and wanted to be thinner so that I would fit in more/more boys would like me/I could wear nicer clothes, I would have dealt with my self-esteem issues, not diet issues.
So, I recognised the issue, isolated the reasons, and then tried (and failed, failed, failed) by:
- Not buying unhealthy food – this worked to an extent, didn’t take into account generous housemates.
- Being more mindful of what I’m eating -this works now, but it just wasn’t enough at the time.
- Fasting for a day a week – this reminds me that I don’t need as much food as I think I do. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU HAVE FOOD CONTROL ISSUES.
None of these methods worked because I’m a weak-willed mortal. I ain’t got the power.
SO. I enlisted help. I’m terrible at asking for help (hello bonus self-improvement opportunity), but I was getting desperate.
My wonderful buddy Chris agreed to be my accountability partner. At the end of every day, I had to tell him all of the a) unhealthy and b) dairy-smothered, things I had eaten.
Chris is a man of integrity, who’s opinion I strongly value. He’s also the person who turned me veggie in the first place, so he was the perfect person for the job.
And it worked a treat.
I respect Chris and his opinions so much that, each time I reached for a bourbon, (which are, actually, vegan) I found myself questioning what I was eating and why.
This moment of reflection was crucial because I was interrupting the automatic response of reaching for unhealthy food when I’m not even hungry. By interrupting, I gave my rational mind a split second to get involved in the action. Almost 100% of the time, my brain said ‘nope Amy, I don’t actually want to be stuffed full of doughnuts right now. I’ve been sending you a gazillion messages but you haven’t seemed to be getting them.’
My body didn’t actually want this food, it was just stuck in a habit. By stopping and thinking about whether eating this pecan slice was worth telling Chris I had failed, I slowly began to break the habit.
After a few months of work, I can now stand on my own two feet and say no to a bag of maltesers all on my own.
If you’re looking to improve something similar, reflect upon what’s going to work best for you. If you have enough willpower to do it all on your own, then go for it! However, you may need a little help from a friend. If you do enlist a pal, make sure you choose a good ‘un. Chris was always supportive and never made me feel negative, even when I failed. In fact, he turned me into a special agent who had to give him a status report every day (spy-stuff is my jam.)
When it comes to diet-related self-improvement, it’s really, really important to think about your motives. I launched a diet-based self-improvement project because I was confident that it was not from a place of low self-esteem. Make sure you do the same.
Self Improvement = identify a problem (binge-eating), reflect upon why it’s a problem (vegan-friendly lifestyle, bad for health, self-control issues), and then have a go at tackling it. (Chris!)
Over and out,