I have always liked the idea that natural foods, plants and nature provide the best medicines for our health and wellbeing. It makes the most sense as we are all connected to the world around us, right? We can’t live without food. Food needs the sun, atmosphere and soil etc. to grow. Our bodies need what natural foods provide. How long would we last without air? We need to interact daily with others. Like it or not we are all human, more connected and at the same time more vulnerable than we’d often like to think of ourselves as.
Well, I invite you to think about it just a little as you read this post, especially in relation to food and you as an eater.
Since starting my nutrition training I have been a fan and follower of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Their stated mission is to re-unite the psychology of eating with the science of nutrition. I understand this to mean that you cannot consider the body’s needs without considering the needs of the soul. ‘Soul’ meaning the individual person with their own unique body, needs, wants, experiences, emotions, senses, circumstances and responses to life. My own observation [not judgement] with clients and people in general, is how our attitude to food and eating completely reflects our attitude to ourselves and life.
My experience is that some people view a nutrition qualification as a personal attribute. As if acquiring this qualification has transformed one into someone who never lets an unhealthy food pass their lips … And, has now morphed into the role of watching and judging every bite others make, like the ‘diet police’! Well, on both counts, that’s not me! You may, of course, come across people who do take on and enjoy such a role. No, I’m just like you but with an acquired knowledge and interest in the benefits of nutrition which I love to share. I can be your guide, supporter or educator, but not your judge or savior. I believe that healthier eating is a life-long challenge, a choice and a personal responsibility. And, because eating is something you and I have to do each and every day, I see it as an ideal opportunity for growth and transformation. That said, knowledge of food is for the mind but food and eating as an experience goes far beyond this to the very core of our being.
I came across this Instagram post by the_food_psychology_clinic in the UK. It speaks poetically about how closely connected ‘eating’ can be to our thoughts and feelings. For some it can often represent a huge internal struggle. I have consent from the account owner to share it here.
View this post on Instagram
I eat because… I’m angry, I eat because I’m sad, I eat because I’m fat anyway (so what’s the point – I might as well be bad)… and have a brownie or five or 10 slices of cake, nobody will notice anyway… I eat because I’m lonely – I’m stressed at work – I’ve had a bad day Sometimes, I eat because I’m bored – I’m going to start my diet tomorrow, I’ll say – so I eat tons of chocolate and sweets…maybe I’ll start the diet another time diets suck – what’s the point – I give up I eat because I don’t get the attention I want – at least I can rely on cake to make me feel good today… But I don’t enjoy it anyway – this eating too much – I feel guilt, I feel pain, I feel shame…and yet I just can’t seem to stop -it is easier to put it off until another time – when I have more time, or less stress, or less work or more money to pay…. for a juice cleanse or a detox – maybe a nice retreat in Spain (I need a quick fix – I’m way too fat) it will be much easier this way Why is it so hard for me to be thin – I hate my body and life I’m a failure – I think to myself – every day But I like those two minutes of happiness I get – when I eat something tasty, something good and maybe I don’t want to give that up just yet because without food, I’ll have to deal with what really is not good in my life, in my world, in my heart, in my mind – and that scares me – to tell you the truth. I eat because… I’m hungry – but not for food that’s for sure Maybe I’m hungry for fun, for love, for companionship, for comfort, for a purpose – maybe I’m just hungry not to be fat anymore. #weightloss #weightstruggles #weightstruggle #weightstruggleisreal #slimdown #weightissues #fat #fatloss #weightloss #binge #bingeeatingdisorder #weightlosshelp #bingeeatinghelp
I’ve shared this because even though my qualification is the nutrition science bit and not eating psychology, I have found it is quite impossible in reality to separate the two. I acknowledge everyone as an eater. If we were purely physical beings, the knowledge of what to eat in the best interest of our health, would be enough. Like how to put the correct fuel in your car….. petrol and a little oil in this one, but diesel and lots of oil in this other one. The reality is we are more than physical beings and often our food choices are motivated by unconscious thoughts and feelings about ourselves. The above Instagram post is about overeating but it could just as easily be about depriving yourself of food. The point is, its really about negative thoughts and feelings wrapped around eating. Yet, eating can be a joyous, satisfying, healthy, creative, not to mention completely necessary experience.
Have a think about what your relationship with food is? Does it mirror how you feel and think? If you recognize yourself in any of this, the knowledge of healthy eating will not be enough. It might even become a stick for you to punish yourself with. More bad feelings? That won’t help! The issue is not a lack of knowledge. Practicing some mindfulness and self-inquiry around eating, or working with someone that has a greater understanding of eating behaviors, might help.
The food psychology clinic is UK based and you can make contact via the Instagram account. I am only aware of one Nutritional Therapist in Ireland who deals in this particular area of work. Here: www.straightforwardnutrition.com
Finally, I can’t count the number of times people have told me stories like “Oh, so and so died…… and s/he was so into healthy eating”! There is no promise of immortality in choosing to eat a healthier diet. The point of dealing with food or eating issues is that you can feel better today, have a better quality life than if you didn’t and possibly live a little longer. This is not without it’s challenges but it is within your grasp. As human beings we know we are affected on many levels by factors other than by what we eat, but this is the one area where we can reclaim some personal power over our own well being.
© Limelight Nutrition 2019