• Cara-Lee Compton

In a relationship with food

Now this is not only something that could be cool on Facebook, having the option to be in a relationship with food, but this is actually much more serious than it sounds.

So after a week and weekend of eating anything and everything, I started asking 'why'? I was not necessarily always hungry, but then I would eat, and after eating so well the previous week, having a routine and just feeling lighter, I really feel kind of gross as I am sitting here writing this blog. Let's just say my body was NOT a temple this weekend.

Anyway, moving on from my self-blame, I found the following very valuable info on the internet (yes, I'm not a doctor or a psychologist so the internet it is). What I've been doing for the past week (and so, so many times before) is called 'binge eating', and it relates to our mental health with regards to food.

Firstly, binge eating is described by eatingdisorderhope.com as the following: "compulsive overeating or consuming abnormal amounts of food while feeling unable to stop and a loss of control. Binge eating episodes are typically classified as occurring on average a minimum of twice per week for a duration of six months". I know, sounds hectic, but I think more people struggle with it than they would like to admit. So here it is, my first to step to getting better, me admitting that binge eating is a real thing and something I'm honestly battling with.

My second step, after admitting, was doing some research about it, and WOW, people's stories about how they dealt with it are amazing! These are the three main things that I took from it all:

  1. Mindful eating

If you are a 'foodie' like me, you would know how hard it can be to crave food that you truly love. My greatest issue is that I crave sugar and very often, and especially over weekends, take-away food. But here's the secret, IF you eat chocolate or those crunchy chicken strips, be grateful, thoroughly enjoy it, and ultimately, enjoy it in moderation. Find the balance between eating healthy and enjoying whole healthy food, and the occasional treat when you really feel like having it. The typical weekly crash dieting and going cold turkey, and binging on everything that is wrong over the weekend, will never get you to your goal.

A really important point to be mindful of, is not eating out of emotion. Listen to your body; are you hungry? Really hungry? Perhaps just thirsty? Or are you eating in order to deal with certain emotions or events? Emotional or stress-eating is very often a go-to for me. Watch out for this, this should trigger some red lights and warn you that your relationship with food is a negative one.

When you really crave that something sweet or salty, go for it, enjoy it, and accept that you have satisfied that craving, and this leads me to my next point, after you've had that treat, do not punish yourself for it.

2. No punishment needed

The biggest mistake we can make is to punish ourselves for every single thing we enjoy. When you've eaten something and you know it was not the healthiest choice, don't feel like you've failed and then go on a binging-spree anyway. That one piece of chocolate, or Friday night pizza, does not completely destroy a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it's what a balanced lifestyle looks like.

Unfortunately, I often eat one thing and then it triggers an entire binge. Why? I'm not sure, it might be guilt or a weird way of punishing myself, but it does not work - believe me! Another weird thing I do, is I then go on an exercise-craze. I want to workout three times a day and only eat vegetables for two weeks, so then I try it, obviously fail and hate the process, and then have to start all over again. If you find the right balance, there will be no need for binging, feeling guilty, or running 100k's because you feel like you have to to burn all the calories you consumed. This leads me to the final point - balance.

3. Balance is everything

I've already said it, but balance is basically the solution. Balance won't leave you feeling disgusted with yourself, nor deprived and sad because you're living boring and restrictive life. Balance will allow you to eat mindfully in different social settings, without feeling anxious about it.

Balance can mean many different things and there will never be an across-the-board standard, for me personally the 80-20 approach has worked in the past. It allows me to satisfy those cravings 20% of the time (or 20% of my meals or snacks) and 80% would be the rest of my healthy LIFESTYLE eating - NOT 'dieting'. I actually really enjoy eating my veggies, chicken, beans, eggs and rye bread, and it never feels like punishment to me. I just have to manage and change my eating patterns, which is now at about 60-40.

In conclusion, we are way too blessed with good food here on earth to be stressed about it. Food should not be the enemy, nor the reason for any kind of anxiety. Be gracious with yourself and at the same time, make better decisions. Good decisions lead to good habits, which will lead to a healthy balanced lifestyle, and this will in turn lead to less binging and more mindfulness.

#NoMoreBingingJuly, let's go!