We all think we know how to eat but some of us actually don't. Eating is the most basic human need but many people find this human need a struggle, an obsession, a compulsion and a big fat (excuse the pun) problem.
When I was 15 I thought it was a great idea to start taking the wrong road. You know, the road that only leads to problems, the one where you get into trouble and blame everyone else. But at 15, I didn't know better. I had a rough ride, I got bullied at school, I had abandonment issues and ended up turning to alcohol, drugs, bulimia and anorexia. I was stressed, depressed, isolated and living something I couldn't even call a life. I just wanted out.
It took me 10 years of speeding down this road before I hit my rock bottom. I knew I couldn't take anymore. At 25, young but not so innocent, I weighed in at about 40 kilos, with patches of hair missing, yellow fingers and sallow skin. I got clean, I got sober, I got into getting better, but I got stuck when it came to eating. Drugs and alcohol had been put down. Once they were down they were down. Food though was a different story. This one was tough. With food, I had to 'eat'.
So I came unstuck. I really struggled. One minute I was starving, the next binging, the next starving. I dieted, took pills, liquids, potions and lotions, I even turned to hours of exercise after I ate, like, anything.
Then one day it happened. I put my hands up in the air and decided enough was enough. If I could manage everything else then this one had to be tackled. Here is how it went.
1. It started with allowance. I allowed myself anything and everything. I allowed myself to let go, to eat and to stop any sort of diet mentality that had ruled my life. Enough was enough. Except in the beginning, it was never enough. Three weeks went by with chocolate almond croissants for breakfast, a carb fest for lunch, and big steak dinners. But then, after three weeks, something strange happened. I didn't actually want that type of food anymore. Or that amount. I was craving green stuff, craving vitamins and minerals, craving food to feed and nourish me, food that could maybe even love me back, food that didn't hurt me but instead food that could maybe even heal me. Me, the one who hated food.
2. The next thing I had to do, which was even harder than allowance was to totally remove the judgement I placed so harshly on myself. That no matter what happened I would not judge myself, if I had two bars of chocolate one day it was OK. I would tell myself that nothing bad had happened and I was going to be OK. I would treat myself with the love and respect I would do a best friend. It was fascinating. What I learnt was when I stopped judging myself I could then ask myself 'why'. When I judged myself, I worked out that I was actually missing the lessons I needed to learn.
3. I started to learn to actually listen to my body. I learnt that my body had a language that spoke to me often it was just that I had not cared to listen. I believed a diet sheet knew more about my body than my own body. How wrong I was. I learnt that diets ultimately disconnected me from me because when I started listening, like really, really listening, it spoke. I got reconnected. My body told me when I was hungry and it told me when I was full. I hadn't known my body spoke before getting well all I knew was starving or stuffed. I learnt I had a few phases of hunger and I learnt when to start and when to stop. It was awesome, it was connection.
4. I asked myself 'why' A LOT. If I had a moment of being full but really, really, really wanting to eat the whole bag of chips I asked myself why. Why did I want it, what was really going on. If it wasn't about hunger something else had to be going on. I had to dig deep. It usually ended up with something like 'my mum is really annoying me and my boyfriend is an ass'. When I worked out what was going on emotionally, the chips didn't look so exciting anymore. I worked out that actually, the only thing food can solve is hunger. It can't solve my fear, my anxiety or my sadness. There are many other ways to handle my feelings and I always have a choice.
Eating 'normally' has changed my life, it's been the most amazing journey and I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had, even the torrential times. I realise over and over that we are truly only given what we can handle, that we are given experiences to learn and grow, to become bigger and better souls and most importantly that what we learn we can then give back.
Giving back and helping others through similar life situations is really why I'm here. And I would never have known that had I not gone through such a turbulent but amazing life so far. So if your going through a tough time with food I want you to know that there is another way and you can heal. Please never label yourself and know that food can be 'sorted' when you are really ready to let go, be brave and lean in.
Jacqueline Hurst, life coach, therapist and emotional eating weight coach expert. www.jacquelinehurst.com