BY AOIFE MORRISON
IT is time to stop believing the narrative that self-control and willpower are the answer to food confidence.
I have been where you are! Stuck on the merry-go-round of hopping from one diet to the next, constantly waiting for that magic connection. Hoping that if I tried just one more I would learn to ‘properly manage’ my appetite and cravings.
And do you know what happened? I hit the mother and father of a wall. My body and mind reached max capacity and I decided something had to change. A year ago I was the smallest I had ever been. I was 37 years old and weighing 52kgs.
There were times I lived for the ‘you are so skinny’ comments. It kept driving me forward believing I was finally reaching my goal. People would tell me that they wished they had my body, all the while not realising, I was dying inside.
It sounds dramatic, but making a change requires a level of honesty with yourself that can be both confronting and scary. The narrative you have created in your head, the images you have of healthy, they all need to be ripped down. And that can leave you feeling raw and exposed for a time.
As the saying goes, ‘nothing changes if nothing changes.’ While dieting is decidedly uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is what you know. You become comfortable in that discomfort. And so you continue on that roundabout hoping your ‘exit’ will appear.
But it never does. The reality is that the only escape is to hop off and face the road on the other side. And that is what I had to do.
My first challenge? Undoing the damage of ingrained food rules. Breaking through the belief that certain foods were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and that what I ate reflected directly on me as a person. Introducing all those foods that I had previously considered ‘bad’ got a bit weird for a while. I had to learn to sit with that discomfort because until I did, I couldn’t move forward.
Next up was learning to listen to my hunger and fullness cues. Believe me when I say these get all kinds of screwed up after years of dieting. Because embracing a life of restriction followed by overeating overrides our bodies natural communications. We are all born intuitive eaters, entering the world and knowing how to respond to hunger and in turn acknowledging fullness.
And without a shadow of a doubt, once I tuned in to my body, the change was overwhelming. There is no place for the fictional notion that self-control is the key to feeling in control around food. I mean how can you know when you need to eat and stop if you can’t tell?
By acknowledging this I can go to my favourite Chinese restaurant, order what I want and leave without that sick feeling from overeating. I can plate up dinner knowing how much I want, but equally knowing I can go back for more if I want it, and I can pre-plan snacks for a drive knowing I will get hungry based on my hunger patterns.
Do I hit the nail on the head every day? No. But that should never be the goal. Perfection is an unattainable goal. And we keep setting ourselves up for failure by expecting it. When I work with my clients this is one of the first mindsets we work on. To give themselves permission to be human. No foods are bad, they just all do different things for our bodies. There is a big difference.
• For support from a qualified nutritionist contact Aoife on 087 448 8540, or [email protected]. Or check out Mums for Nutrition on Instagram.