Back at the end of summer, or the start of autumn depending on your perspective, I discussed how Eat Up! was helping me to think about food in a different way. How it made me want to savour each bit of food, take in all the aromas whilst cooking and to not feel guilt around wanting something traditionally deemed ‘bad’ by the food industry. As you might realise it all sounds a lot easier said than done so I thought I’d share a bit of an update as to how I’m actually getting along with it and sharing other things that I have figured out along the way.
Before we begin I just want to put a reminder out there that ‘healthy’ eating is simply about being happy with the food you eat, listening to what your body wants and needs and finding ways to cook and eat that you enjoy so you’re getting the really good for you nutrients into your system. It isn’t about eating greens three meals a day or denying yourself anything. This is about listening to your brain and body and coming up with a way of thinking that provides happiness with food and doesn’t give any room to shame or guilt. This is one of those cases where you can have your cake and eat it.
The first time I found myself craving pizza, I immediately found myself feeling shame. This was several weeks into trying to not feel such thoughts and until then it had been going pretty well. I guess no real challenges had come along until then. And for the first day of desiring pizza I let the feelings of guilt and disgust win out but on the second day, a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon, I ventured out to Sainsbury’s solo and picked up a four cheese pizza without a care in the world. As I stood at the freezer section, with a mum and her two girls next to me debating over ice cream, I didn’t feel any shame about reaching in there and making it obvious that “yes, this is my dinner”. In that moment the only guilt I felt was not following my cravings sooner. Of course that wasn’t the only time that I felt the shame of a craving creeping in but this occasion of getting the pizza served as a reminder to consider why I want the item and that if it will bring some sort of comforting happiness maybe I should just go with it.
There were also the moments when I was just in a bit of a mental slump and cooking hit the back-burner. It reached that point of me just not wanting to go anywhere near the kitchen let along look at an ingredient or whip a meal together. When moments like this happen I used to just sort of come to accept it even though it doesn’t make my food part of my brain or my tummy sing with joy. But with my new attempts of trying to enjoy everything I managed to at least appreciate the delights of the tinned soup that I was heating up or the cube of cheese that I munched on as a snack. It might not sound delicious to you but they are the simple foods that make me happy and feel a sense of comfort. In doing so I found myself able to creep out of the food slump a little bit quicker than normal and I did it by building up slowly.
On the day I bought that four cheese pizza I also bought some avocado to just get a bit of the nutrition into my diet that my body was starting to cry out for and from there I felt excited to add other things into my food routine. Again there was guilt that tried to sneak in though and at times it felt like I couldn’t win. I wasn’t trying to force myself to eat certain foods and that itself made me feel guilty and then when I did start to eat them I felt guilty for not starting again sooner. But overall I managed to tell myself to not have regret over anything and to instead appreciate the simple moments of joy I got from the foods that I did eat which really takes a lot of brain training to do.
There have certainly been times when I have thought it to be completely impossible and like I might need to seek out some serious professional help to shake these feelings but that idea only led me to feel horrible about myself. I’m very clearly not at that stage just yet and need to continue to move in the right direction myself first before being able to talk one to one in a small plain room about it all to some random person pretending not to judge me with all their mmm mmmm’s.
Attempting to essentially retrain my brain over the last month or so has proved to be really extremely difficult and takes a huge amount of willpower and self-desire. This is something that I have needed to do for a long time but only recently found the internal strength to attempt and it very much feels like a better late than never sort of moment (though really it isn’t late at all it’s just the right time for me) and there is still a huge way to go. I’m not sure I’ll ever really be able to eat food without guilt or having some sort of shameful thoughts occasionally pinging around my head but being able to make some sort of progress on it and acknowledging when those feelings exist is still a start.
Have you ever tried to retrain your brain around how you think about food? If so what helped you or what was the biggest hurdle?