I lived with deep seated feelings of guilt and shame about my body and my eating most of my life.
I tried plain old ‘dieting’ at first, and I was quite good at it (or so I thought). But then weeks of depravation and restriction ‘bit back’ and I gave in - bingeing on anything and everything in sight.
After the damaging ‘frustration’ and ‘failure’ phase wore off I was back to just feeling fat and the subsequent feelings that came with it: shame, guilt, embarrassment and self-dislike. And so the cycle began again, with my resolve to succeed this time even stronger.
I started exercising heavily and found I could control my weight to some extent - with excessive dieting and excessive exercise. I would still binge, but then would run off all the excess calories the next day.
This did nothing for my self-esteem, I still disliked parts of my body and I was utterly drained from all the calorie counting and running. I was always on edge and felt totally out of control around food.
Due to my excessive eating, excessive exercising, excessive dieting and excessive control I was inflicting on myself, together with all the negative emotions I was carrying, I eventually developed a very painful and debilitating condition called ulcerative colitis.
This illness was the tipping point that led to me looking for another way.
My secret dieting career had lasted for nearly 30 years, with nothing to show for it other than guilt, disappointment and a body I still didn’t like.
Thirty years of dieting, limiting myself, hating myself and worrying what others thought of me.
Then one day I discovered the cure to my unwanted eating behaviour and my life was utterly transformed.
It’s crazy because it’s so simple and yet I was so busy trying to make my life and my body be a certain way that I just didn’t see it.
I realised that my unhappiness with my body, my lack of confidence and my overeating had very little to do with food. It was entirely dependent on my emotional state – how happy and content I was.
My eating problems - and all the crazy behaviours associated with them - the yo-yo dieting, bingeing, and restriction - was all an attempt to cover up and block out uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Feelings of inadequacy, guilt, sadness, boredom, loneliness and anxiety.
And once I learned how to address this emotional discomfort - and the deeply ingrained beliefs I held which led to that discomfort - my life changed dramatically.
My behaviour around food changed immediately.
Suddenly I no longer needed to think about it, it was bizarre. Effortless.
All the stress and strain of forcing myself to count calories, avoid certain foods, restrict what I ate and run marathons was... gone.
Within a few short weeks my stomach pain was almost non-existent. Within a few months my ulcerative colitis was completely healed.
Most importantly, and unlike every other eating plan I tried in my 30-year dieting career, I have no fear of going back to how I used to be because what I now know is a permanent solution.
Ending the fight with food and body image is something I believe every woman can do.
And it works fast. There are no difficult new skills to learn, there are no weird exercises to perform and there are no ongoing costs and subscriptions for special foods, classes, weigh-ins or equipment.
So how do you do it?
Well, a huge part of this lies in simply being kind to yourself.
If you think about it, when we are obsessing about food, our weight and our body shape the very last thing we are being is kind to ourselves. The view we hold is that something is wrong with us and it needs to be changed; we’re not good enough.
We walk a tight rope every day - clinging to our restrictive patterns in a bid to escape this version of ourselves. And every time we fall off - eat a biscuit or three and fail the weigh-in - we add even more negativity to the pile. Feelings of guilt, shame, failure and disgust distort our self-image even further and we become stuck in the familiar cycle of dieting and bingeing.
Can you see that the only way to break this cycle is to first address all the negativity you carry about yourself?
Believe me, self- kindness is the express way to rapidly break free from bingeing and emotional eating.
I spent 30 years hating myself and trying to change myself so that I could finally accept myself. And yet, when I reversed the equation and started by being kind to myself, I realised I didn’t need to change. The very thing I was chasing - the feelings of contentment, confidence and happiness were there all along, just waiting to be uncovered.
Practising self – kindness has not only healed my body, it has healed the relationship I have with myself and the relationship I have with food. I now love food, love my body and most importantly I love my precious, beautiful life.
If you'd like to know how do do this for yourself, you can download the rest of this short article with ten tips on breaking your binge eating/emotional eating behaviour. It'll also tell you about some of my other resources to help you in this process.
You can get it here: Ten Tips to Beat Emotional Eating