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What’s Your Food Issue?

What’s Your Food Issue?

    Cheesecake-a-holic

    So, what’s your food issue? Come on, you can tell me. It’s just us. Is there just one issue or are there several? Is it a constant or does it come and go? Do you over-eat? Under-eat? Perhaps you alternate between the two? I have in the past. Is your issue minor or major? Do you lie about it? Have you? I have. Does it have a negative impact on your emotional and mental states? Your life? Relationships? Career? Is it worse in certain situations or under certain circumstances? Are there specific triggers? That cheesecake photo doesn’t help! Do you ever feel out of control? Weird? Ashamed? I have. Are you ever preoccupied with food? Only when I’m awake. Have you started and stopped a bazillion diets? Like… totally. Do you eat one way when people are around and another way when you’re alone? What hidden chocolate? Do you eat when you don’t need to? Yep. Do you medicate with food? Reward yourself (or maybe your kids) with it? Are you ever defensive about your eating habits? Am not, you are.

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    A Common Issue

    In my humble opinion (and it’s almost impossible to verify and quantify this educated guess-timation), almost everyone has some kind of food issue. It might be some occasional (and relatively-minor) over-eating, it could be a full-blown eating disorder (with potentially life-ending consequences) or it could be anything in between. There is indeed a lot of space between disordered eating and an eating disorder. If a score of ten on the Healthy Eating Scale (the one I just invented for this post) is perfect eating (does it actually exist?) and zero is total dysfunction, I think the majority of us live someone between three and seven with occasional visits to one and nine. These days, I mostly live around seven to eight but back in the day, I spent plenty of time in the vicinity of three. So, where do you (mostly) live on the soon-to-be-world-famous Craig Harper Healthy Eating Scale?

    Honesty

    When it comes to exploring and dissecting people’s eating habits, one of the most elusive things to find is total honesty. Complete transparency. Why? Well, lots of reasons but mostly because we don’t want people to think we’re freaks. So, in order to look and sound normal (which is a myth anyway) we lie our arses off. Ironically, we actually lie our arses on.

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    Think about it.

    And it’s this lack of honesty (that is, deception of others and deception of self) that is probably the biggest barrier to health, healing and transformation for most of us. As long as we keep bullshitting ourselves and others (about our eating habits, behaviours and decisions), we fail to address the underlying issues (they’re always there) and we continue to inhabit our make-believe world. We also fail to deal with our food issues in a logical and practical manner and finally, we keep the cycle of mental, emotional and physical destruction in motion.

    A Story

    A few years back, I worked with a woman who would wait until everyone was asleep (husband, kids), roll her car down the driveway, start the engine on the street, drive to a twenty-four hour store and buy herself a large tub of ice-cream. Following her purchase, she would sit in the car and shovel in four litres (a gallon-ish) of ice-cream with a spoon she had brought from home. She would then dispose of the evidence and drive home. Usually in tears. She ‘enjoyed’ this nocturnal ritual at least three or four times a week.

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    When I met her, she had been doing this for years. After a month of reading her (largely fictitious) food diary (the one I asked her to keep), I knew she was lying about her eating habits and I told her so. That went down well.  One day in the middle of a rather heated and emotional exchange, she blurted out the truth to me. I was the first person she had ever told. Tears, snot, anger and finally, some acknowledgement and honesty. And a little relief.

    Progress at last.

    I later discovered that the ice-cream trips were just one part of a destructive eating cycle that had been going on for years. It started when she was a teenager and continued for two (and a bit) decades. The day she told me the truth was the last time she ever binged and the first time she had been totally honest with anyone (about her eating issues). Yes, I’m sure. It was also the catalyst for significant (and lasting) weight-loss (over 20 kgs). When she revealed her secret to me, I didn’t judge her, criticise her or question her. I simply hugged her and told her I was proud of her for being courageous and honest. We then put our minds to creating a practical plan for her to do better. Her embarrassment, fear and shame simply fizzled out of existence as we consciously and constructively went about the business of change. It’s amazing what can happen when someone receives love, acceptance and support rather than (the anticipated) judgement, condemnation and criticism.

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    Doctor Who?

    To illustrate how broad-reaching this issue is, I’ll share with you an interesting fact about my client: she was (and still is) a doctor. That’s right; intelligence, education and knowledge don’t necessarily have anything to do with how we complex creatures behave around food. Knowing what to do and doing what we know are very different things. Her career was a big contributor to her embarrassment about her eating habits. When she started to communicate with me like a person with issues – rather than a qualification with a reputation – the floodgates opened and the wheels of progress rolled into action.

    While I don’t have an eating disorder (as such), I have certainly been a skilled exponent of (periodic) disordered eating over the years. Apparently forty-ish year-old (am so) endomorphs don’t need a slab of cheesecake each day. Who knew? So not fair.

    While there’s no simple answer, quick-fix or one-approach-fits-all solution to this problem, a good place to start is honesty, awareness and acknowledgement. Not self-loathing or self-pity, just total honesty and a genuine willingness to do and be different.

    Now, I know you have thoughts, ideas and experiences you’d like to share on this topic, so start writing. Even you Scaredy-Cats who never comment. We don’t bite.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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