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It’s never just about the food. Fast food is the speed of drugs and forbidden food is an instant magnet. Sugar calls out to us on every street corner and we let the scales dictate our level of happiness.
In Chapter 1 of the Discovery Diet, I talked about the question, ‘what are we hungry for?’ and showed some examples of how I work using Process Oriented Psychology with the deeper issues around eating and food. This is vital as 95% of diets fail, but we blame ourselves rather than realizing that our relationship with food is a complex matter and can’t be changed simply by dieting. I wondered why we continue to support a multi-billion dollar diet industry when the evidence of results, statistical and our personal stories show that we go back to eating the food that is fattening. See http://www.sydneyprocesscounselling.com.au/discovery-diet/
Do we ever really ask ourselves, ‘what is my relationship to food and certain foods in particular’? Many of us are interested in forming an ongoing relationship with a partner and yet, we are rarely interested in forming a long term relationship to our eating! We would far prefer to just believe what the advertising tells us about dieting. ‘Quick and easy. Lose 10 kilos in a month’ or ‘How to lose leg fat in just 10 days.’
We just keep thinking that if only we had enough willpower we could get up early to exercise, go to work, stick to our diet and the weight will fall off by magic. We ignore the fact that most of us have done this on and off for years and yet, despite knowing that we end up where we started or even putting more weight back on, we just sign away our hard earned money again because ‘this new diet’ is sure to work.
It’s never just about the food though. Dieting, calories and exercise are the main focus in weight loss programmes. Obviously healthy eating and exercise are an integral part of losing weight but when there is an essential element missing, it’s a bit like saying, ‘I put petrol and oil in my car, but I never have it serviced. Now it has broken down.’
If the psychological, emotional and mental changes aren’t made, it’s the same. The diet will ‘break down’ We give up, get frustrated and depressed and just relapse into our habitual patterns. Research continually shows us that when we lose weight, which for many of us requires effort and discipline, the body does it’s very best to ‘protect’ us and puts the weight back on as fast as possible! It’s Nature’s way to help us survive. When homeostasis is re-established, the body has done its job.
These days, it’s just too easy to eat. Everywhere we turn, there is food in shops, restaurants, cafés, etc. In the city or the main street in a country town we are presented with an array of fast food outlets as pizza shops, ice cream, hamburgers, deep fried chicken, chocolate, cakes and sweets and the list goes on. It’s instant sugar calling out to us on every corner! What sort of willpower is needed on an ongoing basis, to not see and smell and partake in what is on offer? Also, almost every aspect of socializing involves food and alcohol. We meet our friends and family for coffee and cake. We get together for dinner or at barbeques in the backyard or on the beach.
We invest so much meaning in food and it influences our emotions to a great extent. We let the scales dictate our level of happiness.We weigh ourselves and the number that comes up has a direct impact on how we feel. If we have lost a bit of weight, we immediately feel brighter and more positive. If we haven’t lost any weight or to our horror, have put some on, even if it’s half a kilo, we feel depressed and anxious and immediately start planning to cut out lunch or promise ourselves that we will never ever eat chocolate again! By the time we are home from work or study we are ravenous and tired, lose any control we may have had and don’t care what we put in our mouths! Then we absolutely promise ourselves that we will not do that again.
Our intentions always seem to be taken over by our old behaviors. It’s like we are on a never ending rollercoaster, just going round and round without being able to take another road that doesn’t end up in the same place. The reality is that if most of us could just use determination, persistence and sheer willpower, the diet industry wouldn’t be making millions of dollars.
One of the underlying issues is that when we try to be consciously in control, it means that there is another part of us that feels somewhat out of control. If we do not address and form relationship with our ‘eater’ who just wants to eat or our ‘inner lover’ of hamburgers, chips and anything that tastes sweet’, we will continue that journey, despite our best intentions. Anyone who has tried to lose weight, instinctively will recognise this. Food that is ‘forbidden’ has an extra attraction, of course. Tell us that we can’t have something and it is like an irresistible magnet and gains instant ‘drawing power’. Not just food. Anything we are told is prohibited becomes immediately illicit and more attractive. It is our reaction to every situation when we have been told, ‘no, you can’t have that.’
The Pizza Eater.
I worked some time ago with a guy who was completely addicted to fast food, but particularly pizzas. He told me he even ate pizza for breakfast. I asked him about his experience of eating a pizza, starting from his first thought and feeling and anticipation to getting the pizza. He described in great detail his experience of eating it. What was on it, how all the different flavours tasted, how it felt in his body. Which sort of crust he liked best and when he started feeling full but still finished it. He said that he had always been a very oral person. I asked him what he meant and he started opening and closing his mouth a bit as he was thinking about my question.
‘Go ahead’, I said, ‘and make that movement a bit bigger. Let’s open and close our mouths and see what happens.” He said that he felt like a fish and laughed and started making a noise as he did it. He then opened up his mouth really wide and started groaning and began to cry. He realised that his cravings never really went away and he was already thinking about the next pizza he would eat. “I always feel empty inside and I am trying to continually fill myself up. But it doesn’t work. Fast food is the speed of drugs. I keep doing it and I’m hooked. It’s seems easier than dealing with my feelings of depression and unhappiness with my life.”
He continued to explore what he really wanted to change in his life and how to do that, as well as slowly weaning himself off the pizza. He decided the only way he could start was to begin cooking his own healthy, non – fat pizzas. He told me later that he took them to work to share with his colleagues. They were so good that he started making friends there and his social life and relationships improved. He no longer felt he needed to fill himself up with calorie laden, sweet and salty addictive food but filled himself up with new interests and friends including healthy cooking and eating.
Until we include and resolve the unknown reasons of why we eat and just believe what people are ‘selling’ us, we condemn ourselves to ongoing circles of being obsessed with fattening food, either eating it or trying not to. Our power and ability to create sustainable change in what food we eat, is to explore the underlying processes that sit just beneath our conscious thinking. In this way, we use a key to unlock a sustainable way to feast on inner happiness and contentment.