Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Previous Attempts to Deal with Food Issues

Q: Since you've become an adult, how have has your relationship to food evolved? 

As a teenager I was well known to be a chocoholic. I used to be able to eat a block of chocolate every day. I could also eat more ice cream than anyone in my class. 
I became a vegetarian when I was 21 and I was a vegan for several years in my twenties. 
In the past few years I've given up a few food like substances, including coke and chewing gum. A few years ago I also gave up coffee because I could see I was addicted to it, even though it was upsetting my stomach after meals and giving me heart palpitations. I gave myself leave to start again on my 45th birthday. I love coffee.

Q: What makes you think you have a problem with food? 

After I had my baby I couldn't lose some of the extra weight I'd gained during the pregnancy. I realised that usually when I started to put on weight, I would just do a few more hours in the gym, and it wasn't really a problem. I correlated low fat as no food problem. As I couldn't shift the weight and I couldn't exercise, I had to look at my food intake. And I realised I was eating a lot more than I thought I was.

I don't know how it happens, but I seem to go blank when I eat sometimes. It really is mindless. In some situations more than others.  

Q: Could you describe your current relationship with food as you see it?

I generally eat rapidly. I eat big mouthfuls and swallow lumps. Most of my meals on my own are finished before 5 minutes. In Spain you can sit around the table for 2 or 3 hours easily and its agony for me. 

I have been practising breathing before meals, and smelling food, and trying to physically relax before consuming food. I have tried to have smaller bites and chew with more awareness. Its difficult and I feel pain when I slow down and bring consciousness to my eating. This is a stressful time for me.

As soon as I have eaten, and I'm full, I usually have a cup of tea. And I'm even fuller afterwards. To the point of bloat. And I stay bloated most of the day. I don't seem to be able to let my stomach empty.  

Out of Control
This is difficult to say, because I obviously pride myself on my control and awareness in many aspects of my life, but yes, I feel that I find myself overeating regularly. I eat past 'full', and I don't seem to be able to stop. I see it clearly. Just writing about this has my heart beating fast. 

I don't usually diet because I don't want to restrict my food intake. I have always exercised more instead of cutting back on food. However every year I do a 40 day detox where I follow the Fit for Life program. It has helped me in the past establish healthy eating patterns. I am a disciplined person in some matters, and it can create chaos when this disciplined health conscious side of me sees the unconscious binge eater. I'm working on keeping the name calling down to a minimum. 

I started eating more sweets when I was tired and my baby was young. I felt frequently sad and ate pastries to help compensate for my unhappiness. And then I ate more and more. It became a problem for me because I know its not healthy and it doesn't contribute to my long term happiness. 

I hardly ever wait until I'm hungry to eat. I eat when there is a space in my stomach.

Self Esteem 
I don't attach my self esteem to my food habits, but it is attached to my body image. I see clearly that the larger I become the more unhappy I am with how I look and the more I feel like its worthless to try to change. Its a vicious cycle. Every now and then I make an effort to change, and I feel trapped in the previous cycle of behaviour. It takes a lot of will power to make changes. Changes that will last. 

Public Confession 
And here I am, shining light on what I see about food in my life. I want it to be out in the open. I want it to be clear. I don't want to pretend. I want to be able to see myself clearly and drag all of that shadow side out into the light. Its helpful to publish this on the Internet. It makes me feel like there is no going back. That this ray of awareness is not just my ray of awareness, but yours too. Your observation adds to my observation so that the ray of light is stronger and I can see and decide clearly what to do for my future. 

At the moment I just want to bring awareness to my relationship with food. I just want to see it clearly. To experience everything with my eyes open. I feel like I am getting to know part of myself I never knew existed. Acceptance. Acceptance. Acceptance. Acceptance before anything else. Observation and acceptance. 

Releasing Pain From The Past

After Dreamland 
So this morning I woke in pain. Piercing pain over the right eye and up into the head, my right shoulder had an inflamed pressure point and my tonsils were sore.
Then I immediately remembered that I had a sore throat and tonsillitis frequently when I was a child and that reminded me about chakras and I put on a 5th throat chakra necklace to help balance out the energetics. 

Yoga Therapist 
A friend of mine wrote to me the other day about some personal issues she was dealing with, and in meditation she heard 'Physician Heal Thyself', and I hear her telling me the same thing. 

I'm sure some of you know, but for those who don't, I'm a yoga therapist. That means I use what I have learnt from yoga (and other disciplines) to help people heal in body and mind. If I had to treat myself, as I do right now, then the first and easiest point to start is with childhood memories, chakras, asana practice and affirmations. Then I usually see how we go from there. I've also started practising tapping, and have found it really helpful. Since Lydia's birth I've also dappled in Homeopathy with the help of Kate and Janet, and this is a totally new world to explore. 

A student/friend of mine suggested I start offering these types of consultations via skype, so perhaps in the next few months we'll get that up and started. 

Why Pain? 
In some painful moments like these, I wonder why on earth I'm digging through heaps of old rubbish just to feel rotten again. I mean, what's the point?

And the truth is, I feel it's my duty. As a person who has chosen to try to be as conscious about her life and life choices as possible, it's my responsibility to clear away as much debris from my life as I can. In clearing my debris, I help clear my personal patterns, my families patterns, and the patterns of the world. In my small way, I am changing the possibilities for our future. And because of that, I must go through these clearings. 

Acceptance is Key
The pain is a release. I have been sitting on fear and repression for many years. It has never been allowed to be expressed. And now, in the safety of my adult arms, it can release itself. All of the pent up emotion, all of the fear, all of the struggle jumping out of the recesses of my memory and my cell tissue like the horrors of Pandora's box. But you know what, once they are released, I've still got something left. Hope. This magical word, ready to to inflame creativity, passion and life itself. 

So yes, sometimes it really does get a bit worse before it gets better. But keep your eye on the goal. It is a process. And right now its painful. Sit with it. Honour it. Give it space to be allowed to exist with no judgement. Breathe deeply. Be gentle and kind to yourself. We can do this. 

Photo Credits Tiffany Jones

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Recreating a Childhood Atmosphere Using Music

I'm a throw yourself right into it kind of person, so I have started to think about ways to reconstruct some of the childhood paradigm to help facilitate remembrance. 
The most obvious way is to listen to the top hits of the era. I was born in 1971, so I've started listening to 70's hits. I think it could be beneficial to listen to music from my parent's childhood too. 

As I connect to food and eating on a more conscious level, I'm discovering that I'm afraid.  I feel afraid. My body starts to contract and my heart hurts. I feel myself shrivel up. I spoke to one of my sisters today via skype and I felt nervous and uncomfortable. I was surprised by my reaction. I had no idea that I had a blockage about food in any way. And now there is this huge tangled pit. I am still in a state of surprise about that. 
I've been going through several mild panic attacks daily for the past few days. I don't know where this is leading, but I do have the tail of a dragon in my grasp.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Earliest Food Memories

I'm going to ask some questions about food and eating, and I’d if you’d like, feel free to answer them along with me.

Q: What are your earliest memories of food and eating?

Our dinner table was a stressful place. Eating was always a problem. My father dominated the table with rules about how to eat. Elbows in (don’t cluck like a chicken).  Sit upright. Fork turned over. Eat with the mouth shut. Don’t speak while you were eating. No elbows on the table. Obviously don’t eat off your knife.  Eat everything on the plate or there was no dessert, and if you didn't finish your plate, then you had to eat it cold at the next meal, and sit there at the table until you ate it. Breaking a child’s spirit was seen as correct parenting. Obeying was seen as a prime rule in our house. I often ate until I couldn't eat any more. I have no idea when I am full, and have always been someone who has a huge appetite. 

My father was often angry. And unpredictable. He used to quickly jab a fork into my hand if I didn't follow one of his rules. I often didn't know what I had done. It seemed random.  I was often afraid. I used to eat the things I didn't like first, so when it started to get difficult to eat, I would have to eat the things I liked. That was easier.

Q: How do you feel talking about your childhood and eating? 

The other day, when I first started to think about food when I was a child, my heart started to pound in my chest. My stomach started to get tense. I started to breathe irregularly. I recognized I was having a mild panic attack. I went and laid down on the bed for a moment, and just sat with the emotion as much as I could.

I started working with my child archetypes with Sparrow about 6 years ago, and cleared quite a lot of blocks and I felt happier than I had in a long time. I think that work helped let me feel something echoing down the past.

The main technique I have for blocking pain is to switch off. Emotionally it feels empty, like there is nothing there. But I think it’s just a wall has been put between me and the ‘hurt’.
Recently, shining the light into the darkness of food and eating, I can see quite clearly that I am ready to allow emotion and release from those early memories. Memories that I didn't even realize were a problem.

I was talking to Kate about my early memories this morning, and I could feel, as I feel now, a tightening and constriction around my throat and a dull pressure on my chest, and tightness in my solar plexus. My shoulders are tight and there is a lot of body tension. Obviously there is clearing to be done. Clearing and healing.

Even though I have been working with childhood issues for a long time. Over twenty years. It’s still there, in different layers.

Yes, I've come a long way from the resentful, angry and isolated teenager I felt I was, but there is still so much to release and let go of. So I give myself leave to speak about it once more, and perhaps to write about early eating experiences once more, but then I will move into the healing and releasing. I don’t see any need to dwell in the past. Just enough to bring it up , so that I can catch the tail and finally let it go.

Mindful Eating on Spotify

I've just started listening to this album on mindful and mindlesss eating by Robin Maynard Dobbs. I like the author's voice, I like the things she has to say, and she says it with understanding and compassion.  It also throws some light on other types of eating patterns that I don't have, and that is interesting in itself.

There are some moments that I can't eat mindfully. Last night, for example, I was cooking dinner, and setting the table, and I was still serving as everyone was eating their first dish. Almost as soon as I sat down Lydia, my one year old, decided she didn't want to sit in her chair any more, and I was juggling a fork in my mouth and Lydia's tendency to throw rice around and carry on an adult conversation with my son and partner. I saw quite clearly that mindfulness was the last thing I was embodying.

But there are other times that I can spend sitting quietly. At the moment I am just bringing more awareness into the arena of food in my life.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What!? A Food Problem?! Me??

How did I get to be 43 and discover I had issues with eating? And how was it that someone like me, someone who had been keenly observing herself for over twenty years, who was a fitness professional, a yoga, qigong, meditation, pilates instructor, and a personal trainer suddenly discover she was a mindless eater? The mind boggles.

But here I am, 43, and I am here to say I am an addict. I'm addicted to sugar, chocolate, being full (I drink tea all day to maintain a full sensation in the stomach), wheat dressed up as white bread and pastries and I am also addicted to being right, judgements, certain stories in my head that help me to feel like my resentments and my poor behaviour of the past is justified, and myself. I am addicted to myself and my story.

So part of writing this, which I love because its about myself, let’s be honest, is about facing these things about myself. Honestly. As straight forward as I can manage, with as little deviation from the truth as I can muster. Honesty, where it hits the constructs of our defences against the ‘them’ that can hurt us, is tough to muster, but well. Let’s go.

Basically I'm  a mother of an 18 month old and I don’t have the time to exercise like I used to. So I didn't realize I had a problem with eating, because if I put on a bit of weight prior to baby,  I would just do some more exercise. I correlated gaining weight with an eating problem, even though I was never taught that as a fitness professional. I even remember a Fat Albert episode where Fat Albert was eating bowls and bowls of salad, and his skinny friend was eating lots of sugar, and it was the skinny friend who felt sick and couldn't play sport, while Fat Albert was healthy and mobile.

I have been a size 34 for most of my adult life. In the past five years, that has moved up to a 36 and I didn't mind. Now I'm a 38. I don’t think I'm overweight, I'm just bigger than I was before. And I don’t seem to be able to lose the rest of the weight by restricting my food intake. And that’s how I discovered I was addicted. I had a 40 day detox and I lost 4 kilos, but as I'm sure you’re guessing, as soon as I could, I ran straight to the bakery and shoved cake and donuts into my open and salivating mouth.  Mindlessly.

I watched myself, quite surprised. And I looked back and saw a history of binge eating that I had never considered before. It had never been a problem because it didn't show up in fat tissue. When I am in a chaotic moment, apart from breathing, meditation and lots of exercise, I would binge eat or shop. And I was not conscious about it, at all.

So I'm restarting my blog after quite a sabbatical to journal what happens from here. You are very welcome to join me as I move from mindless eating to well, to where ever it takes me.