Today has been a really difficult day. Mostly because it should have been the complete opposite. I got to meet one of my all-time health inspirations – Jessica Sepel – at her book launch today and I even made a new (amazing) friend who is also a local health and fitness aspirational and inspirational, down-to-earth, beautiful lady (Andene Horne). I should have left feeling refreshed and energised, excited to start the next phase of my healthy life.
I left feeling completely shattered. I cried the whole way home.
I realised today – for the umpteenth time – that I have such a complicated and unhealthy relationship with food, even after so many years of growing in my health journey. I still struggle. Maybe more than ever. I spent the whole morning comparing myself to the other women there.
She’s got beautiful skin – mine’s so spotty all the time.
She’s so skinny, why can’t I look like that.
She’s got amazing boobs, I wish mine were bigger.
She’s so toned, I need to do more weights.
She’s got such long hair, I wish I never cut mine.
She’s got smoother legs, browner skin, better eyebrows, blue eyes, nice hands, perfect toes, flat stomach, she’s taller, she’s smaller.
She she she.
By the end of the morning I could barely look down at my feet without wanting to burst into tears. I was angry with myself. And for what?
I know you can’t (or shouldn’t) compare yourself to others. I know it’s silly and unconstructive (destructive seemed too harsh a word, although it’s really not). But, don’t we all?
No? Just me? Liars.
I have written about and tried so many ‘8-week challenges” or “60-day resets” and I always manage a few weeks before speed wobbling and falling down again. The problem is that they were all about what I weighed, what I ate or didn’t eat, what I could fit into or would be able to do. Run 5km, do a million push ups (yeah right), wear a size 32 without doing the squeeze in and jiggle first. It’s never been about how I feel, what the foods are giving me or how they nourish my poor, broken body.
I know, or at least I am sure, that to everyone else my diet/lifestyle appears to be really great. As everyone’s does on social media, I suppose. But I know the truth. The hard, honest truth. Don’t get me wrong – I have good days too. I do love my super green smoothies. I love broccoli and quinoa, or whatever vegan/plant-based gluten-free meal is on the menu for the day. Just not all the time. Two steps forward, three steps back. Moderation is my problem. Does the 80/20 rule count if that 20 is an entire jar of Nutella, or 3 burgers with chips and two magnums in one afternoon? Binge eating one afternoon until I can’t take one more single bite. My problem isn’t the 80. It’s the 20. I honestly can’t tell if my food relationship has gotten better or worse since I have gotten ‘healthier’. I feel like I am stuck in a bad marriage.
We’ve grown closer (me and food, that is) and gotten to know each other better, right? I mean, 5 years ago I was eating bread daily, milk in my coffee, meat with every meal and I got tired after walking up the stairs. I know now that gluten isn’t my favourite friend, that dairy really knocks me and that eating 90% plant-based is better for my health in general.
2 steps forward.
Then again, 5 years ago I barely ate any chocolate. I didn’t eat desserts or have sweet stuff … ever. Fast-forward to last week Sunday where I had TWO Magnums. After eating my Mom’s Lasagne (yes – pasta, bolognese, cheese and ALL). Or last night, where I ended my day with 3 (not small) spoons of Nutella.
3 steps back.
The worst part of everything is I know how to fix it. In theory. And I try. Lord knows I try. I know what curbs sugar cravings, what foods give you energy, what to eat in the mornings, what to avoid in the afternoons, get lots of broccoli, eat your spinach (or drink it in your smoothie), lots of fruit, lots of fibre, nuts, seeds, whole grains, veggies, veggies and more veggies. I look at my diet compared to 90% of my friends and it is SO MUCH HEALTHIER.
Except it’s not. ‘Cause my friend that ate peanut butter on toast for dinner last night might not have gotten all of the good food groups in that day, but they definitely didn’t get as many BAD ones in as I did last week Sunday. Plus, they probably don’t cry when they look in the mirror, or punish themselves by trying to starve for 2 days and feel guilty and hate themselves for the following week.
Healing your (my) relationship with food – like fixing a marriage (I say this like I know how to fix a marriage, please do not quote me on this) – doesn’t start with fixing the symptoms. It doesn’t start with getting him to stop working late all the time, or to just start having more… *cough* intimate time, right? It starts before that.
1. So you can’t get divorced. You will literally die. No one can live without food.
2. Couples Therapy. I am dead serious. Having a toxic relationship with food usually (definitely) means there is something deeper happening. Healing your relationship with yourself should in turn fix your marriage (now I am talking about food, not dishing out unqualified marital advice). If I learnt anything from the book launch today with Jessica Sepel, it’s that health is so multi-layered and so often we make the mistake of singling out one thing to focus on (like how tight your jeans are, how much make up you need to cover up those imperfections or how many times you have to take a selfie before you are comfortable posting it…) and then bench mark our health on that and then wonder why we’re stagnating. Be kind to yourself. Or try be kinder to yourself. Figure out what the triggers or the reasons are, which brings me to my next point.
3. Communication. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there. The why is important. Same as a marriage – why are you spending weekends apart, choosing to stay at the gym longer, not spending any time in the bedroom (together, I mean. Having fun, I mean). It’s not the act itself it’s the why. Jessica says to be more self aware. Try and be conscious of what the triggers for ‘bad eating’ are, what you are feeling when you binge or choose to avoid the healthy, nourishing meals. I don’t know what mine are. Ok, wait… that’s a lie – I know, for a fact, that I eat more when I am lonely. When my boyfriend is working late, or I have been working from home for 2 days in a row with no one to talk to but the animals. I love them to bits but they only talk back to me in my mind… But I also know there’s more than that.
So here I am again. Another revelation. Another beginning.
It hurts to come to this point so often and feel like I have made no progress since last time. Hopefully the different approach this time results in a different end. I want to live a long and happy life with food. Food is one of my favourite things in the world. I love cooking, I love eating, I love sharing meals with special people. I don’t want to feel guilty about what I eat, or don’t eat. I am not going to make any promises, commit to any challenges or give myself an 8-week something or whatever. This relationship is the one that gives me life, it’s the most important relationship there is and I need it to work. No stories. No rules. No fad diets or crazy exercise plans.
I am just merely acknowledging and accepting that I need to work on my marriage.