Do you sometimes feel your life revolves around food? When J* first contacted me about health coaching, food was a huge issue in her life, especially food guilt. She recently completed her 6 month coaching programme with me and in her evaluation took the time to write her story. This is the first time I have shared a health coaching story here on Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish, I’m sure when you read J’s thoughts you will understand why I think this is an interesting read for a lot of us…
Before I met Laura food was a huge issue in my life, I would go as far to say it was almost an obsession. I had to follow a drastically restricted diet in order to get down to a below natural weight (for me) for my sport and the thought of burning more and more calories was what got me through my training. Such an exclusionary diet led to binging episodes, sometimes due to sugar cravings but mainly as a result of emotional eating. Food has been the constant for me throughout tricky periods of my life and I had developed a habit of turning to it when things went wrong (in excessive amounts). Naturally, incessant guilt would follow and I would despise myself for several days afterwards. To me it seemed like an impossible cycle to break, and something far too embarrassing to discuss with other people; to me, it wasn’t a ‘normal’ problem.
I then stumbled across Laura’s blog one evening, leading me to the Uniquely Healthy page. Instantly, Laura seemed friendly and approachable, offering me the chance to rid myself of this endless pattern of food and guilt. From the first session I felt able to talk to Laura about my eating habits without judgement, she knows everything there is to know about eating habits, from both ends of the spectrum. We were able to work together throughout our sessions to find what it was that triggered my binges, whilst establishing a healthy eating pattern for me to fall back on. I say ‘sessions’ but really they felt like a great chat with a friend, who just happened to know the answer to all my queries and offer some incredible advice.
Laura helped by enabling me to open up and talk about my eating habits, something which I previously never had the confidence to do as I felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself. From here we were then able to discuss why I binged and what triggered it, with the help of meal maps recording not only what I ate but how I felt before and after. We moved from this to going through a range of different recipes that still allowed me to eat the food I love but in a healthier manner. Rather than thinking of ‘bad’ foods that triggered binging or were the result of emotional eating episodes, I instead was shown a whole new range of foods to try.
Since completing the 6 month programme I have been able to fully appreciate food again. I haven’t had a binging episode in several months and no longer feel the urge to do so, my sugar cravings have fallen, I now intuitively eat healthier, more nourishing, wholesome foods, my stress levels have fallen, I no longer feel guilty about what I eat or how often I exercise and generally I am just much happier and feel more confident in myself. I still look forward to meals, but with an excitement for food that I know is going to nourish my body (I actually crave this now) and I now eat full fat foods without fearing them like before. I am able to exercise for pure enjoyment, without obsessing over calories nearly as much as before. To be perfectly honest, it feels like my life is back on track. I hadn’t realised what a great role my eating habits had started to play in my life, but now I’ve found my stress levels have dropped dramatically, I understand what my body needs, and generally feel so much happier in myself (I even eat green smoothies for breakfast now – who knew they tasted so good?)
The most significant changes I’ve felt has been the fall in my stress levels – I didn’t realise what an effect food was having on my life, be it from overeating and feeling guilty after a binging episode, craving certain foods to thinking constantly about my next meal as the result of under eating to ‘punish’ myself. We spend such a great proportion of our lives either eating or preparing food so for this to be an issue in our lives it is natural to cause us stress, something I had never previously realised. I now eat with confidence as I know what food I enjoy and if it will make me feel good. I still eat cake but I no longer crave chocolate, I still indulge but in a healthier way as I know I have a healthy, easy meal pattern to fall back into.
Finally, I’ve got my confidence back and feel sure of myself again!
That right there, is why I do what I do and why I write this blog.
When I met J, I could see a lot of my former self in some of the issues she was dealing with. Food should not be the constant source of guilt it is for many of us. Life is too god damn short! What J has described here is that when you have a realistic expectation of the size your body should be, and a balanced approach with food that does include some treats where guilt does not follow, you can break out of that self destructive cycle. I’m so proud of J and what she has achieved. It’s not about being perfect though, life is life and I’m sure there will be ups and downs, but my aim when I coach someone is to equip them with the ‘tools’ to deal with things if they ever arise again.
How much do you think about food? I think about it a lot, I love it! But it doesn’t run my life, and those thoughts are positive and about nourishment, creativity and enjoyment. Are your food thoughts positive or negative?
*obviously I’m not printing J’s full name for confidentiality reasons :-)
Thanks for posting this- Its great to see what a difference you’ve made in someones life- congrats Laura!
I used to have negative thoughts towards food then positive ones, then loving ones- all the emotions! Its the process of not labelling it and realising its there to nourish and fulfil us and our daily antics.
Thanks Arman :-) I think not labelling it is a great approach, it’s definitely good to think of it as nourishing and fulfilling!
Such a lovely read Laura, and great to see that you could help J break out of what sounds like a really exhausting cycle. Her story has some familiarities in that I previously used to binge eat relatively frequently too but I finally acknowledged that it was a result of this horrible binge/restrict cycle which ultimately I needed to address emotionally for it to change. Same went for over-exercising too. Similar to J, I’ve realised that going below the natural weight (for me) but still being in the normal BMI range is just not worth the sweat, tears, and haggard look! Life is too short indeed ;)
Thanks Lucy! I’m glad to hear that you have overcome a similar situation, as you say it’s realising when you are pushing your body below it’s natural weight – I know I have done that and haha, definitely had that haggard look! ;-)
Thanks so much for sharing this, Laura! I know exactly what you mean about success stories like that being the motivating factor for pursuing a career in the health and wellness field, or even simply writing a blog. Having struggled with an ED, I can definitely relate to obsessing over food — when I was at my worst, food was CONSTANTLY on my mind because my body was starving, and the obsessions were a way for my brain to try and get me to eat. I’m so happy that’s something that’s no longer a part of my life.
Thanks Amanda! It’s scary when you think about the place you and I have been with food, when those thoughts become all consuming it’s no fun!
Thanks for sharing Laura. I knew you’d be a great health coach, not just because you’ve been through almost everything there is to go through food/weight wise (!), but because you’re friendly, open, honest and non-judgmental. Reading this endorsement that certainly seems to be the case!
So thrilled for J :)
Thanks Emma :-)
Reading this just shows what a great job you are doing, Laura. I can really identify with J’s story, although I’ve never had the pressure of a sport I also restrict and then binge, and I think far too much about food!
Thanks Lexi :-) I know I did the binge restrict thing, and it took a while to break out of it. It’s a scary thing to move beyond it but so worth it!