In my late teens and twenties, I could devour entire containers of ice-cream, large bags of chips and family size blocks of chocolate. Although I immensely enjoyed these foods, each time I ate them it was in a way that resembled never having them again; I had to eat as much as I possibly could fit in.
Although I hadn’t embraced any specific diet in these years, I was conscious of what I ate. I restricted what I ate during the week, sticking to small portions throughout the day and would occasionally skip meals. I didn’t want to follow a specific diet plan and believed that these behaviours were the best way to keep my weight under control.
However, when the reins came off—which was most weekends—I would eat excessive quantities of what I perceived to be ‘treat foods’.
This behaviour continued throughout most of my twenties. In my late twenties, I took a ten month trip with my husband at the time and without the routine of work and exercise classes it was hard to maintain a sense of control over my eating.
Choosing to put an end to restriction
During this ten month trip our relationship started to deteriorate and eating became a comfort. After returning to Australia, separated and heavier than ever before, I thought to myself, ‘I have to try something other than restricting and depriving myself during the week to then overeat on the weekends.’ I knew based on past experience that dieting wouldn’t work for me, because enjoying foods I loved and having treats were important to me.
'I have to try something other than restricting and depriving myself during the week to then overeat on the weekends.’
Instead of trying to restrict specific foods, I focused on enjoying everything I ate. I began cooking delicious meals and ate as much as I felt satisfied with, knowing that I wouldn’t miss out if I didn’t finish it all, as I could enjoy the left overs tomorrow. When I ate something that was delicious and started to feel full, rather than my old habitual thinking, ‘oh I’ll just have a little more it’s so delicious’. I thought, ‘awesome I get to enjoy more of this deliciousness tomorrow.’
I relished food and savoured every mouthful.
Choosing quality over quantity
I chose to purchase or make the most delicious and gourmet version of the foods I enjoyed. So that rather than my purchasing being about what was the best value for money, I shifted my intention to what I would enjoy the most.
A tub of ice-cream may be better value for money than the chocolate coated ice-cream on a stick. But when the urge for ice-cream arose if I ate one by the beach or in the park, I'd in fact be spending less. Whereas, if I had purchased a tub of ice-cream I would more often than not compulsively keep sticking my spoon into all week; and potentially eat more than I really wanted or when I wasn’t hungry. I would eat it simply because it was there.
To my surprise, I didn’t need a two litre tub of ice-cream to satisfy my icy cold creamy sweet urge.
Choosing joy over being rebellious
I realised that some of the foods I ate in excess was primarily due to the belief that these foods were ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’, rather than my really enjoying them. I started to become aware of the foods I really did enjoy versus the foods I ate because they were a 'treat'. I chose to eat foods that I genuinely enjoyed. I fostered my love of cheese and crackers, wine, chocolate and ice-cream.
I spent time tasting and experiencing the sensory experience of these foods, and chose recipes and brands that provided the most divine experience. I focused on truly enjoying and savouring the foods I ate. Without realising it at the time I was embracing joyful eating.
Through focusing on truly enjoying what I ate, and choosing quality ingredients I found that my senses were satisfied with smaller quantities than I used to eat. Through this more conscious way of eating instead of trying to control my portions, my attention was on being fully aware of the experience of eating.
By choosing to end restriction, I could enjoy tiramisu, without eating like this would be my last slice ever!
For the first time in my life I could sit and eat a slice of tiramisu, even with the rest of the cake in my fridge. I could enjoy the slice of tiramisu in front of me, without the little voice driving me to eat more. I could tune in and decide whether I ate more or stopped eating, based on internal cues, rather than external rules.
I found that as I dropped my diet and food rules the cravings for what I had previously perceived as ‘unhealthy’ diminished, and embraced a more balanced way of eating. I had begun a journey of learning and reflecting on how I relate to food and my body, which has led me to sharing my reflections with you now. Enjoy.