If you struggle with food anxiety, this article is all you need to make this year's celebration the starting point for your personal change.
It's the 23rd of december, year 1994. I’m 14 years old. Is that age when you start feeling ashamed and embarrassed all the time! And I recently realized that I actually am a chubby short girl, with thick thighs so I don't want to put on the short dressed my mom picked for me to wear on Christmas dinner.
The house is starting to smell like roasted turkey marinated in citrics, plus, the hypnotizing scent of sugar, cinnamon and anis from pastries. My heart loves all those aromas, but my mind is escalating in anxiety. I can’t wait to taste all that! But I know when I get started, I won’t be able to stop eating. And I knew how Christmas night was going to end. Later that night, while everyone is asleep, I knew I was going to sneak in the fridge, spoon in hand to have more of that raspberry meringue cake. After eating that amount of sugar they joy was instant, and so was the shame.
Only a few years ago, after tons of therapy, reading and studying to find healing, I realized that I’ve been suffering of binge eating since I was 6 years old. I used to eat 1 or 2 cans weekly of condensed milk by myself, hiding it under my bed along with other treats that I could have stolen from our pantry or from a kid’s birthday party I attended. In one of my meditations, I could get back in time and see myself gulping one of those cans but I realized I was not savoring the food that I was eating. I was completely addicted to sugar because I needed to feel happiness. I needed to ease my stress and anxiety. But, why did I do that? As a child, I was emotionally abandoned and physically abused, so I found my way out of pain and sadness by overindulging with sugar.
There are a lot of us out there, struggling with anxiety and eating our emotions instead of dealing with them. We don’t want to hear it, but yes, we NEED to deal, meaning, be responsibly in charge of our mental and emotional health. And I am not going to romanticize it by saying “you can do this, it's a beautiful journey” because the so renowned “inner child healing” is a process that may take you a few months or years, depending on the kind of experience you are trying to overcome. For me, it’s been years. There’ve been moments that I’ve felt I am going insane to even feeling a burning sensation on my chest like if my heart was trying to break free. I’ve been floating in a dark shit pit, then I’ve felt brand new and ready to embrace my suffering with compassion. It does take courage to open that pandora’s box of your childhood, because, honestly, you have no idea what kind of things are going to pop out of it. And this is why so many of us don’t want to do it.
On the other hand, opening that box and meet those memories and feelings allowed me to understand why I overindulged, especially with sugar. What I needed was to feel safe, loved, protected, important, heard and respected. And I was certainly not going to get all that by eating the entire raspberry meringue cake.
Happily, this story has a happy ending, since I don’t suffer of binge eating anymore. And I can personally tell you that my inner child healing journey worth all the while! It was the best decision I've ever made.
A lot will change in you, for example, oddly, I do not enjoy desserts that are too sweet anymore and I prefer the natural sweetness of fruits mixed with coconut cream. Best if topped with nuts and seeds to add a crunchy taste. Gosh! that is soooo delicious! Stay tuned because I’ll post the recipe of my “Blueberry Trifle” next!
In order to enjoy the upcoming celebrations, there are some baby steps you can take in order to prepare yourself to start learning to enjoy your foods. It doesn’t require you to break hidden emotions free and huddle in the corner of your bedroom chewing your hair (lol!) so don’t be scared!
I’ m going to share with you an exercise I use with my coaching clients when they start their mindful eating journey.
As from today, you have exactly 7 days before Christmas dinner, so start now. That way you’ll be more capable to truly enjoy the flavors of your food instead of listening to the negative mind chatter.
You can do this exercise with one of your meals or with a single food like a mandarin or an apple.
Find a quiet place where you can sit down to eat
Bring your plate closer to your face and inhale deeply, as many times as you need to smell all the aromas that are on your plate.
Before eating, look at your plate and mentally name each thing you have on it (eg, tomato, avocado, eggs, potatoes, etc.), name them and note their shapes and colors.
If you are very hungry, take a couple of deep breaths and repeat to yourself "I'm fine, I'm going to eat this, it's very tasty and I need calm to enjoy it"
Start eating by taking bites proportional to your mouth (i.e. don't fill your mouth too much so you can chew your food properly)
Chew slowly, move the food inside your mouth with your tongue, from side to side, feel the texture of what you’re eating, concentrate on the flavor that is released in each bite, talk to yourself mentally and tell yourself how delicious it is and note if the taste is sweet, salty, bitter, etc.
Finally, when your food has the texture of pasta, swallow.
Go back to take another bite, and when your mind wanders, bring your attention back by asking yourself "what flavor is in this?"
Do this once a day for 7 days. Take notes of your experience. Don't engage in this activity as a duty or a task. Try to understand that this is a moment of calm and connection with yourself, it is a gift that you deserve. Embrace and enjoy that moment so you can re-discover flavors you may haven't noticed before.
I wish you have a wonderful Christmas and an abundant and prosperous New Year.