This past week has been interesting. I found myself really noticing my bad eating habits that had once again snuck into my routine over the past year. I found myself wondering "Why did I revert to them?"
Part of the answer is “busyness”. Last year was super busy. I had my coaching business to grow, I was in the final few months of my nutrition coaching certification, I started interning for the company I was studying through, and I was running a home.
It was easier and took less brain energy to default back to my old patterns. But I will not use this as an excuse. It just was, and I reacted to it in that way – eat.
I am going to give you a little history about me and my relationship with food as I firmly believe that what we see, hear, and experience as children has a profound effect on our behaviours later in life. That does not mean you have to play the victim and blame your past on what you do today. Rather use it as a way to understand yourself and then move forward.
When I was little there was this expectation that you finished the food on your plate. You ate your main meal before you got dessert. Dessert was a reward for being good. That’s one habit that started young.
Another habit was equating baked goods with love. I grew up in a home where both my parents worked. My father was an angry man who punished me a lot, and I thought my mother was never there for me. But my grandmother was, and she baked. And as I remember, she baked almost daily. And we ate it, and it tasted really good.
So, for me, baked goods, dessert, those sweet things were like a love drug. I only realised this last year after spending years yo-yo dieting. It took some deep introspection into my own behaviour to unearth the thoughts and feelings behind my eating habits.
There is another side to my eating habits that emerged in my late teens. From not feeling like I was enough (a great person to check out here is Marissa Peer), and also perhaps a form of self-punishment, I ended up with an eating disorder.
Now there are two different “categories” here – eating disorder and disordered eating. The vast majority of us suffer from some form of disordered eating, but eating disorder covers those diagnosed “dis-eases” like anorexia and bulimia. I had a form of bulimia. I ate then I purged with laxatives (too chicken to vomit) and controlled when I ate to certain hours.
I was trying so hard to be accepted and control my out of control life (I’ll spare you the long details, but in a nutshell – controlling and disapproving father, demands for excellence, physical and emotional abuse, parent’s affairs, parent’s divorce. Other stuff happened along the way with choices I made as well – things I am still working at self-forgiveness over).
And so out of all of this came the ideas and beliefs around food and eating, and my role in it all, which I carried forward into adulthood. In fact, I can remember thinking I had a fat stomach in primary school. So the idea of not being “thin” enough was well ingrained by the time I was a teenager.
Fast forward to having children…. I became really overweight! And so the yo-yo dieting continued. Up and down I went. I tried SureSlim and following diets in magazines, I grasped at anything to help me lose weight and look good. And being younger, most of the time it worked - briefly.
I then had some life events that shook me. I emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand and 18 months later my husband died. I was left alone with two small daughters in a new country. I did what I had to do and got on with raising them and running a Karate School to earn money.
And slowly I grew larger again, and once again I reverted to what I knew – SureSlim, then WeightWatchers. Then I fell in love! Falling in love will make you slim down quickly. I met my second husband and food was off the table for a while, until…
I got “comfortable” in our relationship so I became overweight… again…
Finally in 2009 I thought I had nailed it. I went to work in a women’s weight loss clinic. I had to go on the program. I lost 16 kgs in 6 months. I started running again. I looked amazing. And guess what? I hadn’t changed my mindset about who I was. The old thinking was still there, and so I decided to try going Paleo. (Another diet…)
At the time I made that shift to Paleo I was training to run my first marathon and had been suffering from bloating and wind. I decided to try and cut wheat out, and then legumes. (FYI – I honestly do have an issue with legumes. I have figured this out over the years by “listening” to my body. Large amounts of wheat do not work well for me, but I can tolerate it in small doses. I have shifted to A2 milk, but also in small amounts. The bloating has resolved itself.)
In my mind Paleo was the latest “great healthy diet idea” and it worked for a while. I was training hard and I used all the food energy I ate. I started making Paleo treats justifying to myself that because it was Paleo it was okay. Finally after two marathons, the marathon mojo wore off, but I continued to eat the same way.
At the same time, I entered perimenopause and then menopause. The shit hit the fan and slowly but surely the weight crept back on. From April 2014 to Boxing Day 2018 I gained almost 10kgs.
The whole of last year my running suffered. I got slower and it felt much harder. I developed terrible hot flushes complete with sweating which was embarrassing and disrupted my sleep. My clothes shrunk (My excuse, but seriously I was left with very little that fit me by Christmas and buying more was not an option). I became uncomfortable – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Fast forward to the last few weeks. I realised my comfort zone is too uncomfortable to stay in anymore. I want to enjoy my fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond. I love running too much to stop doing it. And I have learned that the reason I reverted back to my fat-self habits was because that was what they were – habits. Nothing more, nothing less. Once they were useful. And now they are not.
And so begins the mindset shift for me…
Click below to listen to a podcast episode I was interviewed for, about building resilience and my journey to being a Health Coach