Last week when I went to visit my mother I noticed her picking up a spotty and wilted banana in early stages of decay from a bowl of fresh, brightly coloured fruit. She proceeded to peel this rather miserable looking fruit and eat it all. I was about to remind her that the Great Irish Famine ended almost two centuries ago but for my mother who grew up in a world where food was sometimes scarce and not so easily available, letting go of food is still a no-no. From my own experiences and those of my Heyday clients, I’ve identified four ways in which our everyday eating is more about urgency and a fear of deprivation than the physical need for food:
Eating to Please: One of my memories of dinnertime as a child is sitting around the table with my six siblings and being warned to “eat up everything before it goes cold”, or “there are children starving in Africa so eat it all up.”
Childhood eating habits can be so deeply engrained, and show that we are not just eating for our physical needs. Yes, there are children starving in Africa, but you packing on the pounds will not help them.
Throwing it all away: Would you sooner eat food than bin it? Letting go of food can be difficult. However, food dumped into your body when you are not hungry is still wasted - it's just going through you first. When you stop treating your body as if it is a waste bin, you will have more respect for yourself, which will help you trust yourself with food and eating.
Eating of out fear: Is a part of you afraid that if you do not eat all of your tasty dinner, you will not have the chance to eat it again and may later regret not having eaten it all? Anxieties such as “I’d better have a slice just in case it’s all eaten”, or “If I don’t eat that slice of cake, someone else will and I’ll miss out” are sure to drive your eating.
I still feel uneasy when I’m sitting watching TV, and the person beside is munching biscuits or chocolate and I can hear the rustling of the wrapper. My mind is thinking, “give me them. I want them!” Yet I know I don’t need them. I remind and reassure myself, “I can have some when I’m hungry” or “there will always be enough chocolate”.
Eating because you’re not allowed: Do you relax on a Friday evening with a takeaway and a few glasses (or bottles!) of wine, and promise yourself, as you over-indulge during the weekend, that you’ll start ‘being good’ again on Monday morning? You might pack in a couple of desserts on Sunday in preparation for the diet. It’s as if this is your last chance to eat what you want, or that you’ve threatened yourself with deprivation.
Many of us live in a world where food is plentiful, easily accessible and highly convenient, but nonetheless we live in a state of dissatisfaction and emptiness. Feasting on food but wanting more and living with a famine mentality. What’s your eating urgency about?