Earlier in 2014 I was grateful to connect with Sunita Pattani when she interviewed me for her radio show. Sunita is a Psychotherapist and Author based London, who specialises in exploring the link between mind, body, spirit and emotional healing. Sunita is a regular blogger for Huffington Post and her first book, My Secret Affair with Chocolate Cake – The Emotional Eater’s Guide to Breaking Free was published in 2012. Sunita’s second book The Transcendent Mind – The Missing Peace in Emotional Wellbeing is set to be published in March 2015.
I was honoured when Sunita offered to write a guest post for Natural Juice Junkie, in which she explores our relationship with food and her own journey from binge eating to a balanced juicy lifestyle.
Our Relationship with Food – Psychological or Biological?
I have had a tumultuous relationship with food over the years. In fact, during one dark phase of my life I struggled terribly with binge eating disorder – not something that many people understood. No matter how much discipline I tried to exert upon myself, I just could not stop. It was as if there was a food demon that would awaken within me each afternoon, ready to devour anything that would temporarily satisfy its enormous addiction. It was bad. So bad that it was robbing me of almost everything worthwhile in life: relationships, finances and health.
Now I understand that not everyone struggles with food in the same way that I did. But we all do have one thing in common: we all do have a relationship with food. Obsessed with healing my own obsession with food, I started to read about everything I could about the psychology behind eating. In fact, I became so passionate about the topic that I even changed careers – I went from being a primary school teacher to a psychotherapist. I went on courses, visited experts and tried many different healing modalities to conquer my disordered relationship with food – and I did make some progress.
‘Forbidden foods’ increases desire
I learned that there were many psychological factors that contributed to our relationship with food. For some people, having ‘forbidden foods’ increased the desire for these particular foods, hence the more they told themselves that they couldn’t eat it, the more they wanted it! I discovered that people would eat for so many different reasons – boredom, stress, anger, joy, habit, and in many cases to address a deeper emotional pain. Food had for many, become a plaster to temporarily fix a deeper-rooted issue.
The media too had its part to play. Many young people were becoming influenced by the mainstream concept of body image, with ‘thin’ being a popular ideal. In fact I met many people who told me that what started off as innocent desire to be slimmer developed into something more sinister as the years passed. The journey had started off by attending diet clubs, which resulted in a never-ending merry-go-round: on a diet…off a diet…on a diet…off a diet, and each time more weight would be gained. Now please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that diet clubs are wrong, or responsible for our negative relationships with food, and I am aware that many people have had successes with these diet clubs. However, there are some of us that are very black-and-white in our thinking, and if we’re not aware how to manage this aspect, then it can have a negative effect on us.
“I turned to nutrition to help heal myself”
So, I tried and I tried. I understood the psychology of eating. I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted. I realised and tried my best to work with my psychological triggers. Perhaps what was most frustrating was watching other people heal their relationships with food using the psychological techniques that I had learned about. For some people, as soon as they allowed themselves ‘forbidden foods’, or as soon as they understood their particular psychological driver, they were able to heal it and move on, but for some reason I was still struggling.
It wasn’t until I started to suffer terribly with allergies that I turned to nutrition to help heal myself. For the first time in my life it wasn’t about the weight. I learned about juicing through Joe Cross and Jason Vale, and when I did my first 7 days of juice only I realised the powerful impact that nutrition was having on my mental health. I no longer craved unhealthy foods and I found my taste buds changing. As I started to reintroduce food back into my diet, I noticed with such clarity what impact different foods were having on me. I realised that foods that I had previously considered to be healthy (and which are considered to be healthy still), were not suiting me too well. They caused me bloating, or set off my food demon.
‘They just have no willpower’
Yes, I had to be careful with the psychological side of things whilst exploring this world of juicing. I had to ensure that I wasn’t becoming obsessive about juicing and weight loss, and I was careful to remind myself that eating was a normal part of life. I had to be extra mindful that the eating disorder tendencies did not return. In short, I had to learn how to create a balance – how to look after my health and still live life at the same time.
A few years back, I remember speaking to a lady who was the leader of a local well-known slimming club. She expressed that it was sad to see how some people just couldn’t stick to the diet no matter how hard they tried. ‘Some people just don’t have it in them,’ she said. ‘They just have no willpower’. Where I stand today I have to say that I do not agree. Our relationship with food is unique to us all. We do not struggle with food because we are broken, we struggle with food because we haven’t yet personally understood our own equilibrium. Our relationship with food is dependent on both biological and psychological factors, and we need to discover for ourselves how each of these factors affect us.
We need to become aware of the psychology behind eating, and then explore how this personally affects us. We also need to become aware of the role that nutrition plays, and for me a juice reboot was the most effective way to do this [again, this option may not suit everyone, and if you are suffering with an eating disorder then please do speak to an appropriate professional first as this may not be the best option for you]. The reboot process reset my body and allowed me to explore how foods really felt in my body once I reintroduced them. In other words, I was re-educated in making more effective food choices. That’s when I learned the truth about my food demon – it would awaken partially due to psychologically reasons, but also because certain foods were triggering it. Yes, there were some foods for me that would set off addictive tendencies. The food itself was affecting my psychology.
Become an expert on you
Remember those people that I would watch in frustration who healed their food solely through addressing psychological issues? Well it became apparent that they obviously had a different biological make-up to me. Their bodies simply did not respond in the same way that mine did to certain foods.
So, the lesson in this all? Know Thyself! Become an expert on you. Learn about what makes you tick…You are, after all, your own greatest tool!
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