5 questions to identify whether your eating habits are the problem .
Having spent much of my teenage years battling with anorexia I know only too well how obsessive and controlling eating habits can impact close relationships. It can be so tricky when, culturally, food is so important, it is often the focus of celebrations and a means for expressing affection. I will never forget the day my school friends made me a birthday cake. They worked so hard on it yet, at the thought of eating it, I cried. I was so angry at myself for seeming ungrateful and hurting their feelings I punished myself further causing a downhill spiral effect in my restrictive habits.
This, is a rather extreme example but I see concerning obsessive eating habits all over our magazine's and in our social media. I remember watching an interview with David Beckham. He explained that Victoria only ate steamed fish, rice and vegetables and how he longed to cook her a delicious meal. This is the same Victoria who, one Christmas I recall it was published, only took a few mouthfuls of each course. I remember thinking, "poor woman, she cannot even let go at Christmas". I wonder what her kids make of that kind of behaviour?" Because it is one thing to have to explain our compulsive behaviour to adults, but it is harder and potentially more damaging to express them around our children!
It is no secret that children, whose parents display Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies are more likely to develop their own. Furthermore, habits formed in childhood are much harder to break once they transition into adulthood. Often we fall into these compulsions without even knowing. I imagine for many of us Covid exacerbated our OCD tendencies around food because we were not socialising or eating out. Many of us gage our behaviour by comparing ourselves to social norms, but when it comes to our eating habits that can be particularly tricky. We are surrounded by disordered eating habits. This country has one of the largest global obesity rates in both adults and children yet the market for crazy diet plans is exploding, not to mention our obsession with body modification.
As I have discussed in a previous blog, "Eat Happy" posted on 26th February 2022; The answer to a healthy diet, both mentally and physically, is to eat in a way most aligned to the diet of our hunter gatherer ancestors. The closest thing to that in this modern day, is the Mediterranean diet.
If you are not sure whether your thoughts and behaviours around food are unhealthy ask yourself the following questions.
Are there foods you are scared of?
Do you tell people that you don't eat certain foods only because those foods make you feel guilty afterwards?
Are you freaked out if something arrives on your plate that you weren't expecting?
Do you insist on seeing how your food prepared?
Do you meticulously plan your meals, preferring to stick to the same foods?
If your answer to all or most of these questions is "yes" maybe it is time to implement change. Often eating disorders and OCD are treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). In essence CBT reframes negative association by exposing the sufferer to their fears in small, ever increasing ways. So, for example, re introducing a food that was previously on your "banned list" or tasting something you have never tried before.
There are lots of books out there on CBT that will guide you through the process but if the problem feels too big to cope with on your own, there are CBT practitioners out there with an average course running for between 6 to 12 weeks. Remember, when hiring a professional, to do your research, there will be the right person for you but it may take a little while to find them. Also the charity MIND has some great advice and support on dealing with eating disorders and OCD.
I know from my own experience that obsessive compulsive eating habits can be reformed. Thanks to my own CBT journey there is nothing I like more nowadays than to order something from a menu that I have never tried before! This is especially fun on holidays, when the menu is in some foreign language that I cannot read! Food is absolutely a source of great joy in my life and part of the treasured memories I have of precious time spent with the people I love.