Thursday, 29 March 2012

How do you eat yours?

It's that time of year.  Less than nine months til Christmas and Easter is upon us.  And with it the great chocolate binge.  Or so it seems.  The supermarkets have been rearranged, Valentines were swiftly replaced with Mothering Sunday cards and it's all change once again as the aisles are currently crammed full of cocoa solids and, more often than not, cocoa substitutes shaped into eggs, bunnies and everything else besides.  The colour scheme is pinks and pastels, and the buy two for... appear to have very little to do with the Holy Week, or the conclusion of Lent on Resurrection Sunday than with unrelenting commercialism and massive sugar highs.

Not that I mind.  Per se.  Chocolate has its place in proceedings.  Particularly the good, dark variety.  I prefer mine a minimum of 70%.  Particular favourites include Willie's Delectable Cacao varieties, anything by Artisan du Chocolat and William Curley's truffles.  All in moderation.  Of course.

Moderation isn't something that everyone can relate to and this is where it gets tricky.  At any one time, approximately a quarter of my working week is spent with individuals for whom eating has become problematic.  Diagnostic labels are not always useful, but when it comes to disordered eating, it provides a useful framework for the work to have a thorough understanding as to the mechanics of what a client's relationship with food, and their body shape, and weight all look like. 

There are those for whom just the idea of eating a Cadbury's creme egg is a repulsive one.  They could tell me immediately how many calories and grams of fat each gooey mess wrapped in multi-coloured foil represented and how many laps of the park and sit ups mid-run it would take to justify such a disgusting indulgence which they might see as an indication of a pathetic surrender to appetite.  They are constantly hungry, but avoid nourishment at all costs.

Then there are those for whom chocolate has become a means to an end.  They gorge themselves on it.  They live and breathe the thought of chocolate and similar foodstuffs with a degree of obsession.  Their lives have become dictated by a vicious cycle of eating excessive quantities of food that they then seek to purge from their bodies and often do so with a high degree of ritual.  For them, the relationship with food is love-hate, but very often the relationship they have with themselves lacks any of the former component.  

And there are far more who have far less of a straightforward relationship with food.  Diets are commonplace, particularly as we begin to see a little more sunshine.  Legs, bums and tums are the enemy and solutions are sought.  The real issues however lie far deeper, and are apt to get neglected by LighterLife or WeightWatchers where yo-yo dieting feels good in the short term, but destroys any remnants of self efficacy, and serves only to keep the companies who sell the products in credit.  

Living here in the Western world, in an age where food is plentiful and always accessible, many of us are soothing ourselves with food on a daily basis.  Our culture provides us with more food than we know what to do with and we have found out how to use it to comfort ourselves.  Unfortunately that ‘comfort’ turns out not to be so comforting after all, if we use it too much.  We can put on too much weight, with all the problems that creates, both physical and in terms of self-esteem. 

How do you eat yours...?

Do you eat when you're not hungry?
Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason?
Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating?
Do you give too much time and thought to food?
Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone?
Do you plan these secret binges ahead of time?
Do you eat sensibly before others and make up for it alone?
Is your weight affecting the way you live your life?
Have you tried to diet for a week (or longer), only to fall short of your goal?
Do you resent others telling you to "use a little willpower" to stop overeating?
Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet "on your own" whenever you wish?
Do you crave to eat at a definite time, day or night, other than mealtime?
Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble?
Have you ever been treated for obesity or a food-related condition?
Does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?

If you answer yes to three or more of the questions above, then you may want to explore the program of Overeaters Anonymous. 



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