What to do when the crave returns

It’s not easy writing in a hammock. I’ve noticed that the crave has returned. I really felt that she was gone, that I was cured, food was not really calling to me. And then slowly, as more flour and sugar crept in, I was consumed again. And I am so tired of this story. It’s a story that whispers – make some time alone for yourself. Get some food in. Give it all you’ve got. Make it worth it. Keep going until you really can’t take any more.

And the crave’s best friend, her faithful companion, is the rejection of the body. This body, it can’t be this way, as it is. It is certainly unacceptable like this. Action must be taken, to STOP EATING, yet this is highly unlikely as the crave is screaming START EATING and it’s only because of the healing I’ve done so far that I’m able to be present, here, in the hammock, writing this, and not locked in a hole somewhere consuming my substance of oblivion.

And my travelling partner, he has NO FRICKIN CLUE what it feels like to be chained liked a dog to an abusive owner who tells you to sit and then beats you up when you sit and then tells you to stand and beats you up when you do that too. There’s no way to win the game. If your motivation for eating is to satisfy your craving, you’ve gone down the old neural pathway, reinforced your addictive feedback loop. And if your motivation to stop eating is driven by fear of fat, you’re in a cortisol-induced frenzy that makes your body believe you’re starving to death.

The only way to win is to stop playing.

I stop playing by rejecting any self attacking or hurtful thought. I reassert my right to exist, to be the size I am now, to eat adequately and regularly. I reassert my right to hunger, fullness, and the confusion that lies in between. I reassert my right to be an imperfect eater, a sensitive eater, an eater who needs support to feel well.

The support is not always available from anyone else except me. I am my own support, I tell myself that I am worthy, that I am loved, that I am more than crave, more than body rejection, more than the next intense mouthful of sensory pleasure.

And I watch the horizon, waiting for the ship of contentment to return. She will come again, and crave and contentment cannot coexist, crave must leave. Crave clings on, filling the pools of my consciousness with tempting thoughts of food restriction, exercise regimes, fasting and juice regimes. I fall for a second, but I know her game so well these days, that she doesn’t fool me for long. I take my gaze back to the horizon, offer my crave and body rejection up to the Goddess, wait for the storm to pass. It will. It will. It will.

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Balance: Step 7 of the IEWIN Process

You are enough.

Tread the middle path. Practice eating what feels reasonable. Not perfect eating, but good enough.

Practice congratulating yourself on small triumphs. You are not cured, not perfect, but you are moving towards a more comfortable eating experience for yourself.

You are doing OK. Well done you!

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Getting stuck and starting again: Step 6 of the IEWIN Process

Getting stuck means it’s time for a new plant pot. We’ve outgrown the old one, and are ready for new places to explore.

The practice of recovering from disordered eating is messy, cyclical, and often confusing.

New ways of being take time to settle and integrate.

When we have used food for a long time, and are used to eating in response to many different external cues, it’s hard to let go of our old ways. Old habits can take over seamlessly (because they are unconscious by definition!).

Every disordered eating episode is an opportunity to grow, learn, and deepen your self-inquiry.

There is no end to this Process. There is always more to explore, in this lifelong practice of learning to eat what you need.

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Being in your body: Step 5 of the IEWIN Process

Your body is your home.

Your body is the vehicle of your life.

Embodiment is the simple yet powerfully transformative practice of inhabiting your body with conscious awareness.

It’s going inside, and investigating the felt-sense of your body.

It’s a hand on the belly.

It’s a breath.

It’s the head resting on the ground.

It’s listening to internal cues, rather than reacting to external cues.

It’s using the wisdom of the body to direct and refine how you eat and move.

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Engaging with our behaviours KINDLY: Step 4 of the IEWIN Process

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.” Dalai Lama.

Loving kindness is the principle of meeting everything you experience with gentleness and compassion.

We meet our disordered eating behaviour with loving kindness.
We meet our judgemental and critical thoughts with loving kindness.
We meet our bodies with loving kindness.

Loving kindness helps us to transition, gently and easily, into new ways of being.

Without kindness, you have no practice at all.

This step underpins the IEWIN approach.

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‘Tis the season to be… peaceful in mind, heart and belly

‘Tis the season to be jolly, tra-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-laaaaaaaa…

It’s CHRISTMAS!

If, like me, you are a sensitive eater, ‘tis the season to be…

-surrounded by food, stimulating food, processed food, everywhere you look

-picking at food, all the time (it’s on the counter top…  in the fridge…  by the kettle…  at the checkout…  in your stocking…)

-drinking excessive amounts of alcohol (alcohol behaves just like sugar in the body)

-eating larger meals than normal

This is OK.  Up to a point.

This is not OK when the food you’re consuming hurts your body, bringing you headaches, bloating, irritability, and craving for more.

This is not OK when the frequency of eating, and the type of food consumed, lead to insulin resistance and fat storage, both pre-cursors of type II diabetes.

This is not OK when you no longer feel in control of what you eat, how much you eat, and how often you eat.

This is not OK when your consumption of Christmas food and drink damages your sense of peace and wellbeing.

Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of peace and joy, a time to celebrate, a time of deep connection and togetherness.  How can we do that, when we feel unsettled by the ubiquitous availability and vast quantities of stimulating food, alongside the abundant opportunities to eat, eat, eat?

We do this, first and foremost, by recognising that this environment that we currently inhabit is unsupportive to us, as sensitive eaters.  We are gentle and kind with ourselves, and we ask the question –

How could I make my food environment safer for me, this Christmas?

A safe environment means places where I can take time and space to make conscious choices about what I put in my body.  An example…

I LOVE mince pies.  They are my absolute favourite Christmas food.  They are everywhere…  I am thinking about them…  I want one…  I want more than one…  I’m thinking about them…  Mince pie, mince pie, yum yum, yum yum…

I ask myself – can I have a mince pie?  Of course I can.  I can have anything I want.  I do not restrict, I am free to choose to eat anything I want, in any quantity I want.

I buy some mince pies.  I spend time with them.  Smelling, feeling, sensing.  This is a shop-bought one, and it looks, smells and feels a bit dead.  The pastry is stodgy, and tastes a bit old.  I read the ingredients on the packet.  They are:

 

Sugar

Apple puree

Sultanas

Glucose syrup

Raisins

Apricot filling (glucose-fructose syrup, apricot puree, sugar, pectins, citric acid, potassium sorbate, sodium citrates)

Candied mixed peel (orange peel, glucose-fructose syrup, lemon peel, sugar, citric acid, sulphur dioxide)

Currants

Palm oil

Rapeseed oil

Maize starch

Mixed spice

Barley malt extract

Acetic acid, citric acid

Potassium sorbate

Sodium metabisulphate

Sulphur dioxide

Wheat flour

Calcium carbonate

Iron, niacin, thiamine

More glucose syrup (it’s written again!)

Butter

Whole milk powder

Diphosphates

Sodium carbonates

Potassium sorbate

 

 

I notice that the whole thing dissolves in my mouth almost instantly, like it was never there.

I notice that the second after eating one, I want another one.

I notice that these empty shells of dead sugar and fat will never satisfy any part of me, and my tongue, which is zinging from the super sweet mixture, is wanting more.

I remember the lovingly prepared mince pies my Nanny made, and these are just not it.

And I feel the space of my craving, unfulfilled, unfinished, unsatisfied.  And I let it be as it is, I am safe here, I have a choice, I am not at the mercy of my impulsive primitive brain anymore.  I accept no shame for eating, or not eating, this stimulating food.  I say to my Nanny, wherever she abides these days, “These are really crap compared to yours!”

 

And so I invite you, sensitive eater, to bring conscious awareness to your Christmas eating.  There will be a ton of processed food.  You may choose to eat some.  But if you do, make it a safe, exploratory experience, one that gives you the option to discard the food if it’s not bringing you peace or joy this Christmas.

 

You might want to ask yourself, if you choose to discard the Christmas crack, what food and drink would bring me peace and joy instead?  What kind of food environment would support me, as a sensitive eater?  What conversations would need to be had, with friends, families and colleagues, for me to be able to create such an environment?  Good luck, real food warriors, conscious eaters, I salute you!  Let me know how you are coping with Christmas this year.

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My pain is my guide

We are human, and as beautiful humans, we are pleasure-seeking and pain-avoiding.  It’s natural.

But what if, to avoid pain, I seek some pleasure, which then creates more pain?  We use a substance that we know to be pleasurable.  And we get the immediate hit – the dopamine rush of expectation – This is going to be so yummy!  Our tongues are tantalised by the deliberately engineered combination of fat, sugar and salt, a shit-storm of chemicals which leave us wanting more and more.  The taste, texture, smell overwhelms our senses, we are transported to another reality.  All is well and good, we are consumed in our eating experience.  And then comes the pain…

-the dry throat

-the distended belly

-the bloat

-the painful trapped gas

-the tension around the abdomen

-the hot sweats

…name your symptom!

 

This week, I was powerfully reminded that pain is a wonderful and expert teacher.  A guide, sent to show us the way back to comfortable eating.

On Monday, I overate.  I was amazed at the sensations I created in my belly – tightness, tension, a deep hurting that called me down, down, into the belly.  I was grateful for these feelings.  I was grateful because I knew that staying with them would keep me safe from eating more than I needed.

In the past, I may have ignored or disassociated from these feelings.  Distracted myself, keeping busy, ignoring the call of my belly.  But not today.  Today, my belly and I have been through hours and hours of “I eat what I need” groups and workshops, mindful yoga, guided mediations, mindfulness courses, podcasts, TED talks, reading, journalling, doodling, blog writing, video making, dancing, breathing…  My belly and I, we are buddies now, and I don’t abandon her when she calls me.

My belly was asking for me to lie down, breathe, and create space.  My belly was asking for hydration, oxygen, and no food whatsoever.  My belly was hurting, and I was listening.

Deep listening means picking up on subtler sensations.  So I kept listening, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday and today, Friday.  And I found that my belly was still hurting.  Not in a screaming, agony, painful way.  But during the evening, on each day, my belly told me unequivocally – I’m tight, I’m tense, and I’m best left alone.  Which meant no dinner for me, on any of these days.

And I was so glad of this pain in my belly, which had shown me indisputably where my attention needed to go, and what behaviour needed to follow.  It had guided me, easily and clearly, to eating what I needed, without having to use willpower, restraint, or cajoling.  What I also found was, after a while, that it was no longer pain at all.  It was sensation, and pain and sensation are very different.

Pain is something we want to get rid of.  Something to flee, to escape, to numb.  Sensation is something we can become interested in.  Something to explore, be curious about, investigate.

Sensation is your no-bullshit, say-it-how-it-is, direct and honest friend.  There is no arguing with sensation, no tactful conversation to be had.  This is hurting me.  I’m telling you that.  So listen, yeah?

Sensation isn’t interested in your excuses.  I can’t deal with this right now because…  I just have to keep numbing this feeling because…  I can’t change because…  The cycle of self-abuse continues, the suffering escalates, and the coping mechanism we once used to manage our lives becomes completely unmanageable.  We can forgive ourselves if we find ourselves in this cycle.  It’s OK.  You’re not alone.  Go to an IEWIN group, you’ll find a beautiful tribe of conscious eaters, ready to embrace your story, and all the times you’ve fallen down the same hole.

Befriend the uncomfortable sensations in your body.  Ask them to show you what behaviour would ease the intensity of the discomfort.  More food, on top of a bloated, distended stomach?  Really?  Or are the sensations calling for warmth, comfort, rest, lying down?

I welcome you, uncomfortable sensation.  I am grateful that you came here, into my body, to show me how to live more comfortably.  Show me the way.  I am listening.

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