Eating Habits vs The Perfect Diet
The relationship we have with food and how we nourish ourselves is one of the most intimate ones we will have through our entire life. Give it attention and we will be able to reap the benefits.
– Nicky Clinch
So as I get ready to teach another round of my 6 week course “Transform Your Diet, Transform Your Life” this week I have been reflecting a lot on the invaluable importance of our eating habits and How We Eat vs What We Eat.
It seems like the Western World is exploding with health right now and everyone has something different and important to say on what they have discovered to be the new amazingly healthy thing to eat. I even include myself in this! Without a doubt, eating certain foods will definitely make us feel better and for sure will promote good health and well being. But then what? What happens next after we find the ‘perfect’ diet and way of eating? Does eating this way change any of the behaviours we have around how we do or do not nourish ourselves? Will drinking copious amounts of green juice and eating endless bowls of vegetables change the behaviours and habits we have around food?
Unfortunately, in my experience, I have discovered that the answer is no.
For sure, the first step, which can be a hugely transformational and amazing step, is changing what we eat. But it’s important to know that this is not the end of the journey. This is just the first step!
I haven’t talked about it much in detail yet, mostly because I felt the need to reveal it slowly and within a time frame that felt good to me, but 20 years ago I was living a very different life to the one I live today and I was a VERY different person. One that I am pretty sure you wouldn’t like very much.
20 years ago I was a fall down drunk, regularly high on Class A drugs and getting thrown out of bars for being pretty unpleasant. I was a drug addict riddled with eating disorders and health issues. The only way I knew how to cope was to escape myself in some form or other. I was horribly bulimic, had dabbled with anorexia for years and binged on huge amounts of food, drugs, alcohol, sex and bad relationships any time I didn’t know how to cope with a situation, feel a feeling or be myself. So, pretty often then!
I think it is safe to say that the relationship I had with myself and how to care and nourish myself was really not in good shape. And the habits and attitudes I had around it all needed a lot of work! In fact, the only way I knew how to be myself was to neglect myself and abandon myself in regularly self-destructive ways.
My husband has never known this person and whenever I tell my students this story they literally cannot believe their ears. I am unbelievably grateful that who I am today is dramatically different. Thank goodness!
15 years ago when I first began to transform my life around, the very first step was just to let go of the main things that weren’t serving me. So drugs, bulimia and anorexia were mine. Keep it simple. That was all I could cope with at that time. The first step. Then once I had that down and grounded, a few years later I realised I wanted to learn how to eat better and take care of myself better. I gave up sugar, dairy, meat, became vegan, was doing a lot of yoga and learnt how to cook and eat from a natural plant based diet. Being an addict I tended to want to do everything all at once!
For several years I thought I had it sorted. I was eating so ‘perfectly’ and my body was getting strong, I felt healthy and I was in ‘good’ shape. What wasn’t apparent to the outside world and behind closed doors and when no one was looking, whenever I felt scared or struggled with a feeling or life situation I was buying bag loads of ‘healthy’ food and binging on it all alone in my house in secret. I would eat so much that my stomach would hurt and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Most of the time I was even hiding it from myself.
So yes, anyone could have said I was eating a fantastically healthy diet and my goodness I had come a long way from where I had been 5 years before, but my habits and behaviours had not really changed and my relationship with how I nourished myself still had a lot to live up to.
This stuff takes time. It simply cannot happen over night.
It makes me nervous with each healthy eating book and each new answer to health being released that the message is being put out there that that is enough! Do this or eat this and that’s it! You’ve got it! You’re there! But in my experience this is just the first step to take. An important one but just the first one.
It has been a long time since I last binged. In fact I cannot even remember when it stopped. But I am certainly not perfect today! I can still easily take care of my husband and daughter first and forget to feed myself. And I still love my caffein even though I know it isn’t ‘good’ for me. I have weeks when I just can’t be bothered to cook and I just want to eat take-aways the whole time. But this is just normal life right? And part of the process. When these times occur I know I will eventually ask myself ‘what’s going on’ and ‘how can I take care of you better’? And I will actively bring myself back to a place of being more nourishing and caring for myself. This is a process and not something that is black and white.
These patterns and habits we have around how we do or don’t nourish ourselves tell us everything. Everything! There is so much information to be learnt and once we start inquiring it is really quite amazing what we may discover.
So, if you are like me, and are realising or have already realised that just eating ‘right’ and ‘perfectly’ isn’t enough for you and if you have eating habits, attitudes and patterns that either are or have ruled your life that you can’t quite get your head around, then I am writing this post for you. You are not alone. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE has habits, patterns and behaviours around food and nourishment that we can learn more from. And a lot of us have or do struggle with them, we just might not all be ready to share it.
The way we eat is so intimate. It reveals so much about who we are and how we are. It is scary to share it. But we are all the same really. We are all in this together. And we are not alone!
My experience so far has discovered that taking the time to work on this relationship we have with food, our bodies, how we nourish ourselves and the patterns and habits we use to cope with life, is SO SO WORTH IT! Nothing has made me feel better about who I am, from the inside out then this. Eating great, looking great and physically feeling great, have and do make me feel great! On the outside! But to feel great on the inside is an inside job!
Here are some tools, practices and exercises that I have used and also that I pass on to others that really have helped with learning more about our relationships to food. I hope you find it useful:
1. Start the Inquiry – Write a Food Diary
This is the very first exercise I give to all my students when they start working with me and the very first exercise that was given to me many many years ago. Write a food diary for at least 2 weeks and a maximum of 6 weeks. This is NOT about eating perfectly or changing the way you eat. This is about coming out of the darkness and starting to see clearly, on paper, your patterns, habits, thoughts, attitudes and ideas around how you eat and how you do or don’t nourish yourself. And trust me, this exercise is easier to say then do. It is hard to confront yourself. So be gentle!
How to do it: Literally write everything that you eat and drink down and the times you do it in one column. In another column write down any feelings, emotions, physical symptoms, thoughts or ideas that you notice at the time. It may be that these are written a little after eating, or before or during. Just pay attention to yourself. And write down anything significant that you notice.
It may be that you notice your head constantly telling you that you are not allowed that or you shouldn’t eat what you crave. It may be that you notice that you always overeat or skip a meal after you have had an argument with someone. Or that you eat 20 energy balls in one sitting. Or that you get stomach ache or head aches the day after you eat cheese.
Whatever it is just pay attention and write it down.
After 2 weeks share what you’ve learnt with a friend, teacher or counsellor. It is so powerful and amazing to bring our habits out of secret and into life – so that we can begin to start changing them.
2. Get Support and Share your Truth
The way we eat is so private. We can barely even let ourselves see it most of the time. So in my experience there is something very powerful and healing to share what we struggle with, what we see and what we learn about ourselves with trusted friend, teacher or partner. Do this with love. This is not about bashing yourself with a bat or judging yourself, this is about getting support. Being seen, accepted and receiving love. Make sure the person you choose to tell is someone who is loving, someone who will not judge you and that they are aware that you need support and love with this.
3. Take things One Step at a Time
Don’t try and change everything overnight. The pressure is too much and it is not realistic. Take one behaviour and work on that, with love, with care and non-judgmentally. Then when you’re ready keep enquiring and investigating and work on the next thing. For my one of the last things I know I will eventually need to work on is letting go of my habitually need for caffein. Purely because it doesn’t make me feel great. I know it! But I am not ready yet, so I will come to it when it’s time! One step at a time. It is the only way I have been able to get to where I am today, the only way I have been able to change my behaviour, patterns and life. And allow yourself time, because you will need it.
4. Love yourself and No Judgement
This is absolutely vital and the most important point here. This kind of change can only happen if loving yourself is at the core and there is no judgement. Judgement will only lead you right back to the habits that you are so courageously trying to let go of. Every time you think you are not doing well enough, tell yourself you love yourself. Tell yourself something loving and encouraging and keep moving forward as best you can.
5. Feel your Feelings & Pay Attention to you Needs – Journalling
More often then not our eating habits and patterns are ways of coping with emotions or needs that are going on that we either are not aware of or do not want to pay attention to or feel. If you want to start discovering what is at the root of a certain food pattern or behaviour start doing some journalling around it. Ask yourself what is it that you really need? Instead of repeating that pattern? What is it that you really feel rather than thinking it is all about food or ignoring food? How we eat, how we cook tells us so much about what is going on on the inside. Journally is a tool I use often and especially what trying to get to the root of a certain pattern or behaviour.
So there it is. These are just some of the tools that can and will start you off. It is impossible to sum up in 5 points how to heal it all but it is a good start. I hope very much you find them as useful as I have in my life. If you want to go deeper into this process with me then my course “Transform Your Diet, Transform Your Life” starts this Thursday 21st January and is all about this, where we work together in a supportive and loving group for 6 weeks inquiring and investigating our habits, patterns and behaviours around food. AND at the same time learning how to consciously cook delicious, nourishing plant-based foods to support all our healing. If you are interested you can click on the link HERE or contact me directly HERE. I still have a few spaces open. My next course will start in March (Dates still to be confirmed)
Nourish yourselves. Live with Freedom. And find Balance.
Sending you all so much love and wishing you a magical love filled week.
Love Nicky x