Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 8: Reader Q&A - Deborah

Deborah asked:

It's obvious you've maintained your slim and trim figure by chic eating. I'd really like to know how you are able to maintain your healthy eating habits while being a busy business owner. How do you go about planning your meals and shopping; your food prep and the choices you make; how do you avoid making wrong choices during your day? Do you have snacks? Do you ever cave in to cravings or binges?

I constantly struggle to eat healthy and not deprive myself, but more often than not, I'm finishing the crumbs in the potato chip bag or making a late night ice cream run.

Deborah, despite my not being overweight, I find eating in a consistently healthy manner is still not something I have mastered.  I find it easy to plan for healthy meals simply by having a loose menu plan throughout the week and knowing what we will be having the day before so I can buy veges/defrost meat etc.

Where I do a problem is that I fall into the snacking habit very easily.  I go through phases of being healthy, and I don’t know if it’s cyclical or some weird kind of self-sabotage but I then start craving really crappy stuff (and give into those cravings).  So yes, Deborah, I definitely have cravings and binges. 

My ideal life is one where I would eat mostly healthy food and some treat foods in natural moderation.  I would not feel compelled to eat big quantities of unhealthy foods.  I wrote a post last year on self-sabotage here which I sometimes go back to read to remind myself.  My yo-yoing is confined to about 5kg (11 pounds) and I am lighter than I was at the start of this blog, but I still go up and down.

I recently came across a cd I’d ordered more than two years ago from an English lady Gillian Riley of  I also have her book ‘Eating Less’.  I listened to the cd and read the book at the time, but then forgot all about it.  Revisiting them both again it seems that I am ready to hear the message better this time.

Gillian says (with lots of research and studies to back it up) that many of us have an addictive desire to eat, and it is often food that is low in quality and high in quantity such as junk and snack foods, which are designed to be addictive with all those tasty but health-depriving ingredients such as wheat, sugar, salt, fat etc.

One quarter of the Western population is extremely sensitive to these addictive foods, a half are slightly less sensitive and the last quarter aren’t sensitive at all, they could take or leave a bar or chocolate and aren’t really fussed either way.  I’m sure these people could also eat one piece and have the packet staring at them from the coffee table all night.

Gillian describes that you often get the addictive desire to eat after a meal, when you want to keep eating even though you feel full (that’s when I look for something sweet), and often people will overeat at meals so that they feel so full they are subconsciously over-riding the addictive desire to eat.  I do this!  I like to have a nice big meal so that I feel really full.  Most days I have the feeling that I want to eat something outside of meal times, but when I ask if I’m hungry, I’m not.

Gillian says that sometimes we just eat because we want something, and that it is simply a memory of having eaten addictively in this situation in the past or we have a happy memory involving this food.  I do this too!

There is a four step thought process you can go through whenever you feel the desire for food you don't need, and yes it feels uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier over time and eventually the desire melts away to be manageable and second nature to you. 

The Four Steps:

Step 1:  Is to recognise that you are having a desire and temptation for food you don’t need.  Name it at the time it is happening.  Put words to it and say something to yourself like ‘This is an addictive desire to eat.’  This is a simple but crucial step.  The more aware you are, the more you will be able to regain control.

Your addictive appetite is quite predictable.  One time it often occurs is at the end of the evening meal.  Unless your meals are huge, you will probably get the urge to continue eating at the end of a meal.

For most people who overeat, feeling ‘unsatisfied’ is the worst thing in the world to feel.  Yet this sense of feeling unsatisfied is in fact our key to freedom.  You don’t need to deny that unsatisfied feeling.  You need to start to see that feeling as they key to change your life.  Name it and put words to it:  ‘This sense of emptiness or feeling unsatisfied is my addictive desire to eat’.

Step 2:  Remind yourself that you’ve always got the freedom to overeat.  You’ve got the option of eating whatever it is that is tempting you.  You can’t help being tempted, but it’s entirely up to you how you respond to that temptation.  The biggest key to this technique is that you never, ever have to let any addictive appetite go unsatisfied if you don’t want to.  You can continue to satisfy it every time it happens, every day for the rest of your life.  You will be overeating of course, but it is your choice.

It will help you greatly to choose the consequences of your overeating as well as the food.  Many people (me) blank out on the consequences and just focus on how good something is going to taste, forgetting how bad they feel afterwards.  Choose the complete picture.  Gillian suggests making a list of all the consequences you don't like about overeating.

If you don’t feel like you’ve got the choice, you will likely feel like rebelling and eating everything in sight.  There may be a fear that if you feel completely free to choose to eat what you want, you may eat and eat until you pop.  Gillian suggests that if you genuinely choose, this will not happen.  Firstly, choose the overeating, and know that you can continue to do that.  During the times you are feeling out of control, you may start thinking ‘I’ve got to stop eating this’ and deny yourself choice.  Deliberately turn it around and tell yourself ‘I am totally free to overeat.  I don’t have to make any changes.’

Step 3:  Acknowledge your addictive desire and allow yourself to feel it.  You’re feeling tempted and you want more, you say yes to that feeling.  Let yourself be with it and in it.  It will help you to notice what this feeling of addictive desire is.  Is it a hunger, a void, a yearning?  Is there a physical sensation with it?  It might feel like a type of hunger.  The best way to describe it is that it feels uncomfortable and unsatisfied.

Instead of resenting, allow yourself to feel it.  Yes, it feels uncomfortable, but I’m going to let myself feel it.  The reason you let yourself feel unsatisfied desire is because it is your process of healing.  It will change your life and it could, quite literally, save your life.  Part of accepting your addictive appetite is forgiving yourself for having it in the first place.  You are not a bad or greedy person.  You will have eaten addictively in the past and it’s just your memory of that.  Maybe you didn’t know how to do things differently back then.

Accept the addictive desire without blame or judgement.  Let yourself feel the uncomfortable feeling rather than try to distract yourself.  Even just doing that makes the feeling more manageable.

Step 4:  Reminding yourself why you are letting yourself feel unsatisfied.  Remember the trade-off you are making.  Recall the ways your life is better when you don’t satisfy your addictive desire so often.  Make a list to remind yourself in the future.

The goal is to think through these four steps pretty much every time you think about food.  You can go through the four steps when you are at the shops buying food.  Notice when you go down certain aisles your addictive desire flares up at your favourite items.  You make the decision to eat something when you buy it, whether it’s eating it on the car in the way home or the next day.  Also, think how you eat something.  If you eat the whole packet in one sitting, buy it (or not buy it) based on that fact.

One final piece of advice that Gillian has is to not try to apply this perfectly.  Low self-esteem is tied up in perfectionism and it’s a tall order to say that you will never overeat or eat junk food ever again.  This is black and white thinking where we are eating salads 100% of the time or are out of control eating junk all over the place.  If you are too rigid and then have a blow-out, you will resist going back to that prison and it’s like dieting all over again.  Gillian suggests ‘eating a bit of tasty rubbish’ every now and then in a way that works for you.

It feels like a very calm way of living, and that’s what my goal is.  I’d also add that it’s human nature to stumble every now and again, and that the most important thing is not to give up.  I know it feels hopeless when you’re knee deep in chocolate wrappers and I have been there many times.  I’ve been eating junk almost this entire weekend in fact.

I’m not prepared to give up though, and just accept that this is how things are.  I’m prepared to start again from the beginning and persevere.  There are all sorts of motivational quotes about never giving up, you only lose if you stop, it feels darkest before the dawn, etc and they are all true.  Don’t give up on yourself.  Inspire yourself to be happier and better, and forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for eating obsessively in the past, forgive yourself for being too fat and forgive yourself for not being able to stop at one.  You are more than a block of chocolate or a bag of potato chips.  Forgive anyone who has ever made you feel bad about the way you eat.  I am writing this as much for myself as for anyone reading this post.

This is an extremely long post, but I feel it is important not to hide and pretend to be perfect.  For the most part I am a happy person and am fine with my size and how I look, but I do have this funny little screwed-up corner with food issues.  I know there are lots of us out there like this so let’s not feel less than, or isolated.  There is nothing wrong with us.  Let’s give ourselves a break, really be okay with who we are, love ourselves and get on with creating a beautiful life instead of temporarily soothing ourselves with junk food (our drug) which does not help things in the long term.

Anyone with me?


  1. Fiona I am really enjoying the energy of your blog posts, the confident yet gentle voice you write with and the passion for your topics.

    I am a firm believer in whole foods and planning meals. I believe the European, especially French, approach to food is one we would all do well to emulate. Nutritious balanced well prepared meals satisfy us far more than industrial foods in packets.

    Eliminating industrial foods keeps our health and weight in balance. If we are too busy to make good food a priority in our lives then I think we need to reevaluate what we are doing.

  2. Wow, Fiona, thank you for such a thoughtful post to my questions. I appreciate the time you put into writing it. As Rose said, you are a gentle and non-judgmental voice. I’ve never heard about Gillian Riley’s website and will look forward to exploring it in more depth.

    I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal; I’m either eating very healthy one week then the next going full force pigging out on the junkiest of foods. There is nothing in between for me and that is something I need to work on.

    I’ve also started to remind myself of the financial consequences of wasting money on junk food and now ask myself if I really want to waste money on a bunch of crap or put my hard-earned money toward something else that gives me pleasure.

  3. lovely post, say says the woman who as a girl ate wonder bread in the back of her mom's closet, one thing that really helped me not feel the addiction was incorporating green smoothies (1 or 2 a day, made up of fruit and some green leafy greens: mint, spinach, lettuce, or lambs quarters,etc), honestly it was like a miracle, the overwhelming desire for sugar, salt, fat, junk fell away, and I became more svelte without trying, now I have reverted and want to try again, thank you for the motivation

  4. Rose, you always give such wise comments. You are down to earth and with great common sense. Thank you for this.

    Deborah, I'm a bit like that too - all or nothing - it's exhausting! And I too have thought 'what a waste of money' when I look at my supermarket docket of junk. Let's celebrate the grey area in between and feel happy and relaxed with the way we eat.

    Tess, you're so right. That's often advice I hear - 'crowd out the bad stuff' which is what you did with your green smoothie. If I make sure I have a healthy lunch with enough protein, I'm fine for the afternoon. It's like insurance for your body, or simply just putting good fuel in it. Imagine if we put a tiny amount of bad quality petrol in our car - it wouldn't get far. But we do it with our bodies, over and over. There must have been some magic in that smoothie of yours!

  5. Thank you Fiona.
    I needed to hear this today.


  6. Hi Fiona

    Your advice is spot on. The 4 steps approach can help a lot of people. I have used them with a lot of my clients with great results. Step 3 is a fabulous ah-ah moment for many.

    One of my own time-tested tips is -if you feel the urge to eat more at the end of a meal- to always think of the next meal. Knowing that you’ll enjoy pleasure again soon will not only make you look forward to the next meal but will make the fear of missing out irrelevant and you’ll end up eating less. This is directly inspired by the way the French look at food.

    Try it, it works!


  7. Irene, I'm glad I can be of some help. Best to you.

    Yves, you are so right. Step 3 is quite revolutionary to me. Instead of being afraid of that feeling it feels so strange to welcome it and live through it without satisfying my sweet tooth. But I did it today, and that means I can do it again.

    Thank you for your French advice too, it makes total sense. Thank you!

  8. Fiona, it was so great to read your blog today. I relate very much to what you describe and you've given me some useful tips to hopefully manage things better. Many thanks!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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