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Breaking up with food

How often have we reached for a chocolate bar or a tub of ice cream because a relationship has broken down?

Or have we tried to diet motivated by the hurt of rejection to ensure we ‘look great’?

Why do we as women either lose weight to ‘look great’ or go into eating to ‘fix’ our situation and stack on a lot of weight?

A common image in many movies is the woman reaching for a tub of ice-cream when things go wrong and it appears to inform us that food is the accepted break-up 'medicine'. The message is loud and clear: food can be used to comfort us during and after a break up, to fill a void we feel when a relationship ends. But equally, after a break up we might drive ourselves to eat less, exercise intensely and lose weight so at least we will feel better about how we look on the outside. Either way, however it may seem in the short term, it is not a great ‘fix’ for our situation.

Perhaps it’s time we looked at our relationship with food instead!

We are masters of knowing the way to fill an emotional need and food offers us this:

  • Sweet foods comfort us and seem to pick us back up and offer us a sweetness now missing from our life
  • Salty foods stimulate and offer fleeting satisfaction
  • Fatty foods fill us up
  • Rich, creamy foods comfort us and numb us out
  • Too little food can make us feel thin and acceptable

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For those who claim they love chocolate

Do we really love chocolate or is something else going on?

We often use the consumption of food to not feel or look at how we really are.

Food can be a distraction for us, we can use it to feel better about a bad situation or to feel more comfortable within one, e.g. a nice dinner out at a restaurant can be a welcome distraction from ongoing issues at home; a piece of chocolate when we have had a fight with a partner or friend can soothe us and I have observed that we can also deprive ourselves of food as a way to get back at an ex, at life, or to feel better about our image. We are comfortable with using food as a way to avoid, numb, distract, dull or excuse ourselves from truly feeling what's going on.

Have you considered that it’s okay to feel all of it, such as tired, insecure, doubtful, stressed, frustrated, sad, even rejected etc., but that we can bring greater understanding to these feelings? We can also, with support and the correct tools, learn how to be better able to deal with the situations that trigger them, and heal from them.

Here are a few examples:

  • Talking – sharing your feelings and what you are learning about yourself with friends and partners
  • Writing – in a diary, or to a friend, what you are feeling
  • Exercising gently in a way to feel your body more deeply – such as walking or stretching, instead of reaching for food to comfort
  • Quiet time – allowing the space to just be
  • Nurturing yourself – do something that feels supportive for you
  • Seeking professional support from allied health professionals, such as psychologists or nutritionists, or the support of a complementary health practitioner

In this way, we make space to let our body and inner self heal, instead of reaching for the first food that comes to mind to avoid feeling what is truly going on. By giving ourselves the space we can always let go of what has affected us and we can naturally move on.

When we start to care for ourselves and take a look at what is really going on, we may begin to understand why and how we may use food as a crutch. We can take steps to listen to our bodies and the messages they are giving us, instead of reaching for that next piece of distraction or comfort.

Breaking up with food is an opportunity to deepen our most important relationship, our relationship with our self. This is where our self-esteem starts to grow, and you can't find that by looking outside anywhere ... that's got to beat a tub of ice-cream any day!

Filed under

ChocolateEmotionsSelf-esteemEating disorderWeight loss

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    By Aphra Hill

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    Photography: Dean Whitling, Brisbane based photographer and videographer of 12 years.

    A versatile commercial photographer who shoots corporate portraits, architecture, products, events, marketing material, advertising & website content. Dean's philosophy - create photos that have a magic about them.