Food, love and self-love – confessions of the good doctor!

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Food, love and self-love – confessions of the good doctor!

Love of Self is our number one job in Life! But do we really know what Love is? When it comes to Food (and Beverages), do we really know what Self-Love is?

Dr Eunice J Minford, General Surgeon in Northern Ireland, has posted this insight of her experience with nutrition; a story that so many will be able to relate to, whether it is directly for food, alcohol or many other loveless addictions that have a hold over so many, or indirectly as we watch with concern the fabric of wellbeing crumbling around us:


It used to be alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, crisps, bread, pizzas, junk food, indeed any food, for I was a consumer of it all

I thought I was normal.

I mean, doesn’t everyone eat and drink everything – isn’t that why it’s there? To be consumed? To fill our bellies, to give us pleasure and enjoyment from all the sumptuous tastes and flavours, textures and delicacies?

I thought I was enjoying myself.

I thought I was enjoying my food … I loved eating … steak, garlic bread, chips and red wine were a particular favourite combo followed by a yummy chocolate dessert and of course an Irish coffee or three. Sure I had hangovers but you know it seemed worth it for the fun nights, the craic, the banter and the stories that were told. I never gave much consideration to the fact that a hangover was my body’s way of telling me I was poisoning it!

But my so-called ‘enjoyment of food’ added inches to my waistline and although I didn’t realise it then, it was affecting my health in other ways with some minor but annoying ailments. Whilst some part of me claimed to be ‘loving’ and ‘enjoying’ all this food and drink, my body was telling another story.

Time passed and the so-called fun nights became not so fun, the hangovers no longer worth it; eventually the alcohol and ciggies got dropped. Finally, after all these years of abuse, I can live healthily –– or so I thought! But there was still the cheese, the coffee, the chocolate, the crisps and of course, bread. Staples of the modern day diet – surely they would never be relinquished?

  • A rather large gallstone let it be known that cheese was not my best friend – even when melted on chilli con carne. Attacks of pain, nausea and self-induced vomiting to relieve the symptoms put an end to that creamy enemy.

  • A serious case of caffeine withdrawal tells me that my body is being poisoned – hyper-stimulated out of its skin and it’s time to let it go.

  • A bloated belly sees the bread go broadside.

  • Stuffed up sinuses, blowing my nose every morning, ceased when I cut the dairy.

But there’s still the dark chocolate and the crisps, biscuits and cake mixed in with a healthy dose of fish and greens. A funny combo – one cleansing and nutritious, the other toxic and heavy lest I should get too light. No longer an alcoholic, I become a chocaholic – 3, 4, 5, 6 bars a day … stuffing it in, one after the other … by number 3 or 4 I’m no longer enjoying the taste, indeed it makes me feel sick, but the desire, the craving to fill myself up with something … something sweet and chocolaty, consumes me. I am no longer the consumer but am consumed by something that feels greater than me.

Time to take control and say no more –– I place a bet with a friend to stop eating chocolate for a year.

I succeed. And when the year is up there is no desire to be consumed by that dark beast once more.

But there’s still the crisps – family size packs of course – a daily ritual that must be fulfilled. A single ‘normal’ size pack doesn’t touch the sides – it is a mere aperitif for the several bags to follow. Would I ever crack the crisp addiction? The crunchy texture, the salty flavour… how could I say no?

Well I didn’t but my tummy did – pain on consumption told me it was time to wave good-bye to all that fat and salt and so with a final crunch here and there, I let them go. Or so I thought. Despite months of crisp-free life, no sore belly or dry mouth, they manage to work their way back in, damn it!

Although the truth is that no one is forcing me to buy them or eat them, it feels like they have a force of their own, willing me to choose them, to buy them, to crunch them – a force I seemingly cannot say no to. How ridiculous is that? A packet of crisps having more power over me than I do over myself! I say yes when my body really wants me to say no – to a packet of crisps!

I’m gluten free, dairy free, caffeine free, alcohol free – a pretty healthy diet… or so I thought. I am lighter – lost a few stones, feeling good, clear-headed and alert and the minor ailments have resolved. So what harm can a piece of gluten free, dairy free cake do? Or a few gf/df biscuits? I mean come on, a girl’s gotta have a piece of cake or three every now and then? Life without cake…. how would that be???

Of course for me, it’s never just a piece or one piece – but every piece that is in the box or packet – all of it must go in one sitting. Piece after piece. I can take out a small loaf-sized cake, lovingly cut it into slices and then into smaller pieces and eat them all one by one; even when my body clearly says no, something else says yes and forces it down. Same goes for a box or packet of gf/df biscuits, mince pies, cherry bakewells, jam tarts, cake slices – the flavour and texture become irrelevant after a while – I just need something, anything, all of it, now, force it down, don’t stop, keep going until it’s all gone…

And oh boy, what a hangover I have the next day!

Yes indeed – I have a hangover… from food! From the healthiest version of cake you can find – dairy free, gluten free!

Not a drop of alcohol in sight.

I can hardly lift my head off the pillow, my mind is foggy, my body sluggish, my belly bloated and I feel crap. My mood is low, I feel sad, depressed and given up. Tears flow. I berate and judge myself. I come down to see the leftover empty packets – as if they were bottles of wine, the only difference being I recall where I was and what I did. The evidence of my indulgences before me, the guilt and shame feel the same as if I had just been on a drinking binge bender. And all of that because of what I ate and how I ate it!

Do I need any more evidence to know that abuse is abuse whether it is wine, beer, gin, crisps, chocolate or a gf/df cake? My body has spoken loudly and more than once to tell me so. This pattern, this abuse feels so engrained – a way of dealing with life and myself that is far from loving or healthy. The illusion of my healthy diet smashed – just as I am. The food or drink content is somewhat irrelevant, the energy of abuse will harm me irrespective of the flavour, the texture, the apparent healthiness of the food.

I can do the same with roasted almonds, strawberries and blueberries – all healthy, but when over-consumed, over-indulged and taken not for nutrition but to numb or sweeten that which I don’t want to feel, they too can result in a food hangover. I know it can sound crazy that such seemingly healthy foods can in fact not be truly healthy… I wouldn’t have believed it myself until I experienced it – loud and clear – many times over!

What astounds me really is my ability to persist in this abuse, in this pattern, just changing the flavours, the colours, the taste or texture. There seems to be no end to ways I can find to abuse myself. At the end of the day, it all comes back to the quality of energy I have chosen to feed myself with – a quality that is abusive, disrespectful and disregarding of myself and my body. Wrapping it up in gluten free, dairy free doesn’t change the harming effect of the quality of energy it is consumed with.

The thing is – it never actually works. Ultimately I never end up feeling better about myself for having that so called sweet treat or reward. Yet the repeat button keeps being pressed.

So what is the answer? What is the key to stopping this pattern, this abuse that has been with me since I can remember in one way or another? How do I overcome the craving, the call, the force that grips me and wants me to throw another and another biscuit, packet of crisps, cake or sweet down my throat? How do I cease the endless food hangovers? The endless abuse?

You see I have come to know that it’s not even about the food – for that is only a symptom of a deeper ill, a means to an end to quell the tension, the angst, the sadness, all forms of dis-ease within.

Healing the dis-ease within is the key to healing all that is without: the abusive behaviours, the indulgences, the wayward ways that defy and deny who I am. I have to choose love over abuse, care over disregard, nurturing over disrespect – choice by choice, moment by moment.

To feel and know that despite whatever experiences or feelings or thoughts that say otherwise, I am worth caring for, I am worth looking after, I am worth nurturing, I am worth loving to the bone – first and foremost by myself… even if no-one else were to do the same. I cannot wait to be loved in order to love … to love me. For love is stronger than any monster or beast that I feel is calling me to stuff myself with food or drink.

But I have to choose it.

Love of self is our number one job in life, a job that most of us have given up on, resigned from, or didn’t even know we had in the first place.

And unlike most jobs, this one is for life, 24/7, every moment of every day, no retirement, no pension, no tax – and its rewards are a life of joy, health, vitality, wellbeing, love and harmony; a life that is enriched beyond all that we can imagine, a life of service for the greater good of the whole of life.

Now that is a life worth loving and living… and guess what? No amount of cake, alcohol, food, or even my favourite crisps, can beat it!

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Well-beingNutritionOver eatingHealthy diet

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    By Dr Eunice Minford, MBChB MA Dipl Clin Ed FRCS Ed

    Eunice Minford works as a Consultant General Surgeon. She has trained as an Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counsellor and has an MA in Applied Spirituality.

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    Photography: Cameron Martin, Video and Photography