Before and after: Rowena Stewart on her relationship with food
Before and after: Rowena Stewart on her relationship with food
Toast and marmalade – a ‘normal English diet'.
Rowena Stewart grew up on what was considered a normal English diet.
“My favourite breakfast and snack was toast and marmalade and I grew up on three teaspoons of sugar in my tea. My mother was out working and I often had to make my own food so it would always be things that were easy, such as tinned spaghetti on toast. This was the 1970’s and all this seemed quite normal, we had toast with everything! There was not that much awareness around food then.
What we did not know at the time is that my mother was actually an undiagnosed coeliac and it seems, so was I. It was a big strain on my health, I was termed ‘a sickly child’ but unwittingly I kept eating the foods I was allergic to. Sweets, for example, were an important part of my relationship with my parents – they were a way of connecting to each other. I would share sweets with my Mum, and Dad would give me some money after school to buy sweets with.”
A shift in awareness
As Rowena grew into her early teens her family started to become more food aware. Rowena’s mother was diagnosed with coeliac disease and alongside this her sister was exploring alternative medicine and healthy lifestyles.
“My sister, who is 7 years senior to me, trained as a nurse and an acupuncturist when I was 14. She brought home a new awareness of healthy food to our family. Her interest sparked an interest in me and I started to explore alternative medicine and healthy living too. I connected with the ethos, but the emotional hurts from my childhood were too strong at that time for me to actually address my eating habits and the way I looked after myself, so I kept on consuming sugar, dairy, wheat and caffeine, smoking cigarettes and later on marijuana, all the while kidding myself that I had a relatively healthy lifestyle."
Falling in love
Then something changed at the age of 19:
“I fell in love! Overnight I stopped putting sugar in my tea. At this time I had also taken up smoking marijuana, which I found curbed my appetite. The combination of the two made me lose weight quite dramatically. I dropped from 9 stone 7lbs (60.3kg) to 8 stone (51kg) in a few months.
Not long after, in my early twenties, the relationship ended quite suddenly and I was quite traumatised by it. Consequently, I began smoking more marijuana and regularly taking recreational drugs as a way to smother my hurts. This made me lose more weight and I dropped down to 7 ½ stone (47.6 kg).
It was at this time that I met my first husband to be. Looking back though, I can see that I was in quite a malnourished state, physically, emotionally and spiritually and this formed the basis of my first marriage. I ate masses of sugar; toast and marmalade were a staple, and I was a ‘chocoholic’.
Every menstrual period (which was extremely painful), I would get cravings for liquorice toffees and my regular midnight snack was two Weetabix smothered in brown sugar and soaked in milk. This would make my tummy bloat severely but I completely ignored it. I never associated the pain I was having with the food I was eating, mainly because of the emotional comfort it provided.
Every time I attempted to stop smoking marijuana, an unprecedented level of anger would rise up in me that I had no idea how to handle. At that time in my life I did not know any other way to deal with all the pain and emotion except to keep on smothering it with drugs and food.”
At the age of 33 Rowena met her present husband, Jonathan.
“He was very interested in his health and so were his friends. Their focus and attention were completely opposite to mine. It made me realise how much I was sabotaging myself. So I made some big changes: I left an unhappy marriage, stopped taking drugs and quit smoking.
The marriage break-up and leaving my home, however, had been very traumatic and, as I still did not know how to deal with these hurts, I started to drink a lot of red wine instead. And then I started to put on masses of weight.
I went from 7½ stone (47.6 kg) to 11 stone (70 kg) in about three years. My breast size grew from 34B to 34E.
I was now eating three meals a day, something that I didn’t do in my twenties, and whilst the nature of the food remained the same, my alcohol consumption increased significantly. I still ate lots of toast and marmalade, pasta, lots of dairy, had cream in my coffee and so on.”
Then one day Rowena picked up a book on diabetes.
“When I read this book, I realised I was actually pre-diabetic as I was having quite severe energy dips after lunch, particularly if I had eaten carbohydrates. During my afternoon treatment sessions (at this time I was working as a full-time kinesiology practitioner) I often felt so tired that I just wanted to lie down on the treatment table and go to sleep! Recognising that I was doing something to cause these energy slumps enabled me to make the connection between the foods that I was eating and the way my body was feeling.”
“I realised my food choices were having a severe impact on my health.”
“This realisation led to me making some real changes. I started to follow a diet that advocated a very low carbohydrate and sugar consumption. I lost half a stone (3 kg) quite easily and my blood sugar and energy levels began to stabilise.”
As Rowena had been skinny before, she was obsessed with losing weight:
“I could not bear to see myself this heavy, and going clothes shopping was a nightmare. I was coming into my forties and was thinking, “This is it now, I am going to be like this for the rest of my life”, and I felt so depressed. After losing half a stone in weight, despite upping the exercise, I could not lose any more. It was very frustrating.
My partner and I lived what we considered to be a healthy lifestyle. I had given up smoking, we cooked our own food, had a varied diet, it all seemed very moderate and acceptable. I would work hard and then go to the gym and train until my body hurt, but I still weighed 10½ stone (66.7 kg) – I had pulled myself back from the brink of diabetes but I was still drinking a lot of red wine and consuming lots of dairy. And I still felt very uncomfortable in my body. I was jealous of slender women and could not figure out how to look like that again. I kept feeling that being this size was not the real me!”
Becoming aware of the relationship between food and emotions
“He presented the energetic effects of alcohol and gluten on the body and the key reason why people eat dairy, which is to avoid dealing with their childhood hurts. What was very significant was that Serge was not telling anyone not to eat these things; he was simply explaining how these products affected us.
I assumed that where this was leading meant going down the path of being a vegetarian, something I had tried in my twenties but had to abandon, as my craving for protein was too strong. Serge suggested trying a gluten and dairy-free diet, nothing more. So I gave it a go.
After the course Rowena had a personal session with Serge Benhayon:
“In this session Serge could feel that I was holding on to a lot of buried pain from my previous relationship issues and my first marriage. At that time I was working as a Kinesiologist, a therapy that I had been led to believe speaks to the body, but this was the first time this buried hurt had been identified, discussed and treated. We talked about my first marriage and all the grief and depression I had been through.
While we talked, Serge did hands-on healing on my back and body, all the while treating me with the utmost respect, something that I thanked him for at the end of the session. It was only a one-hour session but when I went home I realised that my need for alcohol had disappeared.”
“What this showed me was that by addressing the buried hurts in my body the self-destructive addictions and disregarding habits just fell away and with them went the need for pain-numbing substances. As my dietary habits changed, my body began to gently lose weight.”
This realisation, coupled with experimenting with the gluten and dairy-free diet, was a fundamental turning point.
“What is important is that I was not changing my diet because I had been told to. What happened was that I instigated a process of trialling foods, removing some things from my diet and then seeing how my body felt when I ate them again. This started to make space between me and my body and food. I began to observe myself and build a new relationship with my body.
For example, I used to have chronic catarrh. Then I tried 6 weeks with strictly no dairy and the catarrh started to reduce, although at the time I did not really notice. Then one hot sunny day I thought I’d have an ice cream. Within 10 minutes my sinuses were inflamed and I had acute pain through my cheeks bones and nose; it simply floored me. That was it – that was the scientific proof of the effect of a food group on my body and it was all the evidence I needed to show me the true impact dairy had on me. From then on, I started doing this with everything and my body began to change shape.
Because my focus had shifted from trying to lose weight to how my body felt, I did not even notice that I was losing weight until I went clothes shopping and realised that I had dropped two dress sizes. Looking in the mirror I was beginning to see the real me again.”
From thereon Rowena just kept building a loving relationship with her body.
“I allowed my body to lead, instead of imposing on it. I began to listen to what my body was feeling and used this newly found communication to look a little deeper at my food choices. If my body told me that sugar made my legs hurt, I had to stop and feel into why I wanted to eat it. It made me look at what was happening emotionally that had me heading for the sweet stuff. These days my diet is very simple, very supportive and very fresh. My whole relationship with food is completely different.”
“Instead of using food to bury my hurts, I now eat to nourish and support myself.”
“My body weight has been a stable 8 stone (51kg) weight for the past five years now. I feel very light in my body and I now feel this is a true representation of me. There is a delicacy coupled with a vitality and strength too. I exercise regularly but don’t hurt my body. I have reconnected to an inner joy again. I am currently going through menopause, which is going surprisingly smoothly. I feel extremely well, a new experience for me.”
“I can now say I have a truly loving relationship with my body and appreciate all it does and shares with me, a relationship I am deepening every day. I continue to support myself with on-going Esoteric Healing sessions and workshops with Universal Medicine. The more I address my issues and hurts, the easier it becomes to refine my diet based on what my body needs, essentially fresh, nourishing foods that leave me and my body feeling bright, light and healthy.”