Overeating – a dysfunctional relationship with food

Is food (overeating) your nemesis?

Overeating – a dysfunctional relationship with food

I had a dysfunctional relationship with food all my adult life and as such, I’m excruciatingly aware of all matters food.

I didn’t have bulimia or anorexia. My ‘disorder’ wasn’t held as significant or real. It didn’t have a meaty medical sounding label.

My behaviour around food was pooh-poohed by all the doctors and specialists I consulted, because it didn’t show, except in low-level, seesawing weight gain. It was clandestine, hidden from view – a solitary, uncontrollable pastime.

My closest friends could only compute it as me just overeating because I was hungry, ‘and everyone overeats every now and then’. My father couldn’t fathom what I was describing and my mother went on a guilt trip. People just didn’t get it.

But I knew this wasn’t truly me – that I could go from being totally normal one minute to a Jekyll and Hyde gorger the next, easily getting through a family of four’s WW2 weekly rations in a couple of days; out of myself until the binge was over and then the disgust, self-loathing and self-reproach would kick in, like crashing head-on into a wall.

I honestly felt as if I were momentarily possessed, as all rational thought just wasn’t in my grasp.

I could plan ahead, negotiate with myself and change my point of view about whether to indulge or not many times before reaching the source of my moment-on-the-lips pleasure. I would label my days either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, solely on how the play-out with food had gone.

Eventually the terms ‘comfort eating’ and ‘binge eating’ crept permanently into our vocabulary and I at last had an identity around food that others could understand, if I ever chose to overcome my shame and tell them. It was extremely rare that I did.

Food’s a tough one, particularly if it happens to be your ‘mother’s ruin’. It’s not like alcohol, tobacco, drugs or any other form of numbing or checking out that’s available to us in society. We can at least walk away from those distractions for good, consigning them to the dustbin of history – but we can’t walk away from food. It’s something that is a constant in our lives. We can’t just give it up, because we need it to nourish the body in order to live.

The idea is we temper and regulate our intake according to what the body needs, when it needs it. That’s not the reality when one has a dysfunctional relationship with food. You’re sharing the same prison cell with your nemesis for life and you just have to work with it. It’s a battle. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

I battled with this inner demon for 35 years, trying every manner of therapy, practice and distraction under the sun, but it would only relieve, not remedy. I believed I was stuck with this monster for life. I started to notice others – men and women – having the same behaviours. Friends, colleagues, strangers. It was everywhere:

  • People making excuses about second helpings
  • About their portion sizes
  • About not eating
  • Furtive eating
  • Eating while walking down the street, some not even looking at the food, just shoving it in, shoving it down, shoving the feelings, the emotions, the emptiness – whatever it was that day, that moment – down, down, down.

It takes an enormous amount of food to continue to push that down, push it and keep it in. And that’s an enormous amount of potential weight gain.

But all was not lost for me. I eventually discovered the absolute truth behind what I was doing to myself and why.

What changed for me was a fundamental reappraisal of my role in relation to my body and in relation to my food choices; an appreciation and an acceptance of my own responsibility for my own body and what I put in it.

My way out of a life of binge eating was to take true responsibility for the feelings that I didn’t want to confront. To let them surface fully whenever I had a compulsion to eat in a way that felt abnormal, so I could get to the source of the problem. I noticed that whatever feeling I was trying to avoid by eating was always less intense to feel than the self-loathing that followed a food binge. I now prefer to feel the feeling any day than eat to avoid it, to let it surface as something to be aired, explored and healed.

I’m not perfect. I slip up – and down – regularly. But what gets me through and beyond this is really appreciating and honouring my true essence, the truth of who I really am, knowing that I am more than enough already, without having to do or be more. Connecting to this and accepting this means I just can’t bring myself to defile myself with food – food that I’m only eating to mask feelings that I don’t want to acknowledge are there, that I don’t want to deal with.

What enabled me to make the shift was being committed to making different choices, ones that reflected a much deeper sense of love for myself, a nurturing and tenderness towards myself and an acceptance that I am – and always was – more than good enough just as I am.

Inspired by and in deep appreciation of the wisdom and teachings of Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon, his family and Sara Williams, without whose living reflections and unbounded loving support I could well have been heading towards obesity by now and most certainly eating myself in locust fashion into an early grave.

Filed under

BehaviourEating disorderOver eatingPsychologyLosing weightHealthy diet

  • By Cathy Hackett

  • Photography: Joseph Barker

    To sketch, paint and question life. To cook, laugh and wonder why. To hug, hum and appreciate the sky, to look into another's eyes. These are some of the reasons Joseph loves life and is inspired to contribute to this amazing site.