The 8 Steps to Successfully Break-Free from Unhealthy Eating Patterns
Part 1: Farhan Dhalla, Transformational Personal Trainer
“Until you heal the wounds of your past, you are going to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex; but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them.”
I spent most of the childhood obese. Yes, it's true. I feared to go to gym class. The worst moment I had was when we are all weighed on a scale in front of the whole class at the start of junior high school in grade 7. My gym teacher then instructed us to sit in order from the lightest to the heaviest weight. I was amongst the top three heavyweights in my class. Totally traumatic! After having gone through that experience I convinced my parents to let me join the YMCA with the hopes to lose weight. The next phase of my teenage and university years took me on a roller coaster ride as far as my weight was concerned. I periodically fell off and then got back on the wagon with my diet. I was pretty consistent with working out. Despite my troubles with my diet fitness turned into my passion and profession.
After I graduated from university I had a deep and profound awakening.
I began to work on my spiritual self and heal some past wounds. One of my many “aha moments” was realizing that as I began to work on my inner self, my physical body and the way in which I experienced the world around me began to positively change.
I realized that no matter how hard I was working out at the gym, the results I wanted only came when I worked to improve my inner self.
Working on healing my wounds made all the difference!
Are you feeding your body? Or are you feeding your wounds?
This is the big question! Your wounds cause you to have those strong sweet cravings and can also lead to excessive and/or binge eating. In my earlier years, I was clearly feeding my wounds. I was stuck on the rollercoaster ride that left me frustrated and disappointed. The excessive and unhealthy eating was a result of negative patterns and unresolved wounds developed from my younger years.
How Do We Develop Negative Eating Patterns?
Think back to your childhood years when you had to visit the doctor for an injection. For a child (and some adults) a needle can be quite painful. And once the doctor is finished injecting you he/she hands you a lollipop, which doesn’t help take the pain away at all. But it does distract you from it. WHAM!...the onset of the negative pattern. The result? Whenever you feel pain your programmed action becomes to eat something sweet. And it doesn’t matter whether the pain is physical or emotional. The “go to” response is to avoid, mask, deter, delay or avoid the pain by eating something sweet.
Some wounds are bigger than others and there are no solutions found in sugar or binge eating! Internalizing and suppressing our wounds is detrimental to our minds and our bodies. Like in the quote by spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant’s (you may want to read it again) ignoring or masking our wounds will cause them to bleed into our lives. We can either choose to stay on the crazy vicious rollercoaster or we can dive in deep and face our wounds head-on. By doing so we can finally heal and break free from all negative patterning.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint race
Wounds can have many layers. Be patient and persistent when doing your inner work.
It’s All in the Family
Negative eating patterns are also inherent to family behaviours. These patterns are often passed down onto us. In many families celebrations like weddings, birthdays and rewards due to good grades, etc., are often reinforced with sugar! We attribute celebrations with eating sweets. No one handed out a bowl of broccoli for scoring an A+ on your algebra exam in our family.
There is hope in finding ways to break negative eating patterns. Positive management of your emotions is the key.
Here are my eight helpful tips to help you succeed!
1. Become Aware of the Wound(s)
Are you feeding your body or are you feeding your wounds? The good news is that once you are aware of the wound, new or old, its energy that has a hold on you starts to dissipate.
2. Be Present to the Pain
Be willing to sit with the pain and be present with it. Before you run for the tub of ice cream allow yourself to be present with what emotions are surfacing.
3. Name the Emotion
Is it sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, disappointment, resentment, etc. and try expressing your feelings. For example, “I am feeling hurt that my boyfriend forgot my birthday.”
4. Take 5 Deep Breaths
Sitting relaxed in a chair take a deep breath in and as you exhale visualize or imagine yourself releasing the negative emotion out of your body.
5. Journal Regularly
Writing down any and all heavy emotions that you are internalizing help to better manage those feelings that weigh you down.
6. Talk Your Feelings Out
Lean on a close friend and chat about what’s troubling you. But don’t make it a pity party! Consider professional help. Some wounds are so deep that it takes an objective professional to help you shed light and expose what’s hidden in your shadows.
7. Forgive Yourself
If you decide to go for the ice cream, after all, let go of any guilt and be willing to forgive yourself. This journey is full of ups and downs and all kinds of lessons to learn. Punishing yourself will only make you feel worse.
8. Always remember, when you know better you do better!
For more tips and to inquire about my transformational personal training approach, please connect with me. I’d love to hear from you!
In this next section, my client Laurie describes her family’s eating patterns and the way it has influenced her life.
Part 2: Laurie Weir
We’ve all done it. Reached for food when we wanted comfort. It’s a moment of happiness. An instant rush of feel-good hormones that make us forget our pain. But at what cost?
Why do we treat our bodies like garbage disposals when going through an emotionally difficult time – whether it’s stress at work, an argument with a friend, a break-up? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to treat our bodies with kindness and love instead of self-sabotaging our efforts and our health?
When Farhan asked me if I was feeding my body or my wounds, I stopped and reflected. Wow, well said, I thought. I always say, awareness is half the battle – at least knowing what we’ve been doing wrong is the first step in making huge strides in our self-improvement, health, and overall well-being and happiness.
I grew up like most kids in the 80s and 90s eating Flaky Pastries and Jos Louis for after school snacks. We had French fries for dinner 5x a week. My parents divorced when I was young and I only saw my mom every second weekend, and she showed her love through food. Every time we were together it was a celebration – and we got to eat whatever we wanted. It’s what she knew. She was just showing love.
However, I now see that food was a way in which I (and my family) dealt with our wounds. Working with Farhan and doing the inner work helped me become more of aware and make healthier choices because I've begun the healing process.
I realized that I didn’t have to repeat the same patterns, and I could make my own choices. That’s the toughest part – I had to find a balance between “fitting in” with my family and our traditions while making healthier choices that I was comfortable with and true to myself. At the end of the day, it’s all about spending time together – it doesn’t matter if I opted out of dessert. Last month for my mom’s birthday, my sisters and I took her to the Aberfoyle Antique Market in Guelph, ON and while we sat and enjoyed some live music and she tapped her foot, I treated us all to ice cream. Though it looked absolutely fabulous and they all ordered the caramel chocolate chunk, I chose the strawberry puree, no-sugar sorbet and it was delicious! Not for a second did I feel like I was missing out. I was surrounded by my family enjoying a memorable day and still made a healthy, satisfying choice. I felt empowered knowing that the energy of this wound had begun to dissipate.
Deciding to make healthy choices and committing to eating well is the ultimate act of self-love. Like many of us, I’ve seen family members fall chronically ill and pass away far too young due to preventable causes. Without our good health, we have nothing. It’s so far beyond vanity and fitting into your favourite jeans. So, decide to feed your body, not your wounds and thrive on this journey called life, every single day.