It has been an interesting few weeks in private practice here in Cambridge. The combination of more light in the early mornings and early evenings, brave snowdrops rising from the ground and the birdsong changing lets me know spring will soon be upon us. On top of that, many of my clients seem to be having epiphanies about toxic relationships in their lives, and how they can manage or remove them, to feel better about being alive. It feels like a spiritual spring clean wave is going on, and it's very exciting.
Toxic, draining relationships very much connect to how people choose to feed themselves.
A first time client can sometimes be a bit taken aback when I ask about their home life, friendships and relationships. What connection does that have to the food they are putting into their body? They soon see that the people we surround ourselves with can have a profound impact on how we nourish ourselves.
The people we grow up around, our family, are the first influence in defining what is a normal diet. If a family member chooses to embrace a different way of eating (I still remember my mothers horror when I refused to eat cake because it would exacerbate a flare up of Irritable Bowel Syndrome), it can induce a sense of isolation from the norm, leading to either worry or attempted sabotage by threatened, or downright mischievous, family members.
As a person goes out into the world, it is very easy to become locked into unproductive behaviour cycles within relationships (whether friendly or romantic). I think we can all safely look at our life and name a few relationships, past or present, which make us feel drained or negative but we continue to invest large amounts of energy in these people out of responsibility, guilt, pressure or fear.
Food, especially refined (fatty) carbohydrates are a wonderful quick fix for a drained moment. Many binge eaters will describe the binge eating as a moment of complete automated trance - no thinking, no pain. One client who broke my heart would describe how when her father would beat her mother, she would cope by eating a whole box of sugary cereal hiding under the kitchen table (she was six when it began). Another woman, a victim of domestic abuse, would feel her hand reach into the cookie jar repeatedly when her husband would return home (she came to me for help with her obesity - she had gained 75kg with her cookie self medication).
I see examples like this time and again. They do not need to be as extreme as the examples above. I adore my children, but when they push me to the edge I definitely celebrate the fact I do not usually have a massive pie handy to stuff in my mouth (one big reason to be careful of what you keep in the house)! Many mothers can relate to this - the dire need for fast burst energy, something to silence the hectic sensation of feeling overwhelmed.
If you're experiencing what feels like irrational eating choices: 'I know I don't really want to be eating it so why am I?' then take a look at who you spent time with that day. What were you doing before the sudden urge to eat the cookies came along?
Some people need to be removed from our lives completely. But others need a spring clean, with you as the driver in defining how much you let them take from your finite energy resource: Better to spend that energy on yourself and people who make you simply feel happy.
“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass