It’s Monday morning and already my mobile is buzzing. Clients are texting for appointments, sending messages or leaving voicemails. The theme is the same. “I went out on the weekend and I binged”, “I stuffed myself”, “I got onto the scale today… I hate myself. I feel gross. Why do I always do this?”, “I’ve got nothing to wear today”, “I’m wearing my fat clothes today”, “I was so good the whole week, and I blew this weekend. I hate myself.”

Isn’t it time to stop treating eating as something that is earnt?

This is so sad, and more especially because these messages are not only from teen girls, but rather cut across gender and age. I ask you the question: Isn’t it time to stop treating eating as something that is earnt, something that we control according to set rules and variables but to rather recognise it for what it is? A basic, evolutionary survival function that is required for life. Is it not time to acknowledge that we can have food, to allow ourselves to feel comfortable and nourished?

When we spend the week following an eating pattern that is restrictive, controlled and often, unrealistic we lose out on the pleasure of food and eating. We may go hungry, get hangry and obsess over numbers and our body. Diets often feel like a punishment and cause body dissatisfaction and a host of other negative self-beliefs (along with the inevitable weight gain). We set ourselves up for either night time overeating/bingeing or the weekend splurges. But think about it, bingeing or overeating is actually a natural and adaptive response to perceived or real physical or emotional deprivation. This is a biologically driven survival response because restriction is a threat to our very existence. When our body is under threat, it needs to stock up on things that will fuel and sustain it… and celery sticks don’t do the trick.

Restricting foods leaves you feeling deprived, which can cause an overwhelming, undeniable urge to eat.

Unfortunately, we are our own worst enemy. We set ourselves up for the inevitable. Skipping breakfast, or not having enough to eat the during the day sets us up for that sugar slump and need to “fuel up”. Stop undereating. Restricting foods leaves you feeling deprived, which can cause an overwhelming, undeniable urge to eat. Next thing you know, you’re coming out of an eating binge overwhelmed with feelings of shame, guilt and remorse.

They say a journey begins with the first step. And that is all it takes. Just one small step. Nobody says it is easy, but if you continue to repeat the same old, you know, you will get the same old!! Those voices in your head that say things like, “I can start my diet again today, and it will work this time” or “Don’t eat breakfast, you don’t need it”, those voices came for a reason at a time and age to support you and to help you feel in control and safe. But what they are saying is not a truth and neither are they fact.

So, tomorrow morning when the urge to skip breakfast or grab the smallest piece of fruit pulls… pause! Check in with your body. Notice what you are feeling. Take a breath. Pause again. Notice… Connect to your body. Your body is wise, it has kept you on this planet all these years. Listen to its message. Listen to what it needs. Eat the food that will satisfy you, not the food you can control. Although in the beginning this will feel frightening and overwhelming, and you might feel fearful that you will overindulge, over the weeks you’ll start to feel more in control and confident around food, so that no matter what you eat, you’ll know that it doesn’t have to come at a cost.

Trying anything new comes with discomfort, uncomfortable feelings and setbacks. The challenge is to get back into the saddle. The challenge is to disregard the years of listening to diet culture, family programming and give yourself permission to love yourself and your body. Give yourself permission to break free from food rules and begin to make peace with food so that you can reconnect to your body and its innate wisdom.