I've been unwell lately, some horrid stomach bug type thing which has been dragging on for ages and has really floored me. And yet I soldier on. Like so many women I find it difficult - make that impossible - to put myself at the top of my priorities list. It is unthinkable to stop striving to be the "perfect" mum, partner, business woman, friend, daughter. And of course, the more exhausted I become, the further I stray from that ideal of perfection. I become irritable and unreliable, forgetful and overwhelmed. So now I'm sick AND beating myself up for not being 'perfect'. And that's when I turn to my good old friend - food.
It still takes me by surprise, after all these years, how food can fill the void. Instead of acknowledging that I need to retire under my duvet and get some rest, I grab a Snickers and carry on. Instead of asking for help (and accepting it gratefully), I cram down a packet of crisps and put another load of washing on. Instead of switching off my phone and ignoring my inbox for the day, I guzzle another Coke and get back to work.
Food does the trick at some level. It soothes, it provides instant energy, it comforts and distracts me, it feels like a little reward for keeping it together. It's so much easier than admitting that I am at the end of my tether and that I need a break. So much easier to eat than to stop - even if it's just for 5 minutes.
It doesn't really help. I still feel exhausted after the Snickers, still feel overwhelmed after the crisps and still feel panicked by the contents of my inbox after the Coke. Because in the end food is just that - food. It isn't a hug, it isn't a nap, it isn't a helping hand. It's just food.
I'm lucky, having spent so many years living by the Beyond Chocolate principles and teaching women how to make them work in their lives, I have a heightened sense of awareness concerning my relationship with food and it doesn't take much to set the alarm bells ringing and bring me back to earth.
This is evening, as I sat down to write the Beyond Chocolate newsletter with a bowl of chocolate covered peanuts I didn't want and wasn't hungry for I heard the distant chiming somewhere in the back of my brain. Ding Dong! Wakey, wakey! You don't need chocolate, you need sleep!
So, I'm about to post this blog entry, switch off my computer and go to bed. I won't fold the laundry, I'll trust that my partner can fix himself something for dinner and I will accept that the emails will have to wait another day. I know that by looking after myself and listening to what I need, to what I am really hungry for, I am doing myself - and everyone around me - a big favour. Tomorrow I will be refreshed, rested and ready to take the world on, and one step closer to being the 'perfect' me I want to be - without the help of chocolate covered peanuts.
How can you take care of yourself today today instead of turning to food?