Monday, 7 March 2011

Comfort eating with awareness

Gretel Hallet, came on our Chocolate Fairy Training in 2008 and is 1 day and 1/2 day workshops in Norwich.  If you live in the area and would like to attend a Beyond Chocolate course, Gretel would love to hear from you!  Meet Gretel.

A relative of mine by marriage has just died.  I’m not emotionally attached to this relative, but someone close to me is and what affects them affects me.  It’s also difficult to watch someone that I’ve known for many years in the last stages of their life.  Particularly when that person was in pain and distress and no longer responded to us, except occasionally to their own name, and then only briefly.  I feel inadequate because I don’t know what to do or say and am worried that I’ll do or say something that will make matters worse.

In one way this has taken away my appetite – it’s taken away my zest for food and my interest in food.  In another way I feel an urge to eat because that was always my default response to stress or distress in the past.  My stomach, not being subject to these opposing pressures, reminds me audibly if it wants feeding and I have been responding to that prompt, but without much enjoyment.

This is an interesting experience for me as I’ve lived for 46 years with very little of this kind of experience.  I’ve been lucky.  My stresses and distresses have been other sorts, but the response was always the same; I turned to food. 

This time I’ve found myself eating aimlessly, almost as if doing so would fill up a hole where I feel I should be doing something – but at the moment, there’s nothing I can do.  I can’t turn back the clock and stop that person from dying.  I can’t imagine how it feels to the person who’s close to me and did care about the deceased.  I can only support where I can and that doesn’t feel enough to me.  So this weekend just gone I was wandering round the house aimlessly eating. 

What I ate was interesting.  I went for some of the things I used to binge on – at this time of year it’s Cadbury’s mini eggs.  I have a jar full on the shelf above my desk at home.  I also ate a lion bar I didn’t want and a piece off a new chocolate bar that I’d bought to try out.  I ate some cake we’d bought and a cookie I’d baked, and then some more mini eggs.  Actually, when I look back at what I ate, it was very little compared with what I used to get through in a binge.

Something has changed, then.  My world has been knocked slightly of its axis by this death, but my response was muted compared with my response to emotional matters in the pasts.  Beyond Chocolate has enabled me to become very aware of what I am doing and often why I’m doing that.  I was never this aware before.  Beyond Chocolate has helped me to realise that sometimes I need to eat when I’m not hungry and even if I’m not enjoying it, if only to allow myself to experience my response to distress.  Beyond Chocolate has also taught me that this emotional eating isn’t the end of the world.  So I over-ate on chocolate this weekend?  So what?  That doesn’t mean I’ve ‘failed’, it doesn’t mean I may as well binge for the rest of the week because I’ve ‘fallen off the wagon’, it doesn’t mean I have to ‘start again’ next week.

So what does it mean, then?  It means that I was sad this weekend.  I turned to some old comforters and found they no longer helped.  It means that Beyond Chocolate is ‘working’ for me; that I have moved on in my response to distress and that I’m learning how to manage my emotions without swamping them with food.  It means that I feel a whole lot better about myself than I have for a long time.


  1. Karen, Sheffield8 March 2011 at 10:51

    Wonderful, insightful post Gretel. One I've printed off to absorb slowly. I can totally relate to this post and I find your words very helpful. Thank you. x

  2. I'm glad that this has struck a chord with you, Karen.
    Best wishes

  3. Are you feeling better, Gretel?
    Thanks for sharing...
    I agree that Beyond Chocolate (and other intuitive eating literature) helps us become more aware of what we do and why we are doing it. Awareness is sooo important!

  4. Lovely piece Gretel - it really spoke to me about the distinction between bingeing before BC (painful and shameful) and the new perception of the behaviour in BC. I love this phrase: "Beyond Chocolate has helped me to realise that sometimes I need to eat when I’m not hungry and even if I’m not enjoying it, if only to allow myself to experience my response to distress."
    This is so true and I love that it happens.
    Go gently, I hope all goes as well as possible.

  5. this has realy made me asses my journey with beyond chocolate. i thought that i wasn't making much progress(it's been 16 months)but now i realise that things have subtley changed and i feel proud of myself. thankyou

  6. I would like to echo the comments above. Thank you for a very thought-provoking piece.

  7. Hi Gretel

    Thank you so much for this deeply moving post.

  8. Yes, thank you Gretel, I love a bit of honest heartfelt writing, it really spoke to me.
    denise xx

  9. You are both very welcome - I find it really helps me to write things out - it puts them into perspective and helps me to move on.


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