For most of my life I have been a doer. I’ve been the kind of person who, faced with a problem, wants to leap into action and do something about it. I don’t want to think about it, I don’t want to consider my options, I just want to sort it. To work out the best solution as quickly as possible and do whatever needs to be done.
Sometimes when there isn’t an obvious solution, when there’s nothing much to be done or when I just can’t think of the right thing to do, I feel frustrated and anxious… and that’s when my overeating gremlin barges its way in and comes up with it’s favorite fix-all - food!
The past few weeks have been one of the few times in my life when there has been nothing to do. I spent the last days of March with my father, his last days, in hospital, sitting by his bedside, holding his hand, sitting and just being. There was nothing I could do to make him feel better, nothing I could do to stop him dying. All I could do was just sit with him and be there. And many times my jittery Gremlin who just couldn’t bear the discomfort and pain of doing nothing would whisper in my ear “Why not have a bit of chocolate, go on, just a little bit. It will be so soothing to eat, to give yourself something sweet, it will distract you from feeling so helpless and sad, go on, this is a special situation”. But what I realised as I gave myself a moment to tune in, is that no amount of chocolate could sweeten that moment, no matter how much cake or biscuits I would eat, my father was going to die and I was going to feel whatever I was feeling. So I allowed myself to feel. I sat with him and felt desperate, I felt sad and anxious and angry. And I soothed myself, wrapped my arms around myself (literally and metaphorically) and I reassured myself. I reminded myself that pain, however deep and uncomfortable comes in waves, it would not stay so acute for ever. It would come and go. And I sat with him and held his hand. I sat by his bedside and to give myself the occasional break from holding his hand, I knitted. I knitted cotton dishcloths. It gave me something to do (and being a doer is ok, I don't want to fight it). The beauty of knitting is that it doesn't require concentration and it doesn't take me away from my feelings (like food does). Sitting and knitting helped me to hold myself, to stay put and to be there fully, for me and for my dad.
And I am discovering that there’s not much to be done about grief either. There is nothing I can do to make it go away, to speed it up or to control it. It too comes in waves and allowing myself to feel, rather than being afraid of the feelings, means not only that food takes a back seat but that I feel more alive and more peaceful.
What I’ve realised over the past month is that being willing to work on our relationship with food, takes courage. Dieting takes willpower, and both the aim and the result is weight-loss. Beyond Chocolate takes courage, lots of it, the courage to feel, the courage to be, the courage to stop running away from ourselves and from our lives, the aim is to transform the way we eat and the way we feel about ourselves and the result is freedom.