Friday 15 April 2011

Beyond Chocolate takes courage...

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.


  1. And, isn't it true, that it sometimes takes critical situations like this to pare us back to the essence of our beings and to show us where courage is important? I think so often in our day to day lives we are so overborne by everything else that we miss what we should really be doing. Thinking of you all. xx

  2. Thank you for sharing this sophie. I am really touched. take care Denise xx

  3. A really amazing post. Grief is one of those things that we need to go through - there is no way around. What you said and the way you said it echoes so closely the book I am reading: Heart-Broken Open by Kristine Carlson, a memoir she wrote about the death of her husband Richard Carlson (writer of self-help books like 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff'). She discusses how she let herself grieve -- and also how some people didn't understand what she was doing -- how in our society it seems more normal to disctract ourselves and avoid pain. Thanks for sharing. I am sure your post will help others who are grieving or have grieving yet to come (as we all do).

  4. Sophie - thank you so much for sharing with us. As you say Beyond Chocolate really does take courage - courage to stay with what hurts instead of moving away in whichever way we chose and I so appreciate you writing and sharing how it is for you.

    BC is life-changing for so many of us....I am reminded how much I appreciate you and Audrey for creating a platform for such intimate and loving sharing - your creation and sustaining of Beyond Chocolate is an act of humanity that benefits me and so many others.

    Thinking of you....

  5. A very powerful post that brought tears to my eyes and reminded me how valuable it is to allow myself to feel and not squash feelings with food. I've been going through a grieving process too and am finding it more healing to let the feelings happen than cover them up with anything. I hope you are starting to come to terms with your loss and grief now.

  6. Sophie

    Thank you for this inspiring post which is beautifully written. I am so sorry for your loss.



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