As I write this post I am getting ready to fly off to Rome and celebrate my 40th birthday which will include lots of good food, cake and old friends. Forty years old - wow! It's funny, I still feel like a teenager (and sometimes like a toddler!) and yet I can also see how I've changed over the years, especially the last decade.
One of the biggest changes over the past 10 years has been my relationship with food and my body. It was around my 30th birthday that I decided to stop dieting for ever and embark on a journey which has touched every part of my life. I never imagined back then just how far reaching this decision would be. At the time, it was just the only possible answer to years of frustrated and failed dieting, to constantly worrying about food and my weight, to the despairingly predictable yo-yoing between deprivation and bingeing. And it was. It was, and still is, the only way I know to feel in control and in balance around food and how I feel about my body.
And yet it goes so much further than that because Beyond Chocolate is about so much more than simply feeling happy with the way I eat and comfortable in my body. Living a life Beyond Chocolate has shaped so many other aspects of my life...
I am kinder, more tolerant and generally 'softer' these days and I know that this is mostly due to being kinder, more tolerant and 'softer' with myself. I used to be so hard on myself. I would spend the whole time berating myself for being fat and out of control, for failing at diets, for being weak and lacking willpower. And I was hard on others too. I was quick to judge, impatient with weaknesses and unforgiving of faults. These days the kindness and compassion I show to myself, I also show to others. The more I like myself, the more I seem to like everyone else.
I have also become much better at setting boundaries, at protecting myself and generally at saying 'no'. Overeating and being overweight went hand in hand with desperately wanting to be loved, needed and appreciated. The more I squashed and moulded myself to fit in with other people's expectations, the more I ate to deal with the feelings of anger, resentment and frustration that often came with it. I buried those feelings under a mountain of food and let my fat say 'no' for me. I am much better today at dealing with the demands of a relationship, at taking care of myself and making sure that my needs are met. Learning how to say 'no' to myself and others has been life changing and, ironically, I believe it has made me a more lovable, supportive and appreciated person.
There are many other changes that I can see as a direct result of transforming my relationship with food and my body: I don't compare myself to other women and put myself in competition with them all the time anymore. I don't do it with the women I know and I don't do it with the women I see on TV or in the magazines (in fact, I don't really read magazines anymore). I like the way I look (on most days) and follow my own instinctive brand of fashion. It's affected the way I deal with illness, the way I parent and, of course, it has shaped my career!
I have developed a real passion for cooking. Once the diet foods were out of the equation and I could truly eat whatever I wanted, a whole new world of ingredients and dishes opened up to me and I have embraced this love affair with the kitchen whole heartedly. I'm thrilled that this passion has also become part of my job as being the 'Kitchen Fairy' and passing it on is hugely gratifying.
There are so many other things I could talk about. So many other areas of my life which have been touched by this wonderful journey...by living my life Beyond Chocolate but I really must go and dig out my strappy heels and paint my toenails.
So I'll leave you with a question. How has Beyond Chocolate changed your life beyond food and body confidence, or if you're a newbie, how do you think it could?