Why my relationship with food is the most complex in my life and needs to change

I’ve written previously about food, primarily in the posts Using food & alcohol as a comfort blanket (Jul 2019 – link here), Time to change for good, starting with body fat (Sep 2019 – link here), Weight-loss update (Feb 2020 – link here), and The mental health benefits of exercise (Jun 2020 – link here). Regular readers will know I really don’t like how I look and this self-consciousness is seemingly one of the root causes of many of my issues. You’d therefore think, then, that addressing this is straightforward: simply lose weight, feel better about myself, feel less conscious / less anxious / more confident, banish many of my mental health issues and live a perfect life? Unfortunately, it isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as that.

In the June 2020 post referenced above, I stated that I had seemingly turned a corner, with exercise, fasting, and healthy eating figuring quite prominently in my life. However, that soon tailed off. Toward the latter end of the year, exercise dwindled and I didn’t maintain the healthy eating and fasting. Snacking crept back into my life, especially during the evenings, and the Christmas period saw me falling back into a number of bad eating habits which have stayed with me during early 2021.

I really don’t know if these eating habits are abnormal or will sound familiar to some. The only person I can make an informed direct comparison with is my wife and we are completely different. She finds it normal to eat our main meal and then nothing else for the remainder of the evening. On the rare occasions that she does snack, she has the self-restraint to, for example, open a packet of Galaxy Minstrels and eat 4 or 5 and leave it at that, whereas I would demolish the whole bag in a matter of minutes. I just can’t discipline myself to eat like that. If I eat a meal, I have to clear the plate – I really wish I were like my father-in-law, who I can’t recall ever seeing finishing a full plate of food (he stops eating when he feels he has had enough), but I’m not. Every last morsel has to go. If I eat chocolate, it’s a whole bar or packet. If I eat crisps, I can quite easily go back for bag number 2, 3 or even 4. I can eat a family bag of crisps with ease. When presented with size options, I always go large. Pizzas are always 12” rather than 9”. That is how it has always been with me. Eating this way is bad enough but even more so when it happens during the evening, with routine always proving to be an issue. It feels as though part of each evening has to include snacking on something. It doesn’t feel right if I don’t, or at least I tell myself that. I know I shouldn’t. I know I’ll feel better in the morning if I abstain. Yet I still raid the cupboards.

I often wonder why that is. Like the Tom & Jerry cartoons I used to love as a kid, it feels as though I have a good and bad Tom in my head, both trying to spur me on in completely different directions. Good Tom is telling me that I shouldn’t eat at all during the evening; that it’s actually good to go to bed feeling a little hungry; that I’ll feel much better in the morning. Bad Tom is telling me that life is too short and those crisps / chocolates / biscuits are there to be enjoyed. Good Tom is clearly the voice of reason though Bad Tom is the one preying on my weaknesses; the one leading me to favour instant gratification, lose myself in the moment of indulging in pleasurable yet unhealthy food, and consider it to be a comfort blanket. I know the good voice is the one to take notice of – we all do – but it’s just so damned difficult. I even give myself reasons – most of which are utterly nonsensical – to justify the eating. It’s been a hard week at work; I’m tired and need to unwind; we’re in the midst of strange times right now so it’s ok to just allow myself a little treat – all of these are clearly ridiculous when reading them here yet in the moment, with a sweet tooth and a rumbling stomach, they seem perfectly valid excuses.

So, what now? Given that this is the fifth blog post in which I’m directly addressing the subject of food, with there having been no change since I first wrote about it almost two years ago, where do I go from here? Well, again, as stated in all previous posts, I know I have to change but things are a little different now. I simply have to knuckle down. As this is an honest blog, I must admit that Covid has spooked me a little. I know people my age who have contracted it and got through it without any significant issues though, despite having no serious underlying health problems, I was, and continue to be, a little concerned about just how I would manage if I contracted the disease, primarily due to the impact my weight and general lack of fitness might have. I’m also conscious that my wife has concerns. Whilst she doesn’t mention it too much, I know she would like to see me a few stone lighter and generally healthier.

I keep telling myself the benefits that I’ll enjoy as a result of getting fit. The increased energy; less tiredness; potentially improving ongoing niggling health issues I have (intermittent back problems and a couple of other minor problems); hopefully helping some of my mental health issues (certainly low self-esteem); being present more; being a better husband and father; and having a greater appreciation of life in general. I have to keep this internal dialogue going, rather than the one that suggests it’s ok to snack; the one that says that health is something I can address at some point in the future. That’s the problem with ‘some point in the future’ though – the running time of the movie of my life story is reducing with each passing day. The time to act is now. I’ve created the attached image to coincide with this post – I think I’ll print it off and stick it on the fridge, cupboard doors, biscuits box, and wrap our takeaway menus in it. Given how important this is to me right now, and I really don’t want to be writing a similar follow-up post in 3-4 months’ time, I may even have that image tattooed onto the insides of my eyelids. Extreme, I know, but I’d rather go to sleep each night dreaming of that than the contents of the local Domino’s menu…

As always, thanks for reading, stay safe, and please do try to be kind to others and to yourself.

Best wishes and take care.

Mick

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