Expert Insight: Questions of Identity

“In my work with women who experience despair and conflict in their relation to food, I have found that in the first hour they talk about eating.  By the second or third hour they tell me they feel confused and do not know what to do with their lives.  They have little sense of who they are or what they believe.  They are lost, empty, restless, confused and dissatisfied.  They are struggling with all the questions of identity their mothers also faced”.

Kim Chernin, “The Hungry Self”

In many ways, little has changed since Kim Chernin’s book was first published over 30 years ago.

In my work with clients with overeating issues today, I’d say the majority are struggling with questions of identity.  They also feel lost, empty, restless, confused and dissatisfied.  If food is an escape, it’s the discomfort of these feelings they’re often attempting to escape from.

And yet so much has changed in the last 30 years.  Perhaps most notably, we’ve experienced the birth and meteoric rise of social media and, along with it, an ever-increasing culturally-driven obsession with appearance.

Sharing platforms are bursting with people, especially young women, compensating for a lack of authentic self-worth by investing solely in their appearance. Their appearance becomes their identity.

While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying how we look, it’s worth remembering it’s only part of our identity.  Identity also includes our personality, character, values and beliefs.

Obsessing about our appearance (something I’m definitely still guilty of at times) can distract us from our real issues, such as uncovering beliefs that limit our personal development and exploring our place in the world.

So rather than avoiding challenging feelings, what if we allow them to point us in the right direction? What if we use the information they provide to get to know ourselves?  And I mean really get to know ourselves – not the person we wish we were or the one we think we ought to be.

Then perhaps, rather than feeling lost, empty, restless, confused and dissatisfied we may begin to find answers to our individual questions of identity and develop a peaceful relationship with food.

What Do Other People Think Of You?

It’s a beautiful, sunny day and you’re taking a stroll.  A group of girls approaches. As they pass you, they burst into a fit of giggles.

“They’re laughing at me” is your immediate thought, as grey clouds descend in your mind.

You’re having a meal at your favourite restaurant.  You look up mid-mouthful and catch the eye of a fellow diner who’s frowning.

The food instantly turns bitter in your mouth, preceded by the thought: “He thinks I shouldn’t be eating this because I’m fat”.

Continue reading “What Do Other People Think Of You?”

Food for Thought: Anything is Possible

“What you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass” – Paul J. Meyer

It’s the adverbs that make this sentence so meaningful.

He could have said “what you imagine, desire, believe and act upon” but that doesn’t have the same power.  Instead, Meyer colours in the specifics – we must vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe and enthusiastically act upon.

It’s not enough to hope for the best, plod along, see what happens – we have to want it, believe it and make it happen.

Continue reading “Food for Thought: Anything is Possible”

Gentle Reminder: Be Sensitive to Yourself

You’re walking back from the shops one day when, out of the corner of your eye, you sense movement in a nearby alleyway.

As you approach, you realise it’s a little child, about 4 years old.  As she turns her face towards you, you see that she’s crying.  Her expression is a mix of anguish and fear.  She’s alone, save for a small teddy which she’s clutching with both hands.

You bend down in front of her.

Then, you reach into your shopping bag and remove a tube of Pringles, a packet of 12 doughnuts, a family pack of chocolate bars and a large tub of ice-cream.

“Eat these until you feel sick”, you tell her.

Continue reading “Gentle Reminder: Be Sensitive to Yourself”

Expert Insight: What Makes You Truly Happy

“The more you know about what makes you truly happy, the better you will be at finding it. Pleasure, joy, contentment and satisfaction may be sitting on your doorstep, but they’re not going to reach up and ring your bell!”

Karen R. Koenig, “The Food & Feelings Workbook”

Ironically, pleasure, joy, contentment and satisfaction will be ringing my doorbell this afternoon in the shape of two of my best women friends.  We’ve known each other for decades and, although we only get to see each other once or twice a year, we always seem to pick up where we left off.

I have no doubt that during the two days we’ll be together we won’t stop talking unless we’re asleep.  We’ll cry, we’ll talk utter nonsense and we’ll laugh until it hurts which, for three 50-something women, is – let’s face it – a risky endeavour.

In short, we’ll have an Utterly Good Time.

Continue reading “Expert Insight: What Makes You Truly Happy”

What Mask Do You Wear?

As I was showing her into the room for the start of her session last week, a client asked “how are you?”.  I launched into an extensive account of what was going on in my life, including my concerns about my cat’s digestive issues and my feelings about Brexit.  Half an hour later, she got to talk about her stuff.

Of course, this didn’t happen.

Although I strive to be authentic and transparent in my responses to clients, it would be highly inappropriate and unethical for me to talk about myself in this way.

I simply replied “I’m fine, thanks”. Continue reading “What Mask Do You Wear?”