Meet four friends – Beth, Bryony, Bobbie and Belle. Women just like you – similar lives, ages, careers and aspirations. Yet these women, for all their similarities, have very different relationships with their hunger.
Beth spends much of the day starving. It doesn’t feel great but her new celebrity diet book – the one that will surely change her life – states very clearly that she can only eat at 8am, 1pm and 5pm, with a snack at 3. Desperately trying to stick to these times, Beth is preoccupied by the hunger pangs she feels clawing at her stomach. She eats exactly when the clock tells her she can, hungry or not – either ravenously wolfing down her designated helping or forcing down food she does not want. Every day the same, Beth fights her hunger – allowing herself to eat only at times decided by someone else. Controlled, unsatisfied and fed up with dieting, Beth knows that this cannot go on forever.
Bryony’s day sees her teetering on the edge of nausea. Ignoring her body’s hunger patterns, she ploughs through every meal and snack because she feels she must. She must eat breakfast because the experts have told her it’s essential. She should eat a slice (or two) of her friend’s homemade cake because it would be rude to say no. She has to finish every mouthful of her dinner because it would be a waste to leave any on the plate. Every day the same, Bryony doesn’t hear her body’s shouts of ‘I’m full!’ – overeating because she feels dominated by should, must and have to. Locked into a world built of other people’s rules and expectations, Bryony knows that this cannot go on forever.
Bobbie lives each day feeling that her eating is tumbling out of control. Diet plans fail as soon as she hears the biscuit tin pop open and her feelings of failure are submerged in one, two, three, oops, a packet of biscuits. Work stresses are quelled with large gooey slices of cake and her partner’s angry words are silenced with a steaming plate of fish and chips. Every day the same, Bobbie eats for comfort – filling herself with food as it’s the only thing that seems to help. Desperate. scared and desperate to stop comfort eating, Bobbie knows this cannot go on forever.
And Belle – what of her day? Most days, Belle tunes in to her body’s natural hunger signals and eats in response to them. If she is hungry early, she eats early and if not, she waits. If she isn’t hungry at ‘lunchtime’, she doesn’t panic – she knows that her body, in its unique way, will tell her when it needs food. When a close friend offers her homemade flapjack, warm from the oven, she is confident to say ‘Yes please, it looks delicious – can I save a piece for later?’ When she feels hurt or lonely, she might opt for the comfort of a fudge drizzled ice-cream but, more often than not, she chooses to manage her feelings another way. Every day is different! Some days she eats more, some days less, some days she fine-tunes her hunger for a particular event, some days she just goes with the flow. Trusting her own body gives Belle such a feeling of balance and satisfaction that she knows this relationship with food will go on forever.
And are Beth, Bryony and Bobbie just fictional extremes? Look around you, listen to the voices of women you know and examine your own feelings about hunger. We all know a Beth, a Bryony, a Bobbie, maybe a mix of the three – we may even recognise them in our own behaviours.
But Belle – do we really know anyone like her? We do! Meet the real life women from our forum who are tasting the freedom for themselves –
Amy has recently become aware that ‘often when I think I’m hungry, I’m actually experiencing a feeling of emptiness. This feels like a real breakthrough for me because I haven’t really recognised that before, and I think if I can sit with the emptiness then I might be able to find out what feelings are prompting it, or what emotional hunger lies behind it.’
Sunshine1 shouts ‘Freedom!’ in a post where she talks about an averted binge when she was “able to wait another hour until I was physically hungry, and made myself a delicious dinner of a homemade stilton and tomato tartlet, with a crisp, fresh salad,which was what my body really wanted (not the sugary carbs that my head had wanted to binge on).”
Kay simply and succinctly reports that she ‘said no to a biscuit at 11o clock cos i wasn’t hungry.’
Babysteps is ecstatic that she managed to listen to her hunger (or lack of) without offending her friend who had cooked for her. ‘I realised I wasn’t going to be hungry in time for dinner, I went and helped my friend to set the table and simply explained that I wasn’t hungry but that I’d love to take some of what she’d made home. There was actually no awkwardness at all. I was really proud of myself! It felt wonderfully liberating – and so simple! I needn’t have worried at all!’
Karenjane1 has turned breakfast around: ‘I still get a thrill putting the oats into the bowl according to the size of my appetite rather than the recommended portion size on the box, adding honey to taste rather than measuring it out. Taste the Freedom indeed!’
Principle 1: Eat when you’re hungry
It sounds simple enough and it’s not rocket science, but how do you know when you are hungry? Years of restricted and chaotic eating often mean we have become out of touch with our bodies and many of us no longer know how to read the cues. We’ll show you how to go back to basics and respond to your hunger in a way that fits it in with your life. And it doesn’t stop there, if you are eating when you are hungry, what do you do about all the times you eat and hunger has nothing to do with it? There are countless ways of overeating and we all have different names for it. Whether you call it bingeing, comfort eating, treating yourself, or simply eating too much, we will show you how to stop and feel normal and in control around food.