This week a look at the emotional factors in our lives which can hinder our approach to a healthy lifestyle. It is extremely rare for people to have a perfect life. It is usually a balance of good and challenging learning experiences but some people have a dreadful start in life. This creates an uphill path that takes courage and also determination to overcome.
I was very lucky to have had a warm and loving family and many of the events that were damaging to my emotional health were self-inflicted.
There were physical triggers but it was also the emotional factors that I had failed to deal with that also created a barrier to me dealing with my eating and weight issues.
Chapter Five.. The Emotional Factor.
Fairy tales are a part of childhood. They are wonderful stories that leave a child spellbound. Real life, unfortunately, is not quite the same. Many people have experienced major emotional ups and downs since their early childhood and hearing their stories can make you count your own blessings.
My family always offered me love and stability. My two sisters did everything with me. Two of my stronger memories from my time in Ceylon are of my sister Diana taking me swimming and my sister Sonia making me smocked dresses with ‘knickers to match’. One of my party pieces was to flash these knickers whenever I was complimented on my dresses, a habit I thankfully soon grew out of.
My brother, who arrived when I was four, knocked me off my perch as the baby of the family and like any child of that age with a distinct lack of communication skills; I decided that acting up and being a pain would help divert attention back to me.
All in all, my early childhood brought travel and memorable experiences that I shared with the family. My teenage years were also normal, with boys coming and going and I suffered no serious damage to heart or ego.
I was on the rebound from my first serious romance when I met my former husband. Only nineteen and ‘a woman of the world’, I was swept off my feet by this tall, dark and good-looking man who was six years older than me. We were engaged by the spring and married five months later in a lavish wedding with all the trimmings. The fairy tale was not to have a happy ending. The simple reason was that our love was not strong enough to overcome the differences between us or the challenges we faced during our five years together.
Relationships are about two people and it is two people who end up suffering in these situations. It was the most emotionally devastating time of my life and food certainly was my drug of choice.
For years I carried the pain and the sense of failure that invariably follow after a broken marriage, but ultimately I learned to move on. However, over the years, talking to many other people about their lives has helped me to see that nearly everyone has suffered from some form of emotional trauma in their life. Childhood abuse, broken marriages and miscarriages are far more common than we think. The mystery to me is that, if it is so common, why are we are not better prepared for it?
However, whilst not quite a fairy tale, my own story also has a happy ending. Life can be wonderful and I know that if I had not experienced the challenges in my first marriage I would not appreciate my second as much as I do. Taking lessons from disastrous experiences does put a positive spin on it.
The last thirty-five years have been great, but there have still been times when the two of us had to make an extra effort to maintain the strength of our relationship. David and I have lived and worked apart quite a lot. When we lived in two countries, only seeing each other once a month, it was particularly difficult, because we are not just husband and wife, we are friends too. I enjoy our conversations, going to the movies together and sharing a weird sense of humour.
I would be lying if I said that we had a perfect marriage, but then I don’t believe that such a thing exists. Writers of romance novels and films have perpetuated the myth of the ideal marriage. I do believe, however, in a partnership where two people, often very different, can come together in a relationship founded on a strong friendship spiced with a healthy dash of passion and emotion. David and I are strong-minded people and like getting our own way, but we have a good marriage and I think that I would be bored stiff if it was all peaches and cream.
As a young woman, my expectations of marriage and life in general were seriously unrealistic. I believed that I would be swept off my feet, have lots of children and live happily ever after. I was emotionally immature and naïve and so had some tough lessons to learn. This is just part of the learning that we have to do as we grow up, and it has done me no real harm. Looking back over the years, I can see how I have evolved into the person I am today. I can also recognise when food played an active part in my emotions of the day, as much a reward as a consolation.
How many times did our parents tell us that, if we were good, we could have some sweets? If we were hurt, we were given chocolate to make the pain go away. We were told that, if we finished all our dinner, we could have pudding. Do you hate cabbage and love biscuits? We were told that there were starving children in Africa and we must never waste the food on our plate. How many of you today treat yourself to a bar of chocolate if you have been good, or had a hard day? It is truly remarkable how strong a link there is between how we feel and how and what we eat.
I have learned some positive lessons from my experiences and know that I will certainly learn more in time to come. Life is like that. Of course we must dream and plan for the future, but it is always wise to expect the unexpected, and to be strong enough to handle it when it comes. Encouragement, love and loyalty from those around us are far more useful than the ability to unwrap a chocolate bar. A support network of friends and family and the ability to build on our own strengths are vital elements in our personal development. It is amazing how different things look when we feel great and look good. It then becomes possible to turn some major dramas back into the minor soap-operas they really are.
Identifying the emotional highs and lows of my life enabled me to see that, when something went wrong, I turned to food as a source of comfort. I had now reached the point where I could see the need to develop more constructive behaviour and it became obvious that I required help in transforming the habits of a lifetime. I realised that it was necessary to translate the information I had gathered into a working program that was mentally, physically and emotionally balanced. To lose 150 lbs. (10 st 10 lbs., 68 kg) in a healthy way, over an extended period of time, was the challenge. The time for reminiscing was over and I was ready to do the work.
I studied and obtained nutritional therapy qualifications; researched health issues connected to lifestyle and diet and read every book or article I could get my hands on. I wanted to solve my own problem in the beginning but discovered that I could share this vital knowledge with others and help them take back control of their weight and health issues too. I applied all the management expertise I had gained over the previous twenty years to planning the project: I set myself some realistic and achievable objectives and applied good measurement procedures. I followed the principle that you are not really aiming to get to your goal if you do not measure where you are, on a regular basis, just to see if you are getting closer.
The next chapters outline the project plan that has taken me to where I am today. When you come to complete your own plan, much of the detailed work will have been done for you. With luck, the lessons I learnt the hard way will make it easier for you to tailor your own plan to achieve your target weight.
Some of the solutions that I first offered when I began writing this book 18 years ago were based on my theories at the time. Thankfully many of those theories have been backed up in recent years with scientific studies. They have also been verified by the results achieved by my clients putting those theories into practice. The good news is that I have now created some shortcuts for you that will make achieving your weight and health goals much easier.
All I ask is that you read the next chapters with an open mind. Complete the analysis part of the program before you actually try to lose weight. It is essential that you understand the reasons why you became overweight in the first place. This is a three-dimensional eating program, designed by you to achieve your target weight loss. I can illustrate here the solutions I used for my own success, but you will probably have to come up with one or two of your own. The more you put into this part of the exercise, the more you will own it. Ownership is very empowering and I promise that, once you begin to feel in control, you will not give up easily.
Previous chapters are here:-
©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters – 2001 – 2015
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