In my line of work, I can see a lot of unhappiness around food. People can talk about food in a very clinical way to manage acute and chronic conditions. I experienced this first hand during my early days of living with diabetes. I thought if sugar and carbohydrates was the problem I would just cut all of it out and that would be the fix I needed. Needless to say, I was very wrong. Not only did I feel miserable; all the artificial sweeteners made me feel physically ill.
I like to think that I’ve become wiser since those days. I learned not to blame myself for diabetes and that living with diabetes means lots of trial and errors, good days and bad. And of course, when you yourself you can’t eat certain foods, those foods become the only thing you want. More importantly, that line between changing your eating habits and disordered eating behaviours can be very blurred and fine.
Food has played such an integral part of my life since I was a kid. We would always gather as a family around food and the most delicious spreads would play an important part in all our celebrations. Traditions and culture even weighed heavily into the foods that we ate from birthday celebrations to exam preparation. There was a dish for every event. I have many fond memories when I think of certain dishes such as sitting around peeling the fibrous outer layers of English spinach or preparing beansprouts with my mum and grandmother.
Then as we grew up, the screens told us that food was making us fat and we had to be skinny to be healthy. Suddenly, instead of enjoying food, people starting sneaking about it. Words like guilt-free; indulgence; sinful are used to describe things that we should be enjoying anyway. It breaks my heart to hear how people talk about food sometimes.
Of course, I’m not saying that we should be stuffing our face with food all the time. It is all about achieving balance and even more so about mindfulness. Listen to your body and enjoy the foods that you want. We are lucky to live in a world with such amazing culinary delights, it is not wrong to enjoy them! At the same time, balance that out by going for a walk after that meal or park a little bit further so you walk that little bit more. There are so many easy ways to keep active without going to the gym and each little bit contributes to achieving that balance.
There are moments where I struggle with this balance for a mass of reasons. And that’s okay too. It’s okay to have a bad day, it happens to all of us. Write it off, rest, sulk, cry, but the important thing is how you come back from it. Reset and tackle the next day fresh. I also find going for a quick walk in some fresh air very helpful. (Unless it’s raining; because I melt in the rain.)
I can feel this slow and subtle change in the world around our perceptions and attitudes towards food, body confidence and mindfulness. And I look forward to the day where everyone can enjoy foods without judgement and guilt. Food is so much more than nutrients and energy, food is culture, laughter, love and joy.