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Case study: I used to feel food was controlling me

Christine Chapman

Christine Chapman, 63, is a career and life coach. Years of dieting left her no happier with her body, but she lost more than 6 kilograms after seeking help from psychologist Helen McCarthy.

My weight has gone up and down over the years. I started dieting when I was 15 after reading about it in magazines, and I became obsessed with demonising certain foods. I’d binge, then cut down, binge, then cut down. As a teenager I was slim but I remember some girl told a friend of mine that I looked fat and I was mortified. Then, when I was pregnant with my first child, I put on 19 kilograms.

At times I’ve felt guilty about my weight. When you’re younger you’re not as confident and you do internalise stereotypes about fat people having a lack of willpower.

But it wasn’t just that I felt I had a weight problem. I also gradually got very obsessed with food and I felt like it was controlling me. In some ways I felt enslaved to it. I’d set myself strict rules about what I could eat in a day, but then when I was stressed, I’d end up having not just one cake, but two – and perhaps I’d even go back for the third.

My resolution would go out of the window when I was tired. I’d come home from work and have a healthy dinner, but then I’d get fed up and I’d cut big wedges of bread and make myself porridge as well. This was quite a regular thing, so of course over the years I put on weight.

How I freed myself from food ruling my life

The turning point for me came in 2016., I was taking part in some work training and we had to bring a problem to the meeting so we could be coached in public. I thought, ‘Right, I’m going to talk about this problem of my eating.’ One of the women on the course offered me her advice. She said: ‘I think you ought to have some therapy for this.’ Something clicked, and that’s when I went to see Helen.

When I look back on that moment I feel so pleased that the woman said what she did, because she picked up on something in me.

It wasn’t just about the weight. Yes, I wanted to lose a bit of weight, but I wanted more than a quick fix. I wanted to work out what the deep-seated issues with my eating were.

Helen really turned my life around. I saw her for just over a year and she helped me listen to my body, rather than listening to my cravings. For me, it’s all about portion size. I now eat everything I want to – and I mean everything.

I can enjoy it and stop before I get that dreadful stuffed feeling. It’s like something is different in my brain. I never binge like I used to, even when I get stressed. I feel that even if there are tough times ahead I’m resilient and confident that I won’t go back to old habits.

I really think I’ve cracked a sustainable approach to healthy eating. The weight is dropping off me and I’m really pleased with the way I look. But even if I get on the scales tomorrow and I’ve put on a few kilos – well, it’s not a big deal. I really do feel free.

“I wanted more than a quick fix. I wanted to work out what the deep-seated issues with my eating were”

First published: Feb 2020

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