3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

shipwrek2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

For some losing weight is simply a case of reducing the amount of calories they take and increasing their exercise. Some people have no issues with doing this when they need to and can easily and successfully manage their weight without any real problems.

However for others, things aren’t that simple and this was true for me. I had a very complex relationship with food and my excess weight, which got in the way and stopped me from achieving the success I craved.

For people like me, more work is required, often involving looking back at past events, to try and identify and understand what is happening, why and what you can do to change this.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” Stephen R Covey

Food and eating it has long since been linked to emotions and providing comfort to people and this was certainly the case for me. I realised as I embarked on this journey that I needed to do something different if I was ever going to find success.

As I mentioned previously in the first post, I had tried many different approaches to losing weight in the past, with only very limited success and short lived results. I really felt that I couldn’t afford to ‘mess about’ this time and I needed a complete approach and to delve deeper than I had before, to put right what I began to realise was wrong.


In the past, about 10 years ago, I was prescribed with art therapy to help me identify some of the underlying issues that I had developed with food. However at that time I wasn’t in a place mentally, or physically, as I had to leave the course early, where I could truly utilise the opportunity.

But I have learned that nothing that you experience or learn is a waste, it’s all stored in your memories and hard drive. So I decided to reflect back on the sessions that I had had in the past and revisit what was discussed and how I felt about them.


This was the start of me beginning to unravel the issues and the tentative start of redrawing the flawed blueprint I had been living from.

Through using a number of techniques, including,

  • Self-reflection and writing a journal.
  • Talking to people close to me about my thoughts and experiences
  • Reading information about eating disorders and ways to overcome them
  • Reading and completing self-help tasks, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)

I managed to identify a number of life events that took place during the course of my childhood, adolescence, including teenage pregnancy and Postpartum Psychosis  (a rare form of post-natal depression) and adult life, like being a single parent to children with autism. Where I sought food as a tonic and developed unhealthy destructive ‘coping’ mechanisms to help me deal with situations that I had struggled to make sense of.

Instead of dealing with these at the time, due to a number of reasons, I suppressed them and tried to solider on like everything was Okay. However like weeds, these underlying feelings and emotions found a route to the surface, which for me was a series of eating habits that formed into what would become ‘eating disordersweed 2

To the outside world I was fine, however in reality I was far from this and this unhealthy relationship continued to flourish and in the background I had created a blueprint or programme which silently run, ‘protecting’ me from harm – or so I subconsciously thought.

Comfort eating, binging, to the point of feeling physically sick, then purging and secret eating were all habits that I had identified. I even managed to locate, for some of these, times when they either began or where I had turned to the ‘safety’ of this behaviour.

I remember feeling extremely agitated when I felt like binging, it would build and build until I would embark on an eating frenzy that would put jaws to shame. Cramming endless random items of food down my neck, anything that was in really, that didn’t need much thought or preparation. Until the urge passed.

I would then begin the ritual of self-loathing, feeling dreadful and like a failure.

Why could I not exercise some control? Why did I not stop when I was feeling full? Why did I even buy half the crap that was in my cupboards? Why was I so weak?

I was never going to lose weight or succeed! I was a failure!!!

These recriminations, often resulted in me heading to the bathroom to try to undo what I had just done, by making myself sick. I remember leaning over the basin, trying desperately to get rid of everything I had devoured in my last session and would stay there doing this until I felt sure I had put things right.

Of course none of this behaviour was right. Eating until you could barely move and then removing it again with the act of making yourself sick, was far from this. I would come to call this my ‘self destruct mode’. Where rational thought didn’t exist and I lived in a turbulent volatile world of extremes, binging and sometimes purging, sometimes sitting in extreme discomfort and continually self berating myself for being so weak.

Understanding and identifying these instances was the first step, but these behaviours were embedded and intrinsically linked to pretty much every aspect of who I was. Just because I had gained some sense of awareness in knowing they existed, didn’t automatically fix them.

I also began to realise that physical aspects of my excess weight, gave me a measure of safety and provided me with a shroud to hide within. One where I could dwell in relative safety and no one could bother or hurt me.


DSCF1383I remember during one of the therapy sessions, actually seeing and identifying this. I felt like I was viewing the world through a mask. I could even see the eyelets you would see if actually wearing a physical mask.

My excess weight had become a tool in which to hide in plain sight, like the cloak that Harry Potter wore, I, the real me, could move around undetected.

There were some obvious flaws in this plan, one I was obese, unhealthy and deeply unhappy and two this place of safety had now become more of a cell within a self-imposed jail.DSCF0515

This came as a bit of a shock, but also a revelation as I could now begin to see that I did actually hold the keys to my own release. I just needed to find them and then find where I’d hidden the lock…

To truly begin to address these deep seated issues I had to dig deep and remove the weeds I’d uncovered – from the roots. Replacing them with new seeds of ‘coping strategies’ and healthier habits that would replace the misguided safety net I had unwittingly created.

In essence I started to develop new ways to deal with lifes pressures.

But like anything newly planted, I needed to nurture and cultivate these seeds and shoots, so that they would grow healthy and strong. And be able to stand up to all the elements and tests that life would inevitably throw at them.

DSCF1272 - Copy

I had to practice new my behaviours repeatedly so that they would become the norm. I also needed to remember that it takes at least 6 weeks of repeatedly, consistently practicing an action before it becomes a habit. (Remember I said that this became my mantra, to help me when I deviated or struggled with the old feelings and urges)

My next steps involved beginning to re-program my brain and subconscious, to develop new ways of coping and ‘unlearn’ the destructive habits I’d depended for so long in the past.

For me this involved several approaches, I didn’t have access to therapy sessions now, so I pulled together my own ‘toolkit’ to help me.


  • using visualisation techniques I began to look forwards into what I wanted to achieve and learned to clearly see a vivid picture of what this could look like, and after a bit of practice, feel like for me
  • using conscious eating techniques to ‘consciously eat food’ (you would be amazed at how often you’re not!) I became aware of the amount and quality of what I was eating. In the past I often had no idea of what I’d eaten and I would eat so fast I never truly enjoyed it either!
  • reading a number of self-help books & DVD’s, including Hypnosis, I learned greater understanding, acceptance and ways to change and ‘take control’ of my relationship with food
  • beginning to practice simple Mindfulness techniques I learned ways to cope with daily life and stress that were not related to food.

All these methods, coupled with the newly adopted structure and support of the slimming group and unwavering support from my husband, helped me to map a new path and destination for me this time.

I’m aware that I’ve mentioned lots of different issues and conditions within this blog and I have included a number of links to NHS Choices on some of the topics for extra information. I would also recommend speaking to a health professional if you recognise any of the symptoms or behaviours that I have described, to ensure that you get the right support or treatment.

I hope you have found this post of interest and that it in some way supports you in your quest to live a healthier happier live.

My next post will be about Planning for Success, and how to give yourself the best possible chance of achieving it.

Good luck

Much love

Marie x

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life


14 thoughts on “3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

  1. Anonymous October 21, 2017 / 8:14 pm

    Hi Marie! I think your approach is raw, honest and refreshing. It has authenticity and integrity and is an inspiration beyond your journey in terms of food and weight loss but also has echoes for me, bring a survivor of sexual abuse. I used food as control for a while as I was afraid to develop and attract attention. Well done and carry on! Look forward to the book! Much love, Elliexxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marie McIlwraith October 21, 2017 / 9:17 pm

      Hi Ellie thanks you so much for taking the time to read my blog and for your heart felt comments, they are very much appreciated. I’m glad the article resonated with you on a personal level, I’m always pleased to hear other people’s stories and journeys as it highlights that these issues exist for others and that there is hope for us all. Xxxx


  2. anne leueen November 18, 2017 / 4:31 pm

    Soldiering on as if nothing was wrong is a common response for many of us no matter what the underlying issues are. Bravo to you for tackling your situation in such a healthy way. All the best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marie McIlwraith November 18, 2017 / 4:50 pm

      Thank you Anne Leueen that’s very kind of you to say. One of my main motivations now is riding and owning a horse again sometime soon. I found the clip in your post very helpful and gave me something to aspire to

      Liked by 1 person

      • anne leueen November 18, 2017 / 5:58 pm

        Oh, I’m so glad. It is nice to know that I’ve helped to provide some inspiration. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

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