It’s not what you are eating, but what’s eating you. For me, and I suspect it is the same for most people, our attitude to food is as much about emotion as it is about satisfying hunger.
Instead of allowing a rush of emotion to drive you towards comfort food, try to stop and judge instead what your body, or more particularly your brain, needs. It deserves better: if you are bored or angry or sad then those emotions are telling you something you need to listen to. It might be as simple as getting a boost from somewhere else rather than from a pudding.
I was interested to read about the experience of the tennis player Monica Seles, who battled with binge-eating for ten years but was cured when she began to focus on food properly for the first time. ‘Every time I sat down to a meal, I could make a decision,’ Seles writes. ‘Was I going to treat myself with love and respect, or was I going to sabotage my own happiness and health for a short-term rush? The decision was an easy one: I chose nourishment over destruction every time. Eating wholesome food left me satisfied much more quickly than mounds of processed fake food ever did.’
The other psychological shift is to move from feeling deprived to feeling you are gaining something extra. It is not about suppressing all pleasure in food. Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on all the delicious dishes you can enjoy and that benefit your health.
Seles writes of how important it was for her not to feel she was on a ‘diet’. As she rightly says, that implies there is a danger you could fail to keep to your diet. And nothing is more tempting than something that is forbidden.
It can often be easiest to adapt slowly, rather than to enforce wholesale change overnight. Have a cooked breakfast, but have tomatoes alongside the bacon. Don’t abandon salad dressings, but use different oils: wheat germ or flax, sesame or sunflower oil, as well as the more usual olive oil; and add almonds, pecans, cashews, walnuts and pine nuts to salads.
Once you start to eat well, the process gets easier. You begin to feel better. By taking charge of your life, you enter a virtuous circle of looking after yourself. One of the most terrifying feelings about being depressed is the utter lack of control; you can feel like a piece of flotsam, blown by icy winds to terrifying places.
Gradually become more attuned to the connections between mood and food. What is that craving really telling you? How do you feel after eating certain foods? What fills you up that you enjoy and that powers you through your day? You deserve to be properly nourished, in both mind and body.