Food for thought; thought for food

Lizzie Williams

We have approximately 60,000 thoughts a day. Think about that, or maybe don’t.

Seventy per cent of those thoughts are negatively skewed. I must constantly remind myself that not all thoughts are important and need attention. As my psych would say, ‘put it on a leaf and let it float away’. It’s also important to not try to change or control thoughts, feelings and sensations. Remember Lizzie, do not buy into them, they are just thoughts!

This year I set out to be a mindful person and athlete. I no longer could function on the rigid and ‘robotic’ level I was on, it was unsustainable and soul destroying. So far, I’m doing well to live a more mindful existence because I did the hard yards last year. Firstly, I had to believe that I could change. I had to accept that I wouldn’t get better unless I put in the hard work and practice, and know it would need ongoing attention. I had to challenge my unhealthy belief systems that had been ruling my life for almost two decades. Most of these beliefs relating to body image and food. Finally, I had to talk about it, shame silences people.

Society has over-complicated the way we eat.

We are bombarded by blogs and social media with rules for healthy eating: quit sugar, go gluten-free, cut out carbs, eat paleo, go vegan. But taking the rules too far can lead to an unhealthy obsession with eating. My obsession with weight and food began at 16, when I started to take my cycling more seriously. I became caught up in rules and ways of doing things to achieve perfection and the balance got thrown. My theories around food started to manifest into absolute truths over the years, this would dictate my life at times, making things very difficult and sometimes triggering depressive episodes that would last for months.

The food, the weight, the obsession with health was always a distraction from other things and until those underlying issues are dealt with, it’s hard to overcome. Anxiety was my driving force, but underneath that anxiety lay my low self-worth. My identity was wrapped up in superficial things like my appearance, my physical ability and achievements. It was the keystone, the centrepiece, the crux for my happiness. This is what had to change. I had to ask myself what is beauty? How do I define beauty? What’s quite ironic is Beauty and the Beast was my favourite Disney film growing up. Such an important message to teach our younger generation. It wasn’t until I learnt how to be kind and compassionate to myself, I then was able to address and manage my anxiety and thought processes.

Slowly, I started to break down those unhealthy ways of thinking.

I had to set aside my physical training and address my mental training, no distractions, just my head and I, fighting and resisting like two teenage siblings at each other! The love for one another is there, it’s just hidden most of the time. I had to leave judgement at the door, and welcome compassion in. My pessimistic attitude and misconceptions about cognitive behavioural therapy had to be addressed. If you don’t believe it will work, it won’t. Just like in elite sport, the first step to becoming a champion is believing in yourself and your capabilities.

Realigning my cores values in life has allowed me to regularly draw back to them, to re- steer my ship on the correct route, my route, the route I have created.

“Journey is the value; the destination is the goal.”

Questions I asked myself before embarking on this year’s journey included:

Who do you want to be?
What type of athlete do I want to be?
What do I really want out of this?
How do I want to be known and remembered?

My self-development is a work in progress. I still have bad days where my internal dialogue is unhelpful and self-destructive. I have days out on the bike where my thoughts are so loud that I must turn around and go home, my anxiety wins that day. But every day is a new day and that’s what I love about life.