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Dear Candy Q & A: Working with food & beliefs around food

Q: Any suggestions for how best to tackle overeating and binging?

A: Overeating and binging behaviours often start as a way of numbing our emotions. Over time they became an automatic, habituated response, making it difficult to change. Since what we resist persists, trying to push away what we don't want most often leads to those emotions becoming stronger. Additionally we have just created a coping behaviour that isn't serving our best interest. It would be helpful to cultivate your curious observer, begin to deepen your awareness of the thoughts and emotional states that come up just before binging or overeating.

Often people find self-compassion practices helpful when they first notice the impulse (or become aware that they have had enough food but are continuing to eat). Loving kindness and gentleness with self, even when we don't know what is driving the behaviour, can help break us out of the cycle. Often what accompanies these behaviours is a nervous system that is bracing or defensive (a.k.a. in a stress response). Using tools to help calm your nervous system can be useful.

You may also want to try incrementally training by dishing a certain amount of food, and then when the plate is finished, go directly into a training round as a way of changing your brain's association (and decreasing the desire for more food). To circumvent the tendency to go on autopilot, consider mindful eating, where you are fully present in the moment with each bite of your food, minimizing any distractions.

Q: Any tips for how to help toddlers with digestive issues and food sensitivities

A: Toddlers model their behaviour after the primary adults in their lives. They also use the nervous systems of the adults around them to help them regulate. We can capitalize on this by helping the child elevate their emotional state when ingesting (small amounts) of things that trigger them, and to help distract them away from focusing on symptoms. We can use our nervous systems to help the child stay out of a stress response, or come out of one if/when their system goes into it. We can invite in a lot of playfulness, laughter, joy and appreciation of beauty, and awareness of the present moment and help the child do the same. In essence, we are acting as their brain re-trainer and they are emulating our behaviour and emotions. Finally, the best gift you can give your child is to devote yourself to your own retraining. Continue to cultivate your curious observer, repeatedly catch and interrupt automatic negative thoughts, elevate your emotional state, calm your nervous system by increasing mindfulness/meditation/visualization practices, and actively direct your brain and emotions toward the life you want to create for yourself.

Q: How do I stop wanting to control those closest around me in relation to their health and diet?

A: Wanting to control others usually comes out of a feeling of being out of control or powerless within ourselves. This need to control others arises because we are trying to control our own experiences and it isn't working. Self awareness and mindfulness of what is happening within you (i.e. thoughts and emotional states) just before you feel the impulse to control or dictate to others can be a first step in uncovering what is driving that behaviour. Remind yourself that you cannot control others, nor are you responsible for their choices (except in the case of dependent children, of course). Have an affirmation or mantra that you can say to yourself to remind yourself of this when you first feel the impulse to control. Look at the areas in your own health that you are trying to control or resist and bring some self compassion to that part of you. Finally, consider practicing a form of meditation that involves acceptance and surrendering.

Q: Any tips for how to change strong beliefs around foods? I have done a lot of work on this already and no longer label things as good, bad, or healthy. I do still strongly believe there are some foods that are more nutritious than others but everything is okay in moderation. As a result there are many things I wouldn't cook for myself but would be fine with eating out. I don't want my beliefs to hinder my progress on training with foods. Would appreciate any suggestions you may have.

A: It is true that some foods are healthier for us than others, and in order to take good care of our bodies it is wise to only eat some things on occasion rather than every day. At the same time, we want to get to a place in our rewiring that we can eat anything we like, and most importantly, that we are not afraid or worried about certain foods. At this stage, it then becomes a choice and we have flexibility. We can make good choices for ourselves generally, and at the same time enjoy certain things on occasion without giving them a second thought. This is how someone would behave who is health conscious but also has healthy brain pathways in relation to food. This is the behaviour/thought processes we want to emulate until they become second nature.

If you have reached this point, then I would say the beliefs you are currently holding are in alignment with retraining. If you find there is a lot of thought going into what you are making, how healthy everything is, or any concern when you eat out and don't eat the things you normally do, then I would say keep challenging those thoughts until you can truly be in choice without any reaction from your nervous system.

Until next time!

Please note: This will be the last blog until the new year. Blogs will resume mid January.

Wishing you all a restorative and joyful holiday season and may the new year bring with it a deeper level of resilience and wellbeing!

If you have a question, please email me at


Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at

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