When you have a busy life as a working mum and you are taking your Eating Freely Health Professionals courses around the world, doing nothing about your health and symptoms is NOT an option. I loved Emma’s journey. When I was in Dublin late in 2022 taking my Masterclass on Menopause event, I met up with Emma and asked her to kindly share her story …. she said yes! And here it is.
Thank you Emma and thank you also for bringing the attention of Emotional Eating and your ‘Eating Freely‘ Programme to the awareness of clients and Practitioners both.
“Physician, heal thyself!”
In November 2018 after nearly 10 years in private practice as a disordered eating specialist psychotherapist, I launched my company. Eating Freely is a specialist program for adults struggling with emotional eating and binge eating disorder, and we also deliver specialist CPD approved training for health professionals.
It was an exciting, busy time, and it was also the worst time I could have picked – because I had arrived in menopause.
I had turned 50 in April that year, and to celebrate we went on a ‘big’ holiday driving around California for 3 weeks – myself, my husband and my then 12 year old daughter.
Although we had a fantastic time, I can barely look at the photos of myself from the trip. I was overweight, frumpy, exhausted and looked 60 years old! I remember the challenge of just walking up a hill, and the worst night I had was glamping in Yosemite – my joints were killing me, and the loo was a long walk down a steep slope in the dark. I don’t mind sharing that I had tears in my eyes walking back up to the tent for the third time that night!
From my early teens I had always been very fit, I could eat anything I wanted and never struggled with my weight. In fact, I was the opposite, in my early 20’s when working for an airline, I was advised to put on a bit of weight!
So, to hit my late 40’s and to have this creeping weight gain that would not stop no matter how many barre yoga classes I went to, or walks I did… it was distressing. I joined the gym, I took up boxercise, I started doing circuits classes – nothing worked.
Even worse, I had always been a great sleeper – 8 hours a night whether I needed it or not. But now my sleep was broken every night. I woke up between 3-4am and felt constant bladder pressure – I felt I needed to go to the loo repeatedly, even though there was nothing coming out.
During the day I was experiencing sweats, joint pain and unexplainable itching on my arms and chest. All of this made me very angry if I am honest, because my very self-concept was being threatened – all my life I had been fit, healthy and energetic. I never got sick, I had no allergies, who was this moaning, sweating, scratching, heavy, bad-tempered doppelganger who had stepped in and taken over my body and mind??
I was really struggling, and although I tried to fool myself that I was keeping it all together, my family were regularly telling me that I was in bad form and ‘always angry’. I didn’t want to do anything, I had no interest in socialising because I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes and if my husband suggested I ‘go for a walk and calm down’ one more time….
Over Christmas 2020 we were in South Africa with my husband’s family and I was MISERABLE. I actually didn’t want to be there despite it being winter at home in Ireland. I was hot, sweaty, flushed, uncomfortable in my too-tight summer clothes and exhausted.
One evening, I excused myself from the group and went to bed early – a common occurrence those days. I started googling ‘help for menopause’, and Wendy’s website came up. I had visited the site several times already but was reluctant to commit to a program – some part of me was still struggling with my inner perfectionist – I can do this myself! But that night, I couldn’t fight myself anymore. I needed help NOW.
I signed up for Wendy’s program and started it whilst still on holidays. Like it has for so many of you, it changed my life.
First of all, as a psychotherapist a lot of it made perfect sense. This is always important for me, as a health professional I appreciate evidence-based research and practice.
Putting some of it into practice was harder though – like many of our emotional/binge eating clients, I am a perfectionistic, all or nothing thinker – doing it ALL right or ALL wrong. I am also a ‘people pleaser’ – putting other people’s needs ahead of my own. Making changes to how, when and what we ate to suit me and what I needed was one of the biggest challenges!
Another challenge for me that I know many clients share is not wanting to appear weak or vulnerable, so even telling my husband that I was tired, I wanted a nap, I didn’t want a drink or I was struggling on a given day was very hard for me.
Not for nothing he’s not the most tolerant of people being sick or unwell – like my own family his mantra is ‘suck it up and get on with it’. Like my own family, your leg would need to be hanging off before you get much sympathy – but you marry what you know! That was another big challenge for me – asking clearly for what I want and need, and saying no to what I don’t want and need. Another very common piece of work we do with clients around boundaries!
After 2 months of Wendy’s program my health was significantly improved. I was eating a lot better and followed her process for changing the timing of my eating. I was loving our morning walk – during lockdown it really worked for us to walk the dogs first thing in the morning to get both our outdoors time AND the melatonin hit into my eyes! We’re still doing it today and it really sets me up in a positive frame of mind.
This all helped significantly with reducing hot flushes and improved my sleep a bit, but I was still waking up in the middle of the night, repeatedly going to the loo for no reason, and struggling to get back to sleep.
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was taking bioidentical HRT. Having to take medication was very difficult for me because I generally don’t take medication of any sort. But no matter what I did, my sleep was still disrupted so I decided to try HRT.
After 6 months on a low dose of HRT and progesterone, and the MyMT™ Programme support, my sleep was finally back on track. I’d lost weight, felt a LOT healthier and the biggest change was in my energy levels – I was back to being able to function again, and I was no longer like a briar with my family!
The really interesting part of this entire experience for me, is how I really had to acknowledge my own blind spots and unhelpful personality traits.
Of course, this is work I did with clients all day long, but to have to turn the spotlight on myself and really challenge my own vulnerabilities was hard.
I also understood in a way I didn’t understand before why menopause was such a big trigger for clients coming in to finally get help with emotional eating! Wendy’s program helped me to understand exactly what these clients were struggling with and why on top of their pre-existing emotional eating it was a devastating change. Combining what I’d learned about menopause with what I already knew about emotional eating was so helpful.
That’s why I reached out to Wendy, floated the idea of developing a training program for professionals, and together we made the initial course happen. Although we had a few speed bumps along the way, I could not be prouder to have been part of Wendy’s journey to developing her CPD approved training for health professionals, based on my own model of training to specialise in emotional eating and binge eating disorder. This was one of the biggest positive outcomes of my experience of menopause – along with returning to sleeping through the night!
It’s July 2023 now, and as well as sleeping through the night I feel energetic and healthy. I’ve let go of a lot of my own judgement of my body, and I have also let go of caring what other people think – it’s sometimes a challenge to others when you refuse alcohol here in Ireland for example!
I’m very proud to say we now have a network of specialist professionals across nine countries. There were times in the past few years when I was simply going through the motions, and could have walked away due to simple exhaustion, but I am glad I got over those times and kept going. Now I love my days supporting health professionals to support our clients, supporting our trainers, and developing new trainings to continue deepening practitioner skills.
If you are struggling and feel you need specialist support with emotional eating, please do not hesitate to visit our website – Eating Freely. There you will find options ranging from my ‘Four Energies of Emotional Eating’ card deck and ebook right up to working 1:1 with a Licensed Eating Freely Practitioner. If you are a practitioner interested in training with us, you’ll find that information there too.
Please also feel free to reach out to me personally if you can’t find what you need. I am happy to help.
Emma Murphy MIACP, Founder & CEO – Eating Freely
Eating Freely Resources:
Card Deck/ebook: https://cards.eatingfreely.com/buy-cards/
Train with us: https://www.eatingfreely.com/licensing