Devonshire Cream Teas
Looking at the list of clients for the day, I noticed Betty’s name and wondered what she would report. Betty had a range of health problems which we had been addressing, particularly with her family history of diabetes in mind. A middle-aged widow with no children, she lived alone but was keen to maintain the lifestyle and friends she had while she was married. She worked hard at her job but felt as though she struggled to keep up. Most days she felt overwhelmed with her administrative responsibilities which involved supporting co-workers in a highly technical field. She found her lifestyle incredibly stressful yet she struggled to see how things could change for the better. For this reason, we had also been having regular psychotherapy sessions.
We began by exploring the different ‘parts’ of Betty’s subconscious, the parts that drive much of our automatic behaviour. In its simplest form, these subconscious parts are the ‘child’, the ‘adult’ and the ‘parent’ within each of us, all of which influence the various ways we behave at different times and in different situations.
Most of Betty’s social life centred around her work and involved people with whom she had to keep up her image. She was expected to attend corporate lunches and business dinners regularly which led to a diet that included too much of the wrong foods and not enough of the right foods. In addition, she began comfort eating in response to the stress and it was clear that both her physical and emotional health were suffering. Diabetes was looming, and her blood sugar fluctuations were triggering worrying mood swings.
Betty was in desperate need of a sound nutrition and supplement program to help to balance her emotional state and to prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. So far, she had struggled to follow the recommendations I had given her. She would do well for a few days and then she would break the rules and binge. I eagerly waited to see what the afternoon would bring.
When Betty walked into my office I was surprised to see a smile on her face instead of the usual guilty demeanour and a worried frown.
“How have you been since our last consultation?” I asked.
“Fine, things are getting much better. I have managed to stick to the diet – most of the time…….”
Oh dear, I thought, here we go again. But I was wrong. She saw my look and continued……
“No, I think you’ll be pleased, at least I hope you will. I have stuck strictly to my diet, almost every day, and just to prove it I have written up the Diet Diary you requested and here it is!”
I was pleased, but as she waved the paper in front of me without giving me a chance to read it, I was not totally reassured.
At this point she sat bolt upright in her chair with an “I’m in control” expression on her face and said, “My diet has been perfect for six and a half days a week, but every Sunday afternoon I take my [inner] ‘Little child’ and we go to Manly beach where we play in the water and then I have a wonderful Devonshire Cream Tea with the works, scones, butter, strawberry jam and lashings of whipped cream. And I am not going to stop, no matter what you say”.
I’m not sure exactly what she expected, but my immediate response seemed to surprise her.
“That’s fine. You just keep on doing what you have been doing”.
“I thought you would object to the cream teas? It’s just that because I know that I can have what I like on Sunday afternoons, I seem to find it much easier to stick to your good-eating-plan for the rest of the week.”
One afternoon per week that involved cream tea and unhealthy food along with happy play was much better than an unhealthy diet interspersed with guilt and struggle all week long! “Go right ahead, if this regime is working for you I suggest you stick with it!”
When I met up with Betty some years later, I asked her if she was still enjoying her Cream Teas.
“Oh those, she said, I loved them for a while, but then they lost their appeal and I stopped doing that.” She explained that as she continued with her healthy eating plan, she felt so good that she eventually forgot about having her Cream Tea. She felt much more relaxed and confident in social situations and found that she refused sweets and desserts almost without thinking about it.