There are many ways that emotions play out in our lives and food is a very common one. Food, and the dopamine fix we get from it, act as an escape and a release valve to a host of other emotions we may be struggling to deal with. It is important that we look at problematic relationships to food not just from a nutritional and dietary standpoint, but from an emotional one too. This is something that has become very clear to Sama, who I was privileged to interview on the subject of her relationship with food. Opening up on such topics is not easy. I am very grateful and honoured that Sama accepted to share with us part of her story. It has inspired me. I am sure it will inspire many others.
Sama today, about to lead a work out class at the gym / Sama before the operation
I have known Sama for close to a decade and have had the pleasure of working with her in various settings. She is now an invaluable part of my media monitoring business ECRUU. But beyond all of this, Sama is someone who has always been taking care of people around her. She has been, and continues to be, a rock in many people’s lives. In 2018, after decades struggling with weight issues, Sama took the drastic decision to undergo a gastric bypass operation. Since then, she has lost 62kg and has become a major gym enthusiast (check out her Instagram to see her do insane pushups!). In this interview, Sama shares with us some insights into her journey and how her relationship with food has evolved.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Sama. I was born and grew up in Egypt. I was partially brought up by my Swiss grandmother and I have been living in Switzerland since 2008.
I have a bachelor degree in Fine Arts (scenography). I currently work with Charlotte at ECRUU. Besides that, I obtained a certification in sports this year which allows me to give workout classes at the gym.
What was your relationship with food like growing up?
Food was a very important part of my life growing up. There was always this belief that you have to eat a lot to be strong and healthy. Also, my dad always taught us that “it’s better to have a stomach ache from eating too much than to waste food.”
What was the impact of your relationship with food on your self-esteem?
Food was always a comfort of some sort to the point that it became an addiction more than anything else. It is hard for me to explain the impact it had on my self-esteem but I can share the fact that I have never had a mirror in my room because I never liked what I saw. Also, as I was looking for photos of “before” I realised that I could hardly find any photo of me alone, and for the photos with others I am often hiding behind them.
In 2018 you did a gastric bypass operation to lose weight. What brought you to make such a drastic decision?
At some point in my life, things were going bad for me both personally and professionally. I took a step back and analysed everything in my life. That’s when I realised that in everything I did, I always came second (and often even last!). I was always prioritising others. This was the trigger that helped me see I needed to make some changes.
So in 2018, when I turned 40 years young, I decided it was time to take my life back, to be in control of my health and therefore of my future. I wanted to be there for my daughter later on in life and I didn’t want these years to be spent suffering in sickness.
I put everything else on hold in my life and decided to make this huge change. It was very scary as I don’t like changes.
But when I started prioritising myself, putting myself first and taking proper care of myself, I realised that everyone close to me benefited from it and was happier too.
You have lost 62kg since the operation. What have these last few years been like for you?
Losing the weight was not easy but it was not the hardest part. The hardest part is to actually accept yourself afterwards. For example, although I know I have changed physically I often find myself in the same state of mind psychologically as I was before. It is taking time for me to accept that I am no longer the same physically. Another difficulty has been to change habits, because so many habits are interlinked so when you change one thing, you have to change another. And as I mentioned before, I don’t like change! Also, while I got so much support along the way there were a few people who gave me a hard time and who seemed to become jealous. This helped me see who really cared about me and who didn’t.
Have you overcome your addiction to food?
I have not - I still am addicted to food. Food addiction is like any other addiction: you never get rid of it. But you can become much more aware and learn to control the situation.
Today, I am just more in control of it. Before it was controlling me now I am the one who is in the driving seat.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you have learned along the way when it comes to our relationship with food?
I have learned that self-discipline is very important, but it’s also very important to have more confidence in my judgements and in myself.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with food addiction?
Take a big step back. When we concentrate more on people around us than ourselves we start to believe that we are responsible for them and that things will stop running if we stop doing them. But that is not true, when we take a step back we realise that life will still go one without us, it will not stop. So I would say to start focusing on yourself, take control of your life. If I can do it, believe me, everyone can.
You can follow Sama on Instagram: @amersama