Our relationship with food is often complex, so it takes time to develop a healthy relationship with eating. But I’d like to share a strategy that’s been really helpful to me throughout the years.
In college I used to turn to food when I was upset, bored, anxious or lonely. Which meant that I turned to food very, very often. (It also didn’t help that I thought dieting was the answer to my woes, and I spent some days pretty hungry.)
Losing weight is a top resolution here in America, and no doubt, in many other countries, too. Maybe some of you are also considering it.
Resolutions are, of course, a personal choice.
But I encourage you to consider what healthy and truly nourishing habits you can cultivate instead. Consider intentions that focus on the journey, not the destination; that bring you joy, and aren’t punishing; that expand your life, instead of restricting it.
Stress can lead us to skip self-care, bash our bodies and overeat. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed — and out of control.
And that can seem like the worst feeling. Ever. You feel like you’re barreling through life on a train with no track, about to collide with anything and everything in your path.
Fortunately, even in stressful situations where we think we have zero control, there’s always something we can do. We can reach out for help. We can shift our perspective. And we can find a healthy way to cope.
One of the most powerful realizations I’ve had about our relationship with food is that many of us use food to fulfill a variety of needs.
I definitely used to. I ate when I was bored. When I was lonely. When I was excited. When I craved comfort. When I felt achingly disappointed.
When food clearly couldn’t give me what I truly needed or yearned for.
In part two of my interview with Christie Inge, the creator of The Peaceful Eating Kit – The Tools You Need to End the War with Food, she talks eloquently about fulfilling our needs and truly, truly nourishing ourselves.
Also, don’t forget that Christie is generously offering Weightless readers 25 percent off the The Peaceful Eating Kit. Just enter the word “weightless” for the discount code when you’re checking out.
One of the things that perpetuates eating issues and a battered body image is shame. That slithery, I’m-the-only-one-to-experience-this, there’s-clearly-something-wrong-with-me feeling.
It’s what our hungry inner critic latches onto, excited at the very idea of listing our many supposedly shameful offenses.
Sometimes we eat away this shame. Sometimes we criticize it away. Either way, it usually affects us negatively.
As Brene Brown points out in her excellent book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power, everyone experiences shame.
For those of us who have a habit of stuffing down our emotions, identifying our feelings can be tough. We might be afraid that if we open the door, we’ll find a raging river and wild waves that’ll swallow us whole.
But acknowledging our emotions (and what triggers them) isn’t inherently a turbulent process. It’s just how many of us have viewed the process for a long time.
Maybe our families dismissed our emotions. Maybe they just didn’t talk about them. Or maybe we never learned a healthy way to express our emotions.
But the good thing about views is that we can revise them.
Many of us worry that enjoying food will somehow open Pandora’s box, and lead to out-of-control eating. But it’s OK — and important — to like eating.
Eating foods we don’t like very much leaves us feeling unsatisfied and wanting more. In fact, for many people it leads to overeating and then guilt.
Not enjoying eating can also negatively affect your nutrition. As nutritionist Michelle Allison explained in our interview:
It means that, when you’re not enjoying food and the process of eating it – and also if you don’t like your body enough to take care of yourself with food – your health and the nutritional quality of your diet, over the long run, will be poorer.
In their book Intuitive Eating, authors and registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch feature a valuable 5-step process to regain the enjoyment of eating.
Do you find that you’ve eaten a few bites or even an entire meal without actually tasting it?
Maybe it’s because you’re busy and constantly eating on the go. Maybe it’s because you get sucked into distractions like the TV, phone or computer. Or maybe it’s because you’ve spent years dieting, which has blunted your taste buds.
Mindful eating helps us to slow down and actually savor the foods we’re eating.
If we have a tough time dealing with distress, we might turn toward (or away) from food or crank up our body-bashing. Of course, this not only prevents us from solving the problem, but it leads us to feel worse.
That’s why it’s so important to take a compassionate approach and find ways to soothe ourselves.
In his book, The Compassionate-Mind Guide to Ending Overeating, author and clinical psychologist, Ken Goss, DClinPsy, suggests immersing ourselves in pleasant sensory experiences to help manage distress.
Our society is used to viewing diets as no big deal. If you need to lose a few pounds – or more – you just get on a diet, and restrict what you eat, count your calories, sip on a shake or swear off sugar.
We think that dieting will solely affect just one area of our lives: eating.
But dieting actually affects your entire life. It stops you from being fully present, and keeps you preoccupied, ashamed and oppressed – among other things.