You are surrounded by people on meal plans, who only eat what’s written on a sheet of paper. People who mistrust their cravings, judge them and ignore them. People who eat a bowl of pasta, a slice of pizza, a piece of cake once a week only on their cheat days.

You are surrounded by people who demonize sugar, seeing it as an adversary they’ll never eat again. People who talk about how bad they are for consuming ice cream or chips or fries or bread or cheese. People who give compliments around weight loss and fitting into smaller clothes.

You are surrounded by people who use terms like “clean eating,” “discipline,” “willpower,” “self-control,” and “staying on track.” People who count calories or points. People who talk about good carbs and bad carbs, good fats and bad fats. People who’ve stopped eating entire food groups.

You are surrounded by people who weigh themselves weekly, daily. People who weigh their food and fixate on inches and discuss their many, many physical flaws.

You wonder, Should I be on a meal plan, too? Should I start counting, too? Should I be worried, too? Is it OK that I eat chocolate every day? Is it OK that I love pasta? Am I doing something wrong?

Suddenly, you’re worried about what you’ve put on your plate. Suddenly, you’re worried that you have a ridiculous perspective.

When almost everyone around us seems to be making similar choices, and we’re the odd man out, it can feel like we need to join in. It can feel like we’re doing something wrong or sinful or scandalous. It can feel like there’s some race, and so far, we’re dead last. We can feel the pangs of pressure crawling down our skin. We can feel the pull, the allure of something we assume we should covet.

It can be lonely forging your own path.

When you feel like the only one, and you’re rethinking everything, wondering if you’re wrong, remind yourself that different things work for different people.

Remind yourself that you’re allowed to eat what you want. You’re allowed to order lasagna when everyone else is getting salad (with dressing on the side). You’re allowed to eat when others are not eating. You’re allowed to say yes to a second helping or to say no. You’re allowed to eat at night, or at any time.

You’re allowed to pass on meal plans, and make decisions about what to eat on your own, based on flavors you enjoy, based on foods that nurture you, based on what brings you pleasure. Remind yourself that there are no wrong decisions around food. Everything is good information.

Remind yourself that you are focused on nourishment—real nourishment that feeds your body, as well as your soul. That this is about food, and not about food. That you’re exploring and getting curious, focused on reconnecting to your taste buds, to your hunger and fullness cues, to your true desires, to activities that bring you joy, to activities that soothe your pain. You are focused on reconnecting to yourself.

Remind yourself that this will look different on different days. Either way, it is about you, and no one else.

Photo by Isabella Alves.