Changing our relationship with food

 

Food. It’s amazing how loaded that word can be for many people. While we need food in order to live, it can become source of worry, self-doubt, and negativity.

It’s time we change our relationship with food.

Please note that what I share here are my own thoughts as a 20-something fitness professional who experienced disordered eating as a teenager. I was able to turn my relationship with food around with a lot of help from loved ones, exercise, and research. I am not a registered dietitian, psychologist, or psychiatrist. OK, disclaimer complete.

The way I see it, there are two issues with our relationship with food that could have very detrimental consequences.

1) Food is an emotional thing. Some associate food with thoughts of excitement, joy, and satisfaction. Others feel guilt, insecurity, and even self-hatred in relation to food. Maybe you’ve experienced a mix of all of those feelings.

For years, I struggled with anxiety and shame over my food choices. I spent so much time thinking about what I would eat for my next meal and then felt guilty if I ate “too much” or if the food wasn’t 100% “healthy.” When I was struggling with disordered eating, I once literally cried at a breakfast buffet because I was so overwhelmed. Have any of these thoughts ever crossed your mind?

  • I just ate way too much. I’m a failure and I’m going to get fat.
  • I’m eating way more than anyone else at the table…I’m such a pig.
  • I can’t wait to eat. Food is the best part of my day.
  • I don’t care what we do as long as the food is good. 

While these thoughts portray food in both negative and positive lights, they all attach a lot of meaning to food, which can inhibit our ability to view food in a healthy way.

2) The way we use food is backwards. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone say one of these:

  • I worked out so hard today, I’m gonna go all out on dinner tonight. I deserve it.
  • I exercise so I can eat whatever I want.
  • This is my cheat meal.
  • When I achieve this goal, I’m going to reward myself with (insert food item). 

Each statement here turns food into a reward. And more often than not, we “reward” ourselves with food that is less than nutritious. But why do we view certain types of food or excessive consumption of food as rewards? I would argue that this type of thinking causes us to view healthy eating as a punishment or form of deprivation. 

So how might we change our perspective on food? How do we allow ourselves to enjoy food and all that it does for us? Here are a couple AMAZING mantras to adopt:

Food is fuel. 

And instead of saying that we live to eat, say:

We eat to live. 

Both statements are true – food provides the energy we need to live – and they portray food in a positive way. 

If we can start to think of food as a tool we need in order to function – to exercise, to move, to work, to play and to hug loved ones – then food is inherently good. If we start making food choices based on how that food will impact our physical and mental performance, then we are naturally drawn to foods that will benefit our health.

Now, these statements are in no way meant to imply that food should be bland and just barely tolerable – food is amazing! It should be delicious. It should be enjoyable. We should be stoked to eat it. And if we eat something that is less than ideal in its nutritional value, we aren’t “cheating” – we’re enjoying it because it tastes good – and we’ll eat some healthy fuel again soon.  

Food is certainly a form of nourishment in many ways (emotional, physical, social), but we must be careful not to give it too much power over us.

You’re beautiful, missy! And you have wayyy too many awesome things to do than to stress over food. Let it be a tool you enjoy because of its great taste and positive physiological effects, rather than a weight on your shoulders.

So the next time you’re starting to have feelings of insecurity over food, remember these two statements:

Food is fuel that gives us energy and nutrients to function.

We eat to live – to get out there and accomplish the things we want in life.