What the heck is a food relationship?
I didn’t know I had a relationship with food until I learned about intuitive eating. I never thought about the fact that it could be a normal relationship, a one-sided relationship, a love/hate relationship, or any sort of relationship for that matter. I just thought I loved food and I had to figure out a way to control how much I ate of it so I could lose weight.
Once I learned that there was such thing as a food relationship, I realized mine was not right. I felt like I was loving and hating food at the same time, and it was tempting and taunting me all of the time. And every time I did give in to it, I felt super guilty afterwards. Just like any bad relationship, I knew deep down it wasn’t right, but I just kept with it since I didn’t know any better.
Turns out, I’m not the only one that’s had a love/hate relationship with food. The experts I’ve talked to all have their own personal bad history with food. Let’s see what they have done to help heal their food relationship, and hopefully it will give you ideas of how to repair or maintain your own relationship. (and don’t miss their thoughts on body image and confidence!)
My question to the experts regarding food relationship:
With dieting culture so prominent in today’s world, we often end up having a love/hate relationship with food. What is the most important thing you did (or still do) to help repair/strengthen your relationship with food?
I truly believe it’s never just about the food. There’s typically something going on in life that tends to spiral that love/hate relationship, and it all comes down to determining the catalyst so you can work on that, and eventually work on the food piece once the other aspects are handled. Again, it’s all a process. In my case, it was an issue of confidence and a complete misunderstanding of what foods were truly “healthy.” I was eating based on what everyone else deemed healthy without considering how these supposed “health” foods actually affected my own body. (Think foods such as fake soy meats, nonfat yogurt, and sugar-free ice cream). I had to learn to take control of my own health, and because I saw such a dramatic difference in my own life from doing so, I decided to devote my career to teaching other women how to do the same thing. It’s exactly what I teach in my coaching program for women called Food or Fiction. Knowledge is power, and understanding the role food plays in our current society and in our own health makes all the difference.
Amanda Morgan, Nutritionist, Creator & Blogger of Healthy Wifestyle
I stopped counting calories, and I slowly, but surely started listening to my body and not only understanding, but internalizing the concept of honoring your hunger and fullness. In short, I become a mindful eater and today, teach other women how to do the same. The shift from counting calories to listening to my body was one of the most powerful things in my life.
Corinne Dobbas, Dietitian & Life Coach, of CorinneDobbas.com
Well, for starters, I choose not to hate food anymore—I choose not to hate fatness, or my body, or anything I love to eat. Today, I choose only to love food. Loving food is a sign of healthy biological functioning. It’s the hating food, the fear of food, the constant belief that food (or fatness) is a threat—that’s what’s unnatural, and that’s what we actually have the ability to stop doing.
The most important thing I did to strengthen my relationship with food was remove all the rules and let myself get full on whatever sounded good to me without judgment. It was scary but it also felt freeing. Then when I started eating salads and fruit again it wasn’t about trying to be healthy or lose weight. It was about craving that food for joy.
Rebecca Scritchfield, Author of Body Kindness
I’m a very theoretical person. So the most important thing I have done to help repair my relationship to food was understanding the sociohistorical elements that made my relationship to food what it was. We all exist in the echos or footsteps of history, and most of our behaviors and beliefs have a rich historical context. To me, it’s powerful to ground my current reality in the experiences of women who came before me. It really helped me to read about the awful history of dieting (look up the “Dietary Reform Movement” for an historical primer) and beauty ideals (I recommend Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth). It helped me realize that the guilt and shame I had toward food were completely obvious outcomes of the sexism and food control that have been culturally pervasive since the 1800s. It made me feel less alone, and it made me realize that I could choose not to continue the unfortunate legacy that I had inherited.
Want my answer?
To heal my food relationship once and for all, I stopped counting calories. I used to know the amount of calories in every single item of food, and I finally released those numbers from my brain. Nowadays, before eating something, I don’t consider the calories. Instead I ask myself if I’m truly hungry. If I am truly hungry, I decide what sounds delicious, and I also take into consideration how I want to feel after eating that certain food. If I’m not actually hungry, I try to decipher what I’m actually needing in that moment – sometimes it’s a nap, sometimes it’s a creative break, sometimes it’s movement, etc.
The best part of healing my food relationship is that I’m more satisfied with everything I’m eating because I get to decide – not the diet. I’m deciding that I want a quinoa salad or a brownie and eating it in the moment I want it. I’m not eating a salad because it’s part of my diet plan, and I’m not eating a brownie because it’s “cheat day”. I eat what I want, when I want, and I like to call that a normal, healthy relationship with food.
Do you also struggle with body image and dieting? Join me for Intuitive Eating 101, which is the beginner’s course to a new, and more fun, life without dieting.