What sorts of feelings does that word bring up for you?
For me, it’s STRESS. Calorie counting. Recording intake and stressing out about macros. Restriction. The ultimate tumble back into the candy aisle.
And yet I hear that so many of you have been dieting since you were children. I hear that you were made to feel as though the body you owned was not good enough and that you needed to be skinnier. You were told that foods were good and foods were bad and you were going to be held morally responsible for what you put in your mouth. Almost half of American women constantly worry about their weight (1).
The health care community has also been feeding us the line that being overweight or obese means you are unhealthy. This is simply untrue. If you don’t believe me, I highly suggest that you read this massive, but incredible article on the subject. This article opened my eyes to what I’ve been fed throughout my nursing training. It is entirely possible to be healthy AND fat. It is possible to be unhealthy AND of a “normal” BMI. I also want to remind you that someone’s weight is not an indicator of who they are as a person. Can we just get that cleared up once and for all?
The fact of the matter is, food restriction is unhealthy and can lead right back to the old behaviors, feeding the shame cycle that we experience.
This leads us to the current movement towards more mindful eating. Food freedom. Intuitive eating. Balance. I don’t care what you call it, the goal is the same: heal our mental relationship with food and heal our bodies. For these purposes, I’m going to use the term “mindful eating.” Note: I love Food Freedom. This is my personal approach, but I also acknowledge that the Whole30 method is not for everyone. Mindful eating encompasses what I want to specifically say
Now, this is not to say it doesn’t matter what we put in our bodies. It very much matters. Food is medicine! But it isn’t a moral issue and there should never be shame involved. What we put into our bodies makes a difference in our health, but because we live in such a black and white society, this is often taken to the extreme, leading to the “if I’m not perfect, why bother” mentality we often experience.
But we also need to honor what our bodies need, and that often looks different for everyone. There is a place in the middle that both honors our mental relationship with food without over-restriction and the body’s physical needs.
So how do we do this? How are we supposed to eat mindfully when we are bombarded with messages that we aren’t good enough or that we’re “bad” when we eat certain foods and the same time that we are hit with soda and beer commercials and fast food drive-thrus every where we go?
It is a damn process. But it’s one full of compassion and grace and imperfection- and that is a wonderful thing.
Here are some simple actions I have been doing in my own life to improve my own relationship with food while also respecting food as medicine. I am a work in progress!
I hope that you can incorporate some of these tips into your own life. Start with a small goal and challenge yourself to be more mindful with your eating. Really challenge yourself and stop punishing yourself with dieting. You are already a beautiful person who is deserving of love and belonging.