Most of us are at war with food. This is because we have made food out to be the enemy. We may single out specific foods (like bread) or aim for a broader approach by engaging in battle with entire macronutrients (like carbs). And a large majority of people, in one form or another, have openly declared war on one innocent little energy unit: the calorie.
Our war appears to be founded on principle. After all, we must redeem our health (or at least our waistlines). But as part of the bigger picture, this approach of demonizing and moralizing food only leads one thing: a severely impaired relationship with food and with our bodies.
Funny thing is that the moment we start this war against food, we are setting ourselves up to fail. We are biologically and psychologically driven to failure in this regard. The book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch discusses this in depth:
“When you rigidly limit the amount of food you are allowed to eat, it usually sets you up to crave larger quantities of that very food.”
“[F]ood deprivation sets off a biological drive. Psychological forces wreak havoc with your peace of mind, triggering cravings, obsessive thoughts, and even compulsive behaviors. If you are someone who has also experienced deprivation in areas outside of food, such as love, attention, material wants, etc., the deprivation connected to dieting may be felt even more intensely for you.”
“The mere perception that food might become banned can trigger overeating. Just thinking about going on a diet can create a sense of panic and send you on a trail of eating every food you think won’t be allowed.”
“The threat of deprivation becomes so powerful that all reason is lost and you find yourself eating whatever is to be forbidden, even if you are not hungry.”
How many of you indulged more during the holidays knowing that your New Year’s resolution diet was just around the corner? Did you eat more of that pumpkin pie knowing you’d be cutting out carbs come the first of January?
The solution to this war is to make peace with food. But what does this mean?
“Making peace with food means allowing all foods into your eating world, so that a choice for chocolate becomes emotionally equal to the choice for a peach.”
When we subscribe to nutritional dogma, we assign emotional and moral values to our food. This makes it impossible to make choices about the food we eat without triggering an emotional roller coaster.
How many times have you said (or heard someone say) these words: “I can’t eat that. I’m on a diet and I’m trying to be good.” Did you hear that? We actually label ourselves as good or bad based on what we eat! Talk about making food an emotionally charged issue.
Eating is not a matter of good versus evil. It is simply listening to our bodies, identifying a need and then filling that need as best we can. This is the foundation of intuitive eating. It’s simple, but it’s not always easy. After all, most of us are coming to the table with a lot of hang ups about food.
I cannot stress enough that your relationship with food is a process. You truly can (and should) take this one step at a time. You have to practice intuitive eating. You don’t just wake up one morning, start eating intuitively and suddenly have a balanced relationship with food. Just take baby steps. Start with one meal, or even just one food.
- Simply acknowledging that you assign too much emotional value to your eating habits might be the first step in repairing your relationship with food.
It doesn’t come easy and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. But in the long run, it makes all the difference. To quote again from Intuitive Eating:
“Ironically, the process of giving yourself permission to eat is actually the stepping-stone to rebuilding your trust with food and with yourself. In the beginning, each positive food experience is like a tiny thread. They may be few and far between, and seem insignificant, but eventually the threads form a strand. The strands multiply into strong ropes and finally the ropes become the bridge to a foundation of trust in food and in yourself.”
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday.