I tend to talk a lot about food and nutrition here and share recipes that my family enjoys. I’ve talked about my personal Food Philosophy. All in all, food is an important part of our lives, on a daily basis, and as a way to celebrate family, friends, and life. Food can be fun, delicious, nurturing and necessary.
We need food to fuel our bodies. In it’s simplest form, that is what food really is – fuel. However, it can be so much more. I’m going to talk a bit about a difficult part of food. Today I am going to tackle the relationship with food that some of us may have had or have.
I am certain that I am not the only one who has had a complicated relationship with food or who has spent needless time wrestling with food choices or gone through a whole range of emotions when faced with making food choices. Many people make food choices very simply. They eat when they are hungry, stop when satisfied and go on with their day. Simple.
Others allow a whole lot of factors to play into food choices, such as thinking about what we should eat or should not eat, looking at some foods as bad while others are good, yo-yo-ing between fad diets, and allowing food to be used as rewards or to satisfy some emotion. It can be quite exhausting. And I have to admit that I have been one of those exhausted people. I admit that in the past I spent far too much time obsessing over food, what to eat, what not to eat, being hungry, being stuffed and basing food choices on just about anything other than nurturing my body when I was physically hungry. I look back at that wasted and unhappy time and do not wish it on anyone.
I remember one day in college when my roomate came home for lunch. She brought her lunch in and sat at the table with me. It was a takeaway bag from the Varsity. If you aren’t familiar with The Varsity, it is a Southern tradition, with locations in Atlanta and Athens, known for its hot off the grill burger, fries, fried apple pies and onion rings, and the ever present quesion, “What’ll you have, what’ll you have?”. I sat horrified as she lifted out a warm cheeseburger and bag of fries from the bag. I could only think that I was going to pack on the pounds by even being in the room absorbing the smells of the food. Of course, she offered me a bite of fries which I quickly declined. How could she be so nonchalant with this lunch choice on a random Tuesday? It wasn’t a special day to allow for a special treat? My roomate, with her long legs, tiny waist, and perfectly healthy relationship with food thought nothing of eating what she wanted, leaving what she didn’t, and going on about her day. There was no pre-planning, no working out to “earn” this meal, and no guilt. I truly marveled at this.
I wanted to be like this.
For many folks, there is much more to nourishing yourself then just what we eat. It is how we feel about what we are eating, why we choose to eat it and how we feel afterward, both physically and emotionally. I am not sure when or how my relationship with food took a turn. I was raised in a family where we sat down for a well-balanced meal every evening at 7:30 pm. My mother planned nutritious, home-cooked meals. Being from a small town with little choices, we ate at home and did not eat out or get fast food. Somewhere along the way I got off track and allowed food to take up a whole lot of head space and seemed to be on a constant treadmill looking for some sort of perfection. It became a time of disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with food.
When I began looking at food and healthy eating as a way to feel good about myself, as a way to take care of myself and getting rid of obsessing over foods and meals, and ignoring whatever fad diet was popular at the time, I finally began to feel good. I was able to get that healthy relationship with food. I have to admit it was very freeing. I can eat healthy eighty percent of the time, sometimes more, and feel good.
I am all about making it a lifestyle. One of the best ways to have that is to have a healthy relationship with food. Due to the media, obsession with body types, models and celebrities and diet culture, we have become overwhelmed with so much information about what to eat and what not to eat.
I want everyone to find that healthy balance again.
It can be done. Small changes bring on other changes that turn into lifestyle changes. It may not happen in two days or two weeks. It may take longer. It was a slow process for me that continued over a couple of years. But that slow process and those baby steps are so worth it!
It may be different for every person, but I believe creating a healthy relationship with food begins with having a healthy relationship with your body. Realizing that you are your own person, born with a special set of genes and gifts that will likely not ever look just like your celebrity idol, your best friend or your neighbor on the treadmill, is a good start. You can be your healthiest version of YOU.
Where does this begin?
1. Finding balance in your day, your week and your lifestyle. Staying away from extremes in any form, whether that be diet, exercise, or habits.
2. Finding a way to manage stress is key. I am a huge stress eater – I know this about myself, so I have to find other ways to calm myself. I often remind myself to take a walk, take deep breaths, get out of the kitchen, listen to a podcast or find a book. Perhaps that’s why I read so much. It is a huge stress relief for me!
3. Find healthy, easy recipes to cook for yourself and your family. Making this a commitment is a huge step toward a healthy lifestyle. Get rid of the constant grazing, mindless eating and eating on the run. This is a lifelong habit that benefits you and your family. (Check out In the Kitchen Page for simple, easy recipes I have shared.)
4. If your own relationship with food isn’t as healthy as it could be, reducing time spent on social media is really helpful. Focusing on yourself, your own goals, and how you spend your time, rather than falling into the trap of comparing yourself to others, helps keep your days and time positive.
5. Finding exercise and movement that you enjoy in a healthy way and not used as punishment is also a big step to a healthy lifestyle.
These are some of the steps that I found useful to begin seeing food as nurturing and as fuel and not as either good or bad. Some foods are definitely healthier than others. Sometimes I definitely choose the less healthy options. That’s okay. I eat that scoop of ice cream or enjoy that margarita now in a healthy way with no guilt. This year, on Mother’s Day, guess where we ate lunch? The Varsity. I think I really surprised my boys with that! So, I can enjoy those days and have a cheeseburger. I also know that healthy foods can be treats. I know how good I feel when I make healthier choices and eat in a mindful way. There is a way to enjoy food for what it is and have that healthy relationship.
Want more? Check out 14 Habits of People with Healthy Food Relationships
Enjoy Your Day!