I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with food over my lifetime of almost 50 years. I’ve been all over the place with my eating: from dipping pizza in blue cheese at 2:00am with my sorority sisters and chasing it the next morning with a Big Gulp of Coke and bagel with cream cheese to removing all gluten, dairy, caffeine, chocolate, nightshades, processed sugar, non-organic, GMO, etc. etc. etc.
I went from eating with wild abandonment with a focus on fun to the exact opposite, eating with restriction, stress, fear and self-judgment (and with a little martyrdom thrown in for when I felt like I was “doing great.”)
Yet now, after working for years in holistic nutrition, dynamic eating psychology and body image, I’ve learned that my relationship to food and eating is one of the single most important relationships to nurture because it’s one I will have for a lifetime, and it will impact me every, single, day.
Because I am writing this post on Valentine’s Day, I want to gift you my 9 Tips to Fall in Love 💗 with Eating because eating is meant to be a pleasurable experience, not one filled with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” These tips are meant to help you honor your whole health, mentally, physically and emotionally.
How I Learned to Fall in Love with Eating (again)…
I explore how different foods made me feel.
Yes, you do need to learn to listen to your unique body. This one can be difficult for so many of us who are unconscious distracted eaters because we just don’t notice. For example, avocados might make you feel amaaaazing and for others, not so much. Just because avocados are considered a “health” food doesn’t mean your body loves them. I know you are disappointed that maybe those pretty little avocado toasts aren’t the best for you.
How about dairy? Some of us do great with dairy, while for others, it makes other bodies constipated. And, if you are a junk food junkie, this is for you too, how do the foods you choose make you feel? Maybe awesome in the moment, but afterward?
I don’t have strict rules about ANY food.
Yes, I mean it, anything. Yes, even the foods that don’t make you feel good (except of course if you have a diagnosed food allergy). And yes, that goes for the fake colored, Gods know what number dye peanut butter crackers that I used to avoid purely because they were processed. I would have rather starved than eaten those delicious orange crackers. But no more, because my body was like “what the hell - I am hungry dang it, a package of processed crackers isn’t going to kill me, so get over your neurotic nutritionist nonsense.”
This is the most important tip of all and the one that has allowed me to return to normal eating that yes indeed does honor my health (so don’t worry). It’s critical because restriction is the number one reason we crave. Restriction actually intensifies cravings for your forbidden or “bad” foods.
Ok, so this one might make you freak out and feel like abandoning reading the rest of this email because there’s just no way you can eat without a set of rules.
Relax. I promise you if you immerse yourself in the process of falling in love with eating again, you will be rewarded with a happy and healthy relationship with food. So no, you won’t just sit on the couch, day after day, eating bag after bag of Cool Ranch Doritos (do they even make those anymore)?
I no longer make moral judgments about food (and place them on myself, the person making the choices).
So this comic may seem ridiculous, but that’s the point. Diet talk is ridiculous. When you don’t eat “clean,” you are not “dirty”. You are not a bad person for eating cake. Look how ridiculous we’ve become by making certain foods morally better than others. Detach morality from food. Period.
I learned to honor my hunger instead of going by food rules that tell me when I should or should not be eating.
Somedays I am simply hungrier than others. Why? A multitude of reasons. Some days I sit at my desk for hours and don’t get a lot of movement in, and perhaps I simply want something light to eat. And the next day? Well I got up early and did a yoga class, went for a hike, and, um, yes, I ate more because I was hungrier.
I no longer fear hunger and now my body freakin’ trusts me to feed it when it’s hungry.
We don’t need to fear hunger anymore. If we just learn to honor it, and our body’s human need for food when it needs it, we can honor our whole health. Honor and trust.
Which leads me to another super important tip…
I honor my fullness.
I had to practice this one because I came from a clean your plate family. I was also the youngest of three siblings and every meal time felt like a fastest eating contest to get the leftovers. I had this fear of not getting enough. I lost my fullness meter at a very young age. How did I learn to honor my fullness? Well I just noticed when I no longer felt hungry anymore. Did you get that? I wasn’t asking myself if I felt full but instead I asked myself if I was no longer hungry. Big difference. It’s been a fascinating experiment and one in which I noticed that I was consistently eating just to eat or because it tasted good (which incidentally naturally wears off as we eat).
I understand the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.
And that being said, I haven’t made eating for emotional reasons bad, because it’s not. We all do it. Humans were designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. We were born, held, fed and loved; thus we naturally equate food with feeling good. I just notice if I start to seek certain foods habitually and then I ask myself, what am I actually hungering for? The food is often just a substitute for something that I am seeking to fill up with or numb out from. So I dig deeper.
I value pleasure in my eating but also prioritize it in my whole life.
I’ve stopped putting so much pressure on my food to make me feel the way I desire and instead I put it back where it belongs, on me. I am responsible for my own happiness. Not my spouse. Not my family. Not my friends. Thus I am the only one that can get in my body (known as embodiment) and know what it wants physically, mentally and emotionally, and I then I nourish those aspects of my life.
That being said, eating is meant to be pleasurable. We must find satisfaction in our food choices or we will continue to seek it, and often continue to eat until we receive it or feel too stuffed to continue. And of course, eating healthy foods can be pleasurable. Make yourself a list right now of all the foods that you love and enjoy that you consider healthy.
I make eating part of my self-care, self-nourishment.
Instead of rushing around, ignoring my hunger, and then feeling like I want to eat my arm, which then leads me to grab whatever sounds good which is usually something carby or sugary because they boost my blood sugar levels quickly but then burn quickly. This leads me to want more and more food to satiate the hunger that I had been ignoring, which I then eat quickly and mindlessly.
This was the old scenario. Feeding myself is no longer something to get over with or mindlessly do while I watch my favorite Netflix show and surf on my Iphone. If I tell myself I don’t have time, I remind myself this is bullsh*t and that if I don’t have time, to figure it out. And if that means reaching out for help on how to create space in my life, I do it. Because…
We are worthy of receiving nourishment from our meals, not just nutrients or fuel. We must learn that what we eat is only part of good nutrition, so whether we are eating kale or cake, let’s take a few extra minutes to breath, sit down and enjoy it. We’re not machines, we are human beings.
I practice gentle nutrition.
I put together all of the above and I honor my whole health.
What’s gentle nutrition? Making food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Gentle nutrition allows us to relax and make peace with nutrition and food and achieve authentic health.
Remember healthy eating is having a healthy balance of foods while having a heathy relationship with food.
So I am not telling you this is easy, because it’s not. But nothing worthwhile ever comes from pushing the easy button. Just think how worth it it is to nourish your relationships with people. Food and eating is no different.
Would you like to fall in love with food and eating all over again?
You can. Remember that you actually do know how to care for your own body and you can trust yourself with food. Most of us have just forgotten how due to all the outside noise from the $70 billion dollar “diet” and “wellness” industry and the zillion different nutrition philosophies that tend to confuse the heck out of us. You can regain this personal autonomy over your food preferences.The key to making this happen is that you actually have to prioritize exploring this one very important relationship…with food and eating.
What’s your relationship with food right now? What has it been like in the past? And most importantly, what would you like your relationship to food to feel like for the rest of your life and why?
Eating isn’t supposed to be that difficult or a struggle.
- Charles Eisenstein, author, The Yoga of Eating
Have a comment, question? I would love to hear from you!