At least once a day someone asks me in person or reaches out to me through email about what diet and exercise plan I stick to. The answer is simple; I don’t follow anything. Every day I am surrounded by people who have an unhealthy relationship with food.
I think there is a common misconception that you only have an unhealthy relationship with food if you are severely underweight or overweight, but that isn’t the case at all.
- Feeling sad or upset and buying a pint of ice cream and wallowing in self-pity is unhealthy.
- Not trusting yourself to keep a jar of peanut butter or your favorite chocolate bar in your house in fear that you will eat the whole thing = unhealthy.
- Watching what you eat all week so you can go on vacation where all food; fried, fat and greasy is fair game so you eat everything in sight until you feel sick = unhealthy.
- Running 10 miles a day to cancel out a slice of pizza or a brownie you plan on or have already eaten… unhealthy.
- Telling yourself you are going to start eating healthy tomorrow so you might as well bake a tray of brownies and eat them all… then realizing you can’t so you throw them into trash… only to eat them out of the trash = unhealthy
- Eating a tiny piece of cake and feeling guilty afterwards = unhealthy.
Here are 5 tips towards having a healthy relationship with food that have helped me the most:
Forget the fads, toss the rules and trust yourself.
Step down off the freaking scale. Deep breaths, Shannon, deep breaths. I get really upset about scales. The only person who needs to weigh you is your doctor. If a woman eats enough salt and drinks enough liquids, she could easily make the scale jump 10 pounds in two days. If you feel good and your clothes fit, there is no reason to put a number on it because you probably already have an unrealistic number in your head. If you’re clothes don’t fit, buy clothes that fit you. If you don’t feel good, nourish your body with clean foods and exercise.
Fad diets put restrictions on food. Learn what real food is and start to add it into your diet. Figure out what type of exercise you actually like to do and just do it. Just because everyone is doing CrossFit right now and Jazzercise is so 20 years ago, doesn’t mean you should hit a box after work instead of doing your favorite workout DVD.
Learn the difference between indulging vs. binging.
For example, you can open a package of cookies indulge in a few, even several and put the box away once your craving is satisfied. Binging would be eating the cookies until you feel sick and not even enjoying them. After a few cookies, the rest don’t taste as good. That goes for every type of food item. Once you keep eating something in one sitting it becomes less and less enjoyable. If you allow yourself to slow down and enjoy what you’re eating you realize that quickly.
This is easy to learn once you get rid of all your “rules.” For instance, once I decided I had no rules and really believed that, I realized I don’t really like Reese’s cups. The eggs are another story, but peanut butter cups, meh. If I’m going to eat candy I’m going to hold out for something I really want, like Peanut M&Ms (I like to get the shareable size and not share them).
I often don’t eat cake. People typically think it’s because I’m practicing self-control. I just don’t like cake, not my thing. I would rather have a cookie, ice cream or better yet a Chipwich. When I do eat these items, I eat until I’m full. I can stop easily because I know if I want more I will go back when I’m hungry, if that’s what I’m still hungry for.
Learn the difference between dedication vs. obsession.
It’s okay to be dedicated towards becoming a healthier you. It’s not okay to become obsessed and let your dedication run your life. There is absolutely no such thing as a “healthy obsession.” Go ahead, try me. It’s not okay to be obsessed with healthy living. It is okay to be dedicated to living a healthy life.
When I was obsessed, I would skip social events and frankly, I was miserable because all I was doing was exercising, eating healthy and then binging. Now that I’m just dedicated (and not obsessed with) to a healthy lifestyle, I see my friends more and do more of the things I love to do.
Realize you won’t be perfect
Trust how you feel and it will balance out. I get a little cookie-happy once in awhile. Instead of feeling guilty about it, I ask myself why I ate that many cookies and if I really needed that many. I try to determine if it was an emotional binge or not. I learn what I can from it and move on.
Remember that everyone is different. Some people are naturally a size 2 and some are naturally a size 12. Plus size models have sexy curves, beautiful faces and different frames than a runway model. Plus size models are also healthy, please note that they’re not obese. Trying to force your body to be an unnatural size is challenging and not healthy. When you eat clean foods, exercise regulary and sleep your body gets to where it needs to be.
Therapy. Therapy. Therapy.
Therapy is by far the best thing you can do for yourself. Alright, I’m going to get really upset for a second and possibly have a spasm. Therapy is not a last resort, IT IS A FIRST RESORT. People always ask me for advice and this is generally the first thing I tell them. Therapy changed my life, but no one ever listens to me! They will try everything else and still not try therapy.
Chances are if you have an unhealthy relationship with food it’s because you’re avoiding not dealing with another issue in your life. Talking to Dr. K about my emotional eating and obsessiveness with food and fitness helped me get to the bottom of what was really bothering me. And guess what? It had nothing to do with food or fitness.
I’m not certified in anything. I’m a graphic designer and life enthusiast. I can make things on paper look pretty and tell you the tips that helped me the most, but at the end of the day, I can’t give you any professional advice tailored to you. A therapist can.
It’s so cliche for me to tell you life is too short to be miserable, but it’s a cliche because it’s true. So let me say it again…
Life is too short to be miserable.