Over the past year I have been relearning how to eat. After years of dieting and restrictive eating, I have committed to learn to eat with a healthy mindset, and develop a healthy relationship towards food.
This has involved unlearning all of the rules regarding food that I have picked up through various diets and “healthy eating” restrictions. I have been learning to eat food non-judgementally, without guilt and shame. I am working at getting rid of the voice inside my head that tells me cookies are bad, and kale is good. That eating after 9:00 pm will make me fat, or eating 5 meals a day will make me skinny and happy.
I had been ignoring my body for so long and trying to control what I ate, and it has been really hard to let all of that go. It is crazy how many mindsets we have about different types of food, and how we should eat, without even realizing it. These ideas about food weren’t making me healthy, but unhappy, and obsessive. God has given my body the ability to tell me when I am hungry, and when I am full. I am attempting to eat by these signals.
It isn’t what we eat that makes us healthy, but how, and why we eat it.
About five years ago, I got really committed to working out and eating a “healthy” clean diet. I ate 5 regimented meals a day at set times. I carefully planned and prepared all of my food ahead of time. I wouldn’t let my husband cook anything for me. I needed to control all of the ingredients that went into what I made. I was so obsessed about food. I was stressed in social situations because I was worried that I would have to explain why I wasn’t eating certain things, like birthday cake. I also got anxious if I wasn’t able to eat at designated times.
I remember standing in a circle in a team meeting at work and scarfing down greek yogurt mixed with protein powder while my co-workers watched. I couldn’t have eaten it before the meeting because it wouldn’t have been three hours since the last time I ate. I was so embarrassed, but I felt like I just had to eat at that exact moment, or my whole diet would be ruined. I was so controlled by food! It was all I thought about, and it dictated my actions and the way that I lived me life.
During this time I lost a lot of weight, but I was so far from healthy. My hormones weren’t functioning properly, and I stopped getting my period. On the outside I looked like the picture of perfect health, on the inside I was so unhealthy, and becoming quite unhappy. Since this time in my life, I have had to gain weight so my body would function normally again. I had to quit working out for awhile. Now I am at a healthy weight and am able to exercise. I am trying to figure out what my personal healthy looks like.
I am not eating how I want to yet. I still have a lot of food rules and mindsets that need healing. I have come a long way in the past year, but I still struggle daily with listening to my body’s hunger cues. Sometimes I eat something because I think it would be “good” for me, not because it is something that I want. Other times I eat a lot of a food that I have restricted in the past, like cookies or chocolate, not because I want it, but because it is difficult to stop and realize that I can eat this food whenever I want to. I am realizing I don’t have to go crazy all at once.
I have noticed a big change since I have stopped dieting and eating restrictively. I no longer feel guilt, or shame for overeating, or eating foods that I wouldn’t have allowed myself in the past. I can recognize my mistakes as areas for improvement, and get on with my life. This has been huge! In the past if I ate something “bad”, this would have triggered a binge, making me feel awful, and leading to more restrictive eating than I was already doing.
Below are a few steps that I have taken in order to heal my relationship with food and have healthier mindsets and eating habits
How I am learning to eat healthy
- Letting go of the “food” rules that have dictated what I ate in the past
- Listening to my body for cues about when to eat, what, and how much
- Enjoying what I am eating, and not thinking about whether it is “bad” or “good”
- Learning to love my body where it is at, and understanding that looking a certain way won’t make me happier or improve my life
- Stopping comparing myself to others, and placing expectations on myself
- Focusing on setting a good example for my daughter and demonstrating how to have a healthy relationship with food to her
How about you? What are some tips that help you eat more healthfully? (Remember I’m not talking about what you eat, but how and why you eat!)