Eat like you love your body…not like you hate it. Here’s how.
Well, it’s that time of year again.
It’s warmer. Layers are shed.
We feel happier, more energetic and ready to start having some fun.
…and then a bunch of people try to tell us how inadequate we are and how we need to lose a bunch of weight by the end of the month. Preferably, by spending money on whatever they’re selling.
F$&K them. Let’s opt out. Together.
You are NOT your food choices. Nor your dress size.
It may feel insincere for a dietitian to talk about this kind of stuff. Like I’ve got all my own sh%! together, so how would I know? Except that I do know. I know that anxious tingle that comes before the start of a new diet and fitness plan. Filled with hope. Excited to reveal the ‘new you’ that you’ve always wanted. Worried about sticking it out. And the almost inevitable sense of failure if that wagon doesn’t carry you across the finish line.
There was a time in my life when I did not love my body, while I acknowledge that I have spent my entire life within a ‘socially acceptable’ weight range. But the younger me saw only imperfection. The too big nose. The thick calve/ankle combo. The bum/thigh area that make it a bit trickier to find jeans that fit.
It took time me a lot of time to unravel that conditioning. To get to the place where I truly love my body. Where I respect it, and treat it accordingly.
To be honest though, loving my body doesn’t always mean I like everything about it 24/7. I’m getting older and I am not a fan of those wrinkles beginning to creep in. I wish I didn’t look so tired all the time but really, I’ve been tired for about 8 years straight (#parenthood).
But I still 100% love my body…and am grateful for the fact that it has carried two healthy children. That it keeps me moving through this crazy life and it keeps getting stronger everyday.
I’m still a work in progress. But I will no longer allow my body shape to keep me from wearing what I want or living the life that I want. My body shape, once a daily focus, is now rarely on my mind. And that feels a lot like freedom.
I wanted to share what I’ve learned on my journey with you here…take what resonates, discard what doesn’t.
How to begin to divorce your food choices from your self worth
- Let your body show you what it can do, for the sake of movement alone
Most of us walk around like our bodies are mere vessels for our brains. I’ve found the practice of coming back into my physical body pretty transformative. About a year ago, I dipped back into fitness. All of my adult life, I have been an on again, off again exerciser. Looking back, one of the reasons I think this was the case is that I was always striving towards a regimented goal. I wouldn’t just work out…I would work out everyday so I could lose weight. Or, I would train for a race because I was ‘too unhealthy’. There would be calendars, schedules and targets.And then last year, I did something radical (for me): I started working out for the sake of movement. No goal. No ‘plan’. I just tried to workout everyday that I could. I woke up, and looked for a way to fit in movement. No go? I tried again tomorrow. Every day it was an intention, without absolutes. When I had a window, I did whatever I was into: a walk, some yoga at home, or a fitness class.
I know it’s not rocket science, but for me it was transformative. I started exercising just for fun. To feel free, to take time for myself. And a year later, I’m still doing it.
Always wondered what rock climbing was like? Take a class? Love the mountains? Go for a hike. Need to chill? Do some internet yoga. Just move.
- Give yourself permission to eat. Really.
Everyone’s relationship to food is different. If you have struggled with disordered eating in the past – or now – I really encourage you to seek support for your journey. As a young adult, I certainly waded through my own tortured relationship with food. Of course, it wasn’t really about the food. It never is. It was every ounce of meaning I projected onto food. Whether I was ‘being good’. Or ‘indulging’. I was either very regimented or very unregimented, to the point where I ended up feeling like garbage. I lacked confidence in my abilities and my value…and I used my body as a barometer for my self worth.In my 20’s, I began shedding this mindset in stages. First, I had to let myself eat. And for me, that ended up being a lot of less healthful choices. I had to get all of that pent up restriction out of my brain until all those foods that I had put on a pedestal became just food. Foods that I actually enjoyed a whole lot less than I thought I did. And I realized that nothing in my life changed – not my studies, my friendships or my enjoyment of life – because I had gained a bit of weight.
I was ready to start connecting food to how I feel. And to eat what I really wanted. Sometimes, I really wanted to celebrate and I did so with cheesecake and champagne. Sometimes, I really craved salad. These meals might even happen in the same day.
What would it feel like to eat what you truly want? Dip your toe in…the water’s fine.
- Embrace mindfulness in eating
Mindfulness is a remarkable tool for changing your relationship to food. For example, I have been known to take down a whole bag of potato chips in a single sitting. This usually happened in front of the TV or whilst drinking wine with friends. Desiree and her chips…When you’re distracted, the act of eating becomes rhythmic, your brain is otherwise occupied so it can’t keep tabs on the fact you’re eating. In fact, you’re not even enjoying all that salty goodness because you’re not paying attention.
One of the simplest ways to experiment with mindful eating is to practice eating without distraction. So no TV, no laptop, no smart phone. In the age of PVRs and Netflix, you don’t even have to miss your show! It’s a win-win. When you decide that you want to eat, remove yourself from distraction and eat. Look at your food. Really taste it. Chew it well. You will enjoy it so much more. Be so much more satisfied by the act of eating – and the flavours of the food itself.
Another way to tap into mindfulness is to ask yourself a question before you eat: why am I eating? The answer might not be because you are hungry. It might be ‘it’s lunchtime.’ Or, ‘I’m bored.’ Or, ‘It’s a celebration?’
Whatever the answer is, just notice.
Because that is the key to mindfulness….it is awareness, without judgement. No good, no bad….it just is.
A final exercise I find really transformative is to note how food makes you feel. Sometimes, ice cream makes me feel really happy. Sometimes, it makes me feel sluggish. Eating a salad can feel like the best thing around. But when you notice how food makes you feel both while you are eating it, and after you’ve eaten it, it can guide your choices to make you a more intuitive eater.
- Start eating more plant foods
Of course I think this is a good idea… I’m a plant-based RD. But there are a bunch of other reasons that plant foods can help fortify you against diet culture.The first, is that nutrient-dense plant foods support a healthier body and mind. If you are well nourished, you feel better a whole lot better. When you feel good, you make more clear-headed choices that lead to more feeling good. Secondly, because plant foods are generally high in fibre and water, they help you tap into your natural appetite regulating systems within your body so you can eat to feel pleasantly full. Most hyper-processed foods hijack your appetite regulation so you eat way more than you intended…and still feel dissatisfied.
And finally, when you’re well nourished, your body can handle occasional indulgences and still feel really good. Because feeling good is the whole point.
If you’re looking to transform your relationship with food, and build a solid nutritional foundation for a healthier body and mind, why not take my (totally free) five week Elevate Challenge?