It’s a four-letter “F-Word” that, no matter who you are — whether you’re an athlete, a college student, Dwight Schrute from The Office, a single yuppie, or recovering from an eating disorder — we all have a relationship with it.
Yep. You, reading this. Me, typing this in yesterday’s yoga pants at 4pm in the afternoon — like it or not, we all have a relationship with the fuel that literally keeps us alive.
Granted, some healthier than others.
But I may argue, that aside from God and family, one’s relationship with food is one of the most important relationships to get right in your life.
This is one of the questions that I get asked the most. “How can I improve my relationship with food?”
And spoiler alert, this question is not only coming from precious young girls in the throes of an eating disorder. Nope. It’s from literally all types of people. Men, women, young, more mature – we’re all working through some sort of “food issue.”
And, as you will soon see, I have literally had just about every possible relationship one can have with it. But I’ve finally found peace and partnership with food, and so I feel like I have just a smidge of, if not authority, than at least ample experience, to back me up.
I think we all underestimate the deep seeded emotional bond we have with food.
I mean, heck my life is one giant, living, breathing example of that.
Let me, in simply 30 seconds, catch you up.
Growing up as an athlete, food was always fuel. Buttered noodles before soccer training, that was always my jam. During my ulcerative colitis flares, food meant pain. Every bite, not only was like knives in the stomach, but resulted in excruciating, blood-filled episodes…elsewhere. Thus, leading to my anorexia, where I was terrified of food, yet obsessed with it, salivating over countless hours of the food network, as I wasted away. Eventually spiraling into the rigid rules and anxiety and panic and paralyzing fear of a severe, life threatening eating disorder that, at 78 pounds, nearly cost me my life.
Once in recovery, my relationship with food ran the gamut. (I mean, hello, I even went to culinary school for a year!) As you can imagine, after being so severely malnourished and restrictive, the pendulum definitely swung the “other way” in my initial months of recovery, with binge eating episodes that caused more shame than you would ever know. Eating until it physically hurt, and then waking up, hating myself, and not wanting to eat for the next 24 hours. That was a viscious cycle to break.
In recovery, I also went through a period of extreme exercise addiction, coupled with another distorted relationship with food, eating only one huge meal per day.
And it was only my last Ulcerative Colitis flare 7 years ago, that finally allowed me to get a healthy, and positive relationship with food. I adopted the therapeutic Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which healed my disease, and kicked me out of a debilitating flare that had me on bed rest for 11 months.
And I have remained in remission, thanks to this healing way of life.
So now, today – as a healthy, thriving young woman who eats three full meals a day, with snacks, and without fear or anxiety — I finally (praise God) have a positive relationship with the fuel that keeps me alive and healthy.
So here are my takeaways.
As I mentioned – our relationship with food is deep seeded. So much so that we probably aren’t even aware of it. For starters, how we were raised plays a huge role. Those habits we learn as kids become ingrained in our psyches. – So whether you were encouraged to be part of the “Clean Plate Club,” or were rewarded with sweets, or incentivized by an extra this or that, those habits become a part of our make up, both good, and bad.
And if we are going to reset our relationship with food, we have to first understand what our personal relationship actually is.
And that takes work, but is the key to success.
So really examine – even write it down if you have to — for a week — every time you put something into your mouth — what emotion are you feeling? (I’ve created a worksheet below to print off)
Are you bored? Sad? Angry? Stressed?
And I promise, you’ll start to see patterns. Maybe every time you were stressed you reached for something salty/crunchy like chips. Or you had ice cream when you were feeling lonely or sad. You get the idea.
You’ll notice things.
And then here’s where the magic happens.
Once you realize what those “trigger emotions” are that cause you to binge, or restrict, or make unhealthy choices in your life — find non-food ways to replace them.
This has worked wonders for me.
If I’m lonely – I’ll call a friend — actually call, or FaceTime.
If I’m bored or feeling restless, I’ll get some fresh air. Take a short walk.
If I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I’ll make a game plan and prioritize my “to do” list to make life more manageable.
If I am feeling sad, I’ll do something nice for other people.
If I’m looking for comfort, I’ll go get a 10 minute, $7 chair message at my local nail salon.
Food has become a source of nourishment, instead of a source of comfort or entertainment in my life. No emotions attached.
But here’s the thing: yes, all those strategies are well and good. And yes, they are great tools that truly help.
But…none of it will be successful without the biggest factor of all: God.
I got to the point where I literally had to hand it over to God and say, Look — I can’t do this alone. I need You. Help me.
So many times, those things that we’re feeling out of control of — be it food, be it alcohol, be it online shopping, or gambling, or pornography, or promiscuous choices — they’re all simply an attempt to fill a hole in our lives that only God can fill.
Every morning, I have to wake up and purposefully and intentionally spend time with Him. I have to seek Him, seek His love and seek His help. And doing that makes literally all the difference.
He gives me strength. He gives me clarity. And He gives me wisdom to be able to recognize what emotions I’m feeling that may make me want to make poor decisions.
There is such freedom when life is no longer ruled by food. So much joy when we can see food as the resource it is, and keep it in its proper place in our lives.
Because it will never love us back. It will never solve our problems or alleviate our anxiety or need for control.
Only the Father can do those things. And take it from the gal who’s been all over the culinary map. Food is just a fuel.
I love getting questions from you all! And in an upcoming blog post, I though it could be fun to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) as a way to celebrate all 40,000 of you! We’re almost there and I couldn’t be more excited and grateful about it! So thank you to everyone who’s passing on my blog or tagging me on Instagram posts, and getting the word out about our little community 🙂
So yeah, send in your questions! 🙂
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