How is your relationship with food?

Food is such an integral part of life, and yet it is fraught with so many emotions. Some food can bring back childhood memories. Others are associated with healthy and vitality. Still other are associated with guilt and depression. The last option there seems to be such a big part of a dieter’s life. Having a good relationship with food is so important. In our culture where such an emphasis is placed on looking like the ideal it is difficult, especially from women. We are barraged with unrealistic images of thin, perfect looking models. Magazines and movies set the beauty expectations. Girls begin to think “If only I could look like her I would be happy.” All of which leads to guilt about what we eat.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of counting calories. Does this mean that I think counting calories is bad? No, certainly not. It can be a very useful tool if you’re unsure about portion sizes or caloric values of food. Calories in vs calories burned is certainly important when losing weight. But, for me, it comes down to quality instead of quantity. Can you lose weight eating a packet of flavored oatmeal for breakfast, a 100 calorie snack pack for a snack, lean cuisine for lunch, and some other form of frozen meal for dinner? Absolutely. Are you going to be satisfied with your diet? No.

For me, counting calories turned food into an unhealthy obsession.

I ate 400 calories for breakfast so that means I can have 100 calories for a snack, and my lunch should only be 500 calories.. Maybe if I eat a small dinner I can have a treat later.

I was hungry all the time and constantly thinking about when the next time I was allowed to eat. I counted calories and exercised, and the results were minimal. Did I feel better from exercising? Sure, but the numbers refusing to budge on the scale meant that the improvement I felt in my fitness was unsatisfying.  What I could eat, and when I could eat it consumed my thoughts. Even as I was eating, I was thinking about the next time that I would be able to eat. This mentality unsurprisingly leads to the qualification of foods as “good” and “bad.” It also associates the consumer with being “good” and “bad.” 

Oh, I was “good” all week. I can be bad and have a burger and fries for dinner on Friday... I was “good” all day, it’s okay for me to be “bad” and eat this brownie.

Associating comfort foods and foods that aren’t necessarily healthy for you as “bad” is detrimental to one’s relationship with food. You’re not “bad” for eating a package of M&M’s. You wanted some chocolate and that’s OK. Have grilled chicken and veggies for dinner and don’t worry about it. Go ahead and have a slice or two of pizza… along with a big side salad to help fill you up without all the calories.

When I finally decided to stop counting calories, it was freeing. I stopped thinking about when the next time I would be allowed to eat was. I stopped obsessing about if I ate too few or too many calories for a meal. Just today I had a banana and yogurt for breakfast, and that was fine. I had a handful of nuts as a snack and I was OK until lunch. If I was counting calories, I would have seen the 100 calorie banana and 150 calorie yogurt as a small breakfast and I would have needed a snack, rather than just grazing on one because I felt a little peckish. I would have analyzed how many calories were in the snack and see if that equaled the amount of calories I was supposed to have for breakfast, and maybe I could afford an afternoon snack too.

My categories of food shifted from “bad” and “good” to “less” and “more.” More healthy stuff, less junk. It’s that simple. And I certainly don’t beat myself up for eating junk if I’m craving it, either. Have I lost more weight since then? Yes. And it’s been a very slow process. I’m also confident that I could speed things up if I made a consolidated effort to.

What about you? What is your relationship with food like?

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12 thoughts on “How is your relationship with food?

  1. I totally agree with you about counting calories. I stop feeling my body and the important messages it sends me. For me it is like timing my runs – if I do I stress and forget to enjoy.

  2. Counting calories is difficult, I always seem to underestimate my portions so I don’t do it anymore, it didn’t work for me. Instead I’m trying to watch what I eat and when I eat it, workout at least an hour 5 days a week and drink a lot of water. I’ve seen some results, although they’ve been slow.

    My relationship with food isn’t a healthy one at all. I want to celebrate, I eat. I’m in a bad mood, I eat. I’m sad, I eat. I’m bored, I eat. Believe me I know that food isn’t the answer to everything but, it’s a hard change to make!

    • It is SO hard to make that mental transition! What really helped me was doing a couple one week raw cleanses. It really changes the way you look at food, and what you need. You start looking at food as fuel rather than a reward.

      It’s easy to do now with all the raw blogs out there that have wonderful recipes so you don’t feel like you’re being deprived. There are also tons of great raw products at Whole Foods (although they’re on the pricey side).

      All that aside, keep up what you’re doing. Slow and steady wins the race, and is the key to keeping the weight off! :)

  3. My relationship with food sucks, usually. I try not to count, but even when I’m not counting, I’m still paying far too much attention.

    That’s why I like being pregnant…it’s a great excuse to forget about numbers for a year!

  4. It’s so true, and really tragic because there were days when I would be so sad that I would skip meals, or eat very tiny meals all day in order to have a big ice cream at night. even still i often catch myself counting how many calories i burn at the gym in the morning to make sure i burned at least as much as i ate for breakfast. I really dont know how it does me any good to be watching the calorie counter while running because i just get bored and frustrated! anyway, great post, you really touched on a lot here!

  5. Like you even I believe food is the most imp thing in our life..!I share a very good relation with it.. I just love food and enjoy all kinds of cooking. But only gets the shock wen my body stop thinking the way I think (NB: Iam lazy to excercise) :):):)

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