American’s have one of the most twisted relationships with food as compared to Belgium, France and Japan. One study showed that Americans get less pleasure from food and worry more about whether or not what they are eating is healthy. Yet, we have higher obesity levels. We also exercise more than any other country.
Food is not the problem here. It is our relationship to it and our bodies that is.
Food is meant to be pleasurable. Yet, we constantly find ways for punishing ourselves with it. We actually allow ourselves to feel guilty for enjoying what is on our plate. As penance for that we tell ourselves that we will work out harder or avoid certain food for the rest of the week. We can never just eat and be okay with it. Food is never just about eating, it is always about a deeper struggle within ourselves.
Even when we are eating “healthy” food, we have destructive conversations in our head. We tell ourselves that we have been so “good” today we need to not mess it up by eating after a certain time or eating a carb before bed or eating at all before bed. Sometimes we just go to bed in order to avoid the possibility of eating at all. We praise ourselves for our will power and our ability to avoid or restrict certain foods. The better we are at this behavior, the better we feel about ourselves.
The problem with that? When eating is a defining factor in your success or failure as a person, you can not have a peaceful relationship with food.
As people, we are pleasure seekers. Food is one of those great pleasures. When we deprive ourselves of the pleasure of eating and enjoying food, we become obsessed with it. We all want what we can’t have. The desire for food is meant to be fulfilled and when it is ignored it will not be silenced. It will be on your brain 24/7. It will build and build until you finally give in.
Of course when we do not allow ourselves something we truly want, we will rebel. We will binge. We will “fall off the wagon.” We have told ourselves that pleasure and food must be suppressed. “Health” and weight-loss must be the only focus and decision maker behind our choices. If we can not keep in control with that, then we just don’t have enough “will power.”
You are not lacking will power because you went for the doughnut. Think of areas in your life where will power has served you greatly. You have will power! There is a reason why you continually lose it around food, however… because the two were never meant to go together in the first place.
If you have to throw salt on your plate in order to refrain from eating off it, if you have to throw a napkin over your food to signal yourself you are done, if you rely on portion sizes to tell you when it is time to stop eating rather then your internal bodies signals, you are not respecting your body. You are not respecting the role food plays in feeding and bringing pleasure to your body. You are only feeding your belief that your body can not be trusted in regards to food. That you need to do better. You need to take action.
Sadly, for most of us, that means trying to suppress our appetites and cravings by trying to control what we eat. It is a losing battle. That is not the strategy we should be taking to have healthier bodies.
Food would not constantly be on your mind if your relationship with it was not so slanted. When food is on the brain you must recognize that as a way of your body saying, ” I need attention.” Not just in the “I am hungry ” way but in the ” I feel lonely. I feel tired. I feel rejected. I feel worthless. I feel abandoned, I feel bored, I feel stressed” way. Not only must we recognize these feelings but we must validate them. We do that by allowing them to be present. We accept them. We do not judge them.
Judgement is by far the most violent action we use against our bodies. Finding our way out of it is an essential tool towards healing our relationship with food.
God did not create food to be a tease for you. He did not make such pleasure in eating in order to bring you to binging or restricting. Society has done that. We have done that to ourselves. We have created a label for food that reads ” If I don’t make you thin or healthy, you are a horrible person for eating me.”
You have a choice to either give in to the constant battle of wills over what you eat (and constantly be obsessing over food) or to chose to stop participating in the absurdity of all this confusion around food. You can keep riding the diet roller coaster or get the heck off of it and get on the journey that you really hunger for…peace with yourself and freedom with food.