12 Unexpected Ways to Transform Your Relationship with Food & Yourself
In my teens and most of my early twenties , I used to be totally weird with food. I had all these rules. I had to eat this for lunch, only this many calories for a snack, and if I ate too much, I’d “work it off” the next day in the gym.
The worst part though was the games I’d play. I’d deprive, deprive, deprive to stick to “the plan” and then by the time I got around what I really wanted – I’d pig out.
One of the foods I used to do this with was peanut butter. Peanut butter freaked me out. So delicious and creamy and full of healthy fats my body was (obviously) craving, but I just couldn’t have a couple tablespoons. I’d need to have like half a jar.
In short, my relationship with food needed some help. I was afraid of it.
Food. The nourishment we need to live. I was afraid of it…
Afraid I’d gain weight, that more cellulite would pop up, or my jeans wouldn’t fit anymore.
I’d look at healthy, beautiful women, enjoying “not healthy stuff,” think pizza, chocolate cake, or fried calamari, and I’d think – my god – how can they eat like that and look like that!?
And the thing that always killed me was how happy they looked. Happy, healthy, and enjoying food.
I longed to be like those women.
Instead, I was in the corner, crazily counting my calories I’d eaten for the day, feeling uncomfortable in my skin.
I was at a healthy weight, but that didn’t matter. I was so miserable in my mind.
And then one day, I decided to change. The mental chatter just became too much. I didn’t want to live feeling like this anymore.
I didn’t want to live feeling “at war” with food and my body.
So, my thoughts s-l-o-w-l-y changed.
Food is food. My body is my body. I can love both. Others do. So why can’t I? I can. I can and I will. I can and I will.
(repeat, repeat, repeat ….)
I began questioning myself.
Did I want to live hating my body the rest of my life, being weird about food (not having fun), and trying to be a size my body wouldn’t go?
I didn’t. It was exhausting.
I committed to fully investing in my body love journey.
Note the word “journey.” I was thinking a certain way for so long that I knew it wasn’t going to change overnight. But, I had faith and believed that it absolutely would change. You can do this too.
It’s been over 10 years now, and I can tell you that everything is different (thank you Universe!).
I can also tell you that there is soooo much more to life than your weight. And there’s so much more to your self-worth than the number on the scale. Really, truly, honestly.
True peace with yourself is not about being “skinny.” It’s about being happy with where you are right now. Exactly as you are.
Once this clicked, I started shifting my perspective. And once that happened, I learned some things about transforming my relationship with food and myself.
Here are 12 lessons I’ve learned.
1.) Focus on how you want to feel instead of the scale
Shifting the focus from the scale to how you want to feel is profound. When you tune-in + get clear on how you want to feel (happy, healthy, vibrant, calm, peaceful – whatever comes up for you) you can then do the things that will help you feel like that (meditation, eating well, moving your body, etc).
Practicing the actions that you know in your heart will make you feel how you want to feel will cause your core values to align with your intentions, setting you up for success.
2.) Honor your hunger + fullness
It’s that simple (but I know it doesn’t feel that simple!). When your body needs nourishment, eat. When you’re comfortably full, stop. Think about it like a scale. 0 is starving and 10 is stuffed. You want to eat around a 3-4 (hunger pains) and stop around a 6-7 (comfortably full).
The more you tune-in to your body in the present moment, the more you’ll be able to practice this and eventually, mindful eating will become a way of life. Tune-in and give it time.
3.) Give attention to how foods sit with you
Every body is different. Dairy may sit well with you while it doesn’t for your best friend. Start to observe how what you put into your body makes you feel.
When I eat heavy foods (think gravies or pasta dishes with a cream sauce) or really sugary foods (like jam or pastries) I feel a bit nauseous after, so I generally avoid them. But, when I eat minimally-processed whole foods (fruits, veggies, meat, fish, dairy, beans/lentils, and ancient grains) I feel really good and can easily digest. I try to stick to my motto “protein + produce” at every meal because I know I feel so much better when I do this.
You can do this too. Start to listen to what your body is telling you and honor that. Your body knows best- it’ll always choose nourishment.
4.) Eat what you really want
Deprivation leads to nowhere but crazytown with food. If you really want something (anything) enjoy it. Be mindful, honor your hunger and fullness, and you won’t overeat.
5.) Appreciate your now
Could you imagine being in a car and screaming (at the top of your lungs) at your best friend while they’re trying to drive down a windy road? It’s going to be pretty hard, if not gosh-darn impossible to drive safely.
Likewise, if you’re sitting there (“screaming” at yourself), constantly thinking how disgusting your body is, how you’re not good enough, how you’ll never get “there” – how do you expect to move forward?
You’ve got to take a step back, breathe deep, and shift your thoughts, my friend. Choose to see the light through the trees, so you can successfully navigate changing lanes on a windy road.
The first step to do doing this is being appreciative for where you are right now + what you admire about yourself and your body, as is. Self-love comes before anything else. Without it there’s just going to be a whole lot of screaming and not a lot of ability to move forward consciously and successfully.
6.) Let go to let in
Letting go of expectations of how you think you’re supposed to look is liberating. Dig deep and ask yourself where that idea even came from. Why do you think you’re “supposed” to look a certain way? You can then get clear – do you really want that to control you? To dictate how you feel?
You have the power to choose how you feel. Choose to see things a different way. A way that empowers you. Rewrite your beliefs and detox from the people, things, or ideas that are holding you back. Take a deep breathe and let go of the old and let in the new.
7.) Be present
If you’re obsessing about what you don’t like about yourself, you can’t see the forest through the trees. We then miss the bigger picture of what we really need to feel healthy, vibrant, and happy. It’s like someone obsessing about becoming engaged. They’re sooo consumed (and worried) about getting the ring that they can’t actually be present to create the type of relationship needed to get to where they ultimately want to be, engaged.
When you’re too busy obsessing about where you want to be instead of where you are, it’s hard to see what you need to do for you, right now, to actually get there. Let the past go, have faith in the future and be mindful in the moment.
8.) Shift to kindness
Go easy on yourself. You’ve been thinking (and living) a certain way for so long. Change doesn’t immediately happen overnight. It can happen fast, if you show up for yourself and do the work, but give your body the time it needs to adjust, and your mind the practice it needs to shift towards a kinder way of speaking to yourself. This is your journey and no one else’s. Own your journey. Love your journey and give yourself a hug for being on it every now and then, really.
9.) Connect with your body
Whether it be through walking, yoga, or lifting weights, find a way that feels right to you to open up to your body in a loving way. The physical aspect of moving your body will foster a sense of appreciation and confidence you can’t get any other way.
And listen to your body. If you need a break from exercise or a nap, allow yourself to go there, guiltlessly.
10.) Discover what’s missing
Food is used in so many ways. We restrict to give us a sense of control. We eat to fill a void. We binge because we’ve been deprived in some way. If you’re like most kind, caring, compassionate women I know, you use food to fill a void. Start to think about what that void is. Journal it out, talk it out, think it out.
Do you need more acceptance, support, self-love, rest, adventure, play, freedom, honesty, productivity, or purpose? What is it that’s really missing … it’s not always about the food…
11.) Get clear on what’s really important to you
At the height of my “food issues,” I just remember thinking, over and over, “There are so many more important things in life than my weight.” So many more important things. When I was gone, no one was going to remember me for what I weighed. They were going to remember me for who I was. So who did I want to be?
I created a vision and saw the type of woman I wanted to grow into. This woman was confident, happy, and healthy and would rather be 15 pounds bigger than miserable and 15 pounds smaller. This woman knew that her weight wouldn’t ultimately make her happy – self-love and acceptance would. And when she arrived at this space, she knew she’d still be healthy because when you practice self-love, you practice taking care of yourself in body, mind, spirit, and soul.
Think about it – what’s really important to you?
12.) Live with forgiveness, grace and gratitude
You will have struggles- they’re part of your story. Forgive yourself, let it go, and grow with grace. You won’t grow without bumps in the road. Instead, appreciate that you know yourself well enough to recognize your struggles and ask yourself – what do I need to grow with grace? With an open heart and the right intentions, the answer will come to you.
Life is too short to beat yourself up. Your body is too precious to be mean to – it’s your vehicle for how you do all the things you love. And everyday is a new day to begin anew. You can always start fresh.