Body

How our relationship with food is a powerful tool for self-care

 

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I can often tell how I feel emotionally by the foods and drinks that I consume. Granted, I’m largely a healthy eater; and when I say I’m a healthy eater I mean that I’m a balanced eater.

Because this article is not written from the perspective of a nutritionist or a dietitian or a physician or a psychologist, but from the vantage point of a recovered anorexic, who is overly analytical in general, and who spent an awful lot of her life discovering how her previous food aversions and disorder can actually be a helpful guide for self-discovery.

I’m here now to share a few of the most basic things I’ve learned:

1. Food is our friend and when it’s not, we are not acting as our own friends

The simplest conclusion that I’ve come to on this journey to be a healthy eater or, rather, a healthy individual for whom food is both nourishment and satisfaction, but not an over-indulgence, is this: that our relationship with food says a ton about our relationship with ourselves.

If we are restricting food, we are restricting self-love.

If we are over-indulging in food, we are craving more self-love.

This is an obviously overly simplified version of this concept, but I find it to be true again and again in my life.

2. Craving crap is part habit and part “I’ve given up.”

There’s absolutely valid scientific research that shows that synthetic and sugary foods especially cause us to crave more of these fillers. (I call them filler foods because they are loaded with junk our bodies do not need and are distinctly lacking in nutritional density.)

When we crave these foods and over-dose on them we are, for one, in a negatively spiralling habit-cycle that needs frank willpower to stop; and for another, we have often bought into the false notion that we are not worth cooking for, that we can’t afford better food, that we don’t have time to eat better food etc. Let me tell you, these ideas are as crappy as this fare.

3. Being too “healthy” of an eater is not healthy

Food tastes good for a reason — it is meant to be enjoyed.

Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Often, when we eat “clean” and always avoid “unhealthy” — foods usually deemed “unhealthy” either by ourselves or current marketing standards — we are neglecting more than a little indulgence. We are neglecting and depriving ourselves of pleasure.

4. Gluttony and over-indulgence are not pleasurable

That said, over-indulging on a regular basis, with the excuses of “treating ourselves” or “I deserve this” or involving any other aspect of “love” is not the best way to show our emotions, or our bodies, love.

Over-indulgence is not self-care.

4. On moderating alcohol

I, personally, have a finicky relationship with alcohol. I’ve seen it destroy lives — alcoholism runs in my family and, on top of this, I want to display for my children a diet of moderation, including, within this dietetic scheme, alcoholic beverages.

Then, I saw a recent post by a friend letting us know that she had given up alcohol for the time being, as it had become something not good for her.

She said, too, that it was once shared with her that over-consumption or too-regular consumption of alcohol is often a way that we let ourselves fall apart at a speed and rate that we can handle, when we are, most assuredly, falling apart in some way — be it emotionally, mentally, physically, or a combination of these states.

While I am not a person to declare alcohol dichotomously bad or good, I do continually check in with myself, as a drinker, with my intention — for me this is key. If I neeeeeeed a drink, I practise yoga first. I don’t want alcohol to be something I need but, instead, something I enjoy.

Because here’s the larger thing:

5. Our choices become our habits become our lifestyle become our days become our lives become our stories

I want my story to include fabulous meals and company over food; and it’s okay if my story occasionally involves disordered eating in some way because I’ve found that I can use my honest relationship with food as a completely healthy, helpful tool for self-care.

I don’t expect to be perfect. Sometimes I expect my diet to be perfect — and that’s when I check in with why. Where do I feel a lacking in my life or myself that I find a need to create a pretend-controlled environment?

Life cannot be controlled.

It can be experienced and appreciated, like good food.

It can be regimented, like our diets can be.

But life, whether we like it or not, will never be wholly within our control, and thank goodness — some of the best things in my life have happened because fate took a detour, even with all of my hard work to be on a neatly specific path.

Having said that, I believe in effort — both in life and in my relationship with food. Wonderful dinners for both myself and my family will not make themselves. Writing a book will not happen unless I work on it. My relationship with my husband also, at times, takes my effort to feel good because relationships, even when filled with the most soulful of love, will have their challenges.

So here’s what I’m offering up today. I’m suggesting that we spend less time judging ourselves and judging others for their food choices and more time learning about ourselves and other people through them.

Because that old saying just might be true: food is — or can be — a display of love.

 

This article was first published on Jennifer’s blog and has been republished with permission. 

{Photo: Ali Inay / StockSnap}

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Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people that ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Be You Media Group, and The Tattooed Buddha, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer’s first book, The Best Day of Your Life, is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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