The key to not having a weight problem is not having a food problem.
The key to not having a food problem is not having a body image problem. So ultimately the real question is: How not to have a body image problem? And the answer is not (I repeat, NOT) having the perfect body, because that doesn’t exist. There isn’t one perfect body; there isn’t even my perfect body. There is just my body, and in so being my body, it is perfect.
We’ve got to love ourselves.
We need to not beat ourselves up every time we eat a “bad food” or forgo a workout.
Please don’t be someone who always wants to lose 10 pounds. I know those people. I’ve been that person. I didn’t feel extremely unhealthy or overweight, but any day that I felt extra slim was a good day and any day that I felt larger than normal was a bad day.
I always pictured myself thinner (and therefore magically happier) in the future. In the words of Bob Newhart, I needed to “STOP IT.”
I’m being glib of course. I know that just “stopping it” isn’t easy. Not to mention that there is every manner of body dysmorphic disorder. It can manifest as wanting to lose weight, gain weight, change one particular body part or change lots of body parts. But all types of body dysmorphia share a lack of love for one’s own body.
I constantly see articles about How to Eat Like The French or How to Eat Like a Thin Girl etc. Comically, they all have different tips in lists of 10, but the reality is that the reason that all of these different categories of people (e.g. “The French”—as if we can loop an entire country into one group—or “Always Thin Girls” etc.) keep their weight healthy and consistent is that they have healthy relationships with their bodies and, subsequently, with their food.
Emotions and life stressors can certainly play a big part in cravings and eating habits, but even an emotional trauma that fuels a late night ice cream binge is compounded by the fact that the next day we feel horribly guilty about our behavior.
If instead we chalked it up to an appropriate night of wallowing without judgment we might naturally find ourselves slightly less hungry the following day or that we’ve satisfied our sweet tooth for a little while.
Yes, this concept ignores the complexities of sugar addiction and interrupted hunger/satiety signals, which can be caused by consuming things like artificial sweeteners, copious amounts of sugar and hormone pumped/chemical-laden Franken-foods.
Trust me, I learned about the chemistry of food and that stuff can mess us up. But I still stand by my statement that without our inner voices telling us how much we just screwed up or telling us that we need to change something about our bodies, our food choices become much less of an internal war.
It’s much easier to choose healthy foods when we love ourselves and therefore want to feel good and be kind to our bodies. And it is also much easier to indulge in small amounts when we really just want to taste something decadent, but don’t feel like a failure as soon as we have.
Let’s remove the idea of food choices as rewards or punishments.
Eating should be pleasurable. It should be about nourishing ourselves. Just remember that nourishment comes in many forms, including the inner dialogue that we have with ourselves. Make sure it is a positive one.
Let’s embrace the body that we have. It doesn’t matter what the size of our clothes is, just that they flatter and fit us. Let’s take pride in ourselves. We are worthy and interesting. Let’s trust that we are attractive.
I suggest that we all try a little experiment.
For those of us who fall into the category of wanting to change our bodies in some way and recognize that this has been affecting our relationship with food, for two weeks we can try letting those thought patterns go. We will release the idea that our bodies need “fixing” in some way.
Perhaps we can start every day off with a mantra to reinforce this conscious decision: I love my body for it is beautiful. I am whole and complete exactly the way that I am.
Then we can see what happens.
Keep a journal if you want to. I welcome you to share how it’s going in the comments section, but feel free to keep it private.
My hypothesis is that the concerns we have had about what would happen if we relinquish our firm grip and semblance of control on our food choices do not come to pass. My hope is that we may come to find a bit more balance within ourselves and more pleasure when eating. We just may end up healthier, happier versions of ourselves.
Let’s give it a shot. Any takers?
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Assistant Editor: Paige Vignola/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
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