Hello again, friends! Are you well today?
This week’s post continues our exploration into self-care. We’ve come a long way so far and I’m glad if you are still with me. These conversations are especially important, and I hope my insights are helpful to you.
Today’s self-care topic is feeling good about food. I know everyone has their own opinions about food and I do as well. Depending on my mood, food can be a godsend or a nightmare. We all have things we are concerned with surrounding food, too.
Am I eating right?
Why am I not eating right?
Why am I craving sweets?
Why do I hate water so much?
The list goes on. We all have a certain relationship with food. People have to eat to survive. As a result, eating isn’t a habit we can quit cold turkey.
Everyone knows that eating healthy is a good way to take care of yourself. The issue occurs when we ask about the how or why of it. I’m not a nutritionist nor am I in the business of telling you how to live your life. I can’t tell you what will work for your body’s needs. I can only tell you about my experiences and offer some advice that has helped me. So, with that being said, I present to you some of the helpful things I’ve learned along my journey with food and eating.
Retrain Your Brain
In the United States and other nations, we live in a culture that delivers lots of negative messages surrounding food and dieting. I know of people that are always on some kind of diet plan. Be it ketogenic, pescatarian, vegan, or carb-cutting, these diets are all focused on limiting your access to food. You can’t eat this or that. If you do, there will be consequences.
I can’t speak for you, but I hate being told what to do. Especially, when I’m hungry.
Have you ever overindulged? I mean, have you ever eaten yourself sick? Sick to the point that you hate the thought of ever eating again.
I have. It isn’t fun.
One of the mistakes that people make with these restrictive diets happens when they cross the line. You can’t handle one more spinach smoothie for breakfast so you head out to the nearest restaurant and order the biggest Denver omelet you can get. You happily pig out until you realize what you’ve done.
Back to square one, right?
Diets don’t work generally. People tend to restrict themselves too much and lose the will to continue. This “all or nothing” mentality has folks stating and stopping with healthy choices to the point of exhaustion.
It’s the whole, “I messed up this plan, guess I have to start all over” thinking that upsets people. It’s the thinking that because you made a mistake, everything is ruined.
This is a false assumption.
People aren’t perfect. Perfection is not in our playbook. We mess up all the time. What’s important is how you recover from your mistakes. Being okay with being pretty good consistently is the way to go. So what if you slip up at a company party? It’s fine if you eat that doughnut at your desk. The secret police aren’t coming after you so don’t overreact. If you are continually going back to the starting line, you are never going to reach the finish.
Declare Your Feelings
As I stated before, people have to eat. Why not make eating an enjoyable experience all around instead of a tedious chore. Why stress yourself about calorie counting instead of focusing on all the yummy foods that you can eat without guilt.
Reframing can start with changing the way you relate to your food. Food isn’t good or bad. It just is. People apply these labels to make themselves crazy. That cake doesn’t care what it might do to your waistline. Those cookies don’t care that your pants might get tight when you eat them Then, why should you?
Decide what you are going to eat and eat it. Simple as that. You don’t have to attach extra feelings to it. That is related to another issue.
Have you ever felt so bad that you ate an entire pizza in a parking lot?
I have and it didn’t help.
I was so stressed and depressed that I needed some kind of comfort. Sadly, a greasy pizza was the only comfort I had available at the time. Food is a favorite coping mechanism for many of us. The problem is when people always rely on sugary, fatty, greasy, or salty snacks to come to their aid in their time of crisis.
It’s a tough habit to get rid of but it’s possible.
Instead of swallowing your feelings, you could try processing them more healthily. Journaling does this for me. When I get the urge to reach for the ice cream box, I stop and ask myself why. Am I tired? Am I stressed? Am I frustrated? Maybe bored or sleepy.
After I figure that out, I work on solutions. Non-food solutions. If I’m stressed or angry, I write about the thing that is stressing me. If I’m bored, the writing gives me something else to think about. By the time I’m finished, the urge to eat junk has usually passed.
Not always. Remember, we aren’t perfect. Try out some different strategies to find what works for you.
Did you know that some people don’t drink water? Not because they don’t have access to clean or running water, but because they just don’t like it.
That blows my mind.
Your body is mostly composed of water, and it is an absolute necessity to stay alive. Imagine not drinking water because you don’t like how it tastes. Amazing.
There are plenty of options if the flavor isn’t to your liking. The cheapest option would be to just get over it. Apart from that, you can buy flavoring designed to make water better. There even the option of cutting up fruit and infusing your water that way. We can’t allow something simple like taste to be a barrier to drinking enough water. Your health is too important.
Experts from The Mayo Clinic say that people should be drinking between 9-13 cups (2-3 liters) of water every day depending on their activity level. That is a lot, but it feels impossible if water isn’t normally on the menu. My advice is to start early and drink often. Some people drink eight ounces of water before they leave their bedroom in the morning. Make sure to carry water with you throughout the day especially during the summer months. Dehydration can sneak up and knock the life out of you if you aren’t careful. Nobody wants to earn a hospital stay for being stubborn.
Snacks are not the Enemy
Did you learn that you should only eat three meals a day as a child? No snacking was allowed. If you got hungry between meals, you just had to stick it out.
Me too. Snacks were a big no-no when I was a kid. When I did get to eat snack food, I got celery and carrots. Not the snack that most kids are thinking of. The other kids would giggle at my celery as they skipped off with their potato chips and candy, guzzling their sodas as fast as they could.
Nowadays, we know that snacking can be good for you. When people are active, they are bound to get hungry. Depriving your body of the nourishment it needs is never a good plan. Having something to eat to curb those hunger pangs can get you through a long afternoon.
I’m not saying to go wild on the chips and cookies either. There is always a healthier alternative. Have a package of almonds in your desk. Pack some raisins in your bag for the evening commute home. Keep an emergency supply of hummus and pretzels in the fridge at work. Lower calorie snack options may require a little bit of research on your part, but I’m sure you can find something that will work for you.
Food isn’t Good or Bad
Believe it or not, neither are you!
You shouldn’t allow your food choices to determine your self-worth. You aren’t a garbage human because you love chocolate chip cookies. You aren’t a waste of space because you would rather eat a bag of chips than a garden salad. You are still valid and loveable whether or not you are trying to lose a few pounds. What you eat does not dictate your value as a person.
I know being confident in your food decisions is difficult, especially in our culture. It is a radical act of self-care to eat food that makes you happy and makes you feel better. The key is incorporating both parts, feeling good about eating and the food not making you miserable afterward. You can eat three doughnuts, but you might hate yourself after the fact. Alternately, you could choose to have a salad for lunch but be kicking yourself for not ordering tacos with your coworkers. Life is about balance.
How are you doing with your food journey? Any of my tips look helpful to you? Do you prefer apple or lemon pie? What kinds of snacks do you crave the most? Let’s talk food in the comments and let me know your thoughts.
And in case no one else has told you today that they love you, I love you.
Stay strong and Bon Appetit!