Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Developing a Healthy Relationship with Food

I was listening to a radio program on my drive to work this morning and the speaker was Constance Rhodes, author of the book “Life Inside the ‘Thin’ Cage”. A book I’m putting on my must read list. She went on to say that according to a study in a popular woman’s magazine, three out of four women say they think and behave abnormally when it comes to food. I always find it amazing how they need studies to prove what for me seems to be common knowledge. Now these women don’t have what one would view as a “traditional” eating disorder, i.e., bulimia or anorexia, but they struggle with what is known as disordered eating. Disordered eating can be loosely defined as an unhealthy perspective on dieting, weight change and body image. This struggle often has a negative effect on the physical body, emotions and on relationships.

Developing a healthy relationship with food is something I strive for and have come to accept that it is a constant work in progress. I’m keenly aware that my relationship with food is very much damaged from a long history of being overweight since adolescence. Months ago I wrote out what a healthy relationship with food meant for me:
• It is not setting some impossible-to-achieve goal of dietary perfection for myself, which is a recipe for failure.
• It is realizing there is place for "unclean" foods in moderation in my diet, even when following the fitness lifestyle.
• Not feeling guilty when I eat "unclean" foods.
• Leaving room for "unclean" foods in my macros. (10% meals/snacks)
• If I do sometimes overindulge to not beat myself up for it and spiral downwards into an all-out binge fest, but instead get back on track with the next meal.
• Not letting food have power over you.
• Not indulging in compensatory behaviours. (endless cardio)

A few of the highlights of the program were around our thought processes and how they center on food and our weight. Do you ever find yourself thinking that if you could just lose a few pounds, everything in life would be better? Do you ever get tired of worrying about food and your weight? Do you frequently look in the mirror and judge your body against the ideal you have in your mind? Does a small amount of weight gain cause you to binge or significantly limit your eating for days? Do you believe your weight and the size of your body directly affect the respect you get at work and from peers?

My own response to many of those questions would be yes, yes and yes. They also spoke about eating behaviours/patterns, some of which I don’t think are necessarily all that off base and can be necessary for someone who has struggled with being overweight. For instance, do you find that instead of eating a "real" meal, do you eat empty calories such as candy or chips (especially if they're fat free). (This is something I often did when I was overweight). When eating out, do you always ask for foods to be specially prepared (without butter, oils, or cheese, etc.). This is something I do now and totally agree with! Do you only eat something if you know the amount of calories and /or fat grams that are in it? I think while dieting this is very important, but am trying to be so strict about this now. Do your friends tell you your eating habits are weird? You bet they do, and I don’t mind. Do you skip out on social functions because you don't want to have to eat what is being served. Guilty. Even though you don't let yourself eat what you want to, do you actually love to eat? Guilty. If I did eat what I wanted all the time, I’d still be overweight. Do you every get tired of thinking about eating (and being thin) all the time? Most definitely yes. How can I not wish that I were naturally thin and never had a weight problem and could eat whatever I wanted without thinking about it. I can’t, and this is a fact I have accepted. For me nothing tastes as good as being thin and fit feels. Food will always be there. Always. It’s just a matter of continuing to develop and grow a healthy attitude towards it. I lost my weight nearly three years ago, so technically I’m still in only in the toddler stage of thinking. Lots of growing yet to do.

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