Fixing Our Broken Relationship With Food

Lost somewhere in the mists of fantasyland dwells the mystical unicorn who can eat as much as they want of whatever they want whenever they want. This mysterious creature doesn’t have to worry about their health or their weight or their appearance. The rest of us have issues with food.

Everyone reading this has body image issues, weight problems, and eating disorders. We’re constantly at war with ourselves over eating too much or too little, weighing too much or too little, or thinking we’re eating or weighing too much or too little.

Nearly every blog article or self-help outlet begins the discussion on food, weight, and body image with the assertion that we should all just love ourselves a lot more. That’s all really wonderful, but it doesn’t do much to improve our health and it definitely doesn’t help if we have an eating disorder.

So what are we supposed to do about it?

I struggled with anorexia for twenty years, and after having three kids, I struggled for years to lose the weight I gained when I was pregnant. So whichever side of the issue you’re on, take this as a message from someone who has been where you are now.

Let me paint you a picture of a healthy attitude toward food.

Say we had a prize racehorse worth $50million. We would make absolutely certain that animal got the right amount of the right kind of food only at the right times of the day. We would probably pay a lot of money to hire a veterinary nutritionist to tell us exactly what, when, and how much the horse was supposed to eat. We would weigh every meal down to the microgram.

We would ensure that the horse got exactly the right amount of exercise, not too much and not too little, balanced with adequate rest, to ensure the horse performed at its peak. We would give it a comfortable place to rest so it would have no trouble sleeping and so it would feel relaxed and well taken care of.

Why would we go to such lengths to do all this? Because we recognize the racehorse’s value and we want to protect our investment.

Now let’s apply the same logic to ourselves. We don’t go to the same pains to ensure that we get the right amount of the right kind of food so that we are in the peak of health. Why? Because we don’t value ourselves. We think we’re trash, that we don’t matter, that it’s too much trouble, that we don’t deserve it……We tell ourselves all kinds of bullshit negative lies because we don’t think we’re worth it.

A healthy approach to food treats us and our physical needs the same way we would treat a high-value racehorse. It treats us as valuable, as our most valuable investment.

Food is not a form of recreation.

Food is not for pleasure.

Food is not what we do when we go out with our friends.

It isn’t there to give our hands something to do while we watch videos.

It isn’t a reward for surviving our stressful lives.

Food is a job and the purpose of that job is to maximize performance, both mental and physical. 

There is no magical barrier between our brains and the rest of our bodies. Serotonin is the chemical most anti-depressants try to mimic and the majority of it is produced in the gut. What happens in the brain affects the rest of the body and what happens in the body affects the brain. If we have any mental health problem at all—which is most people reading this—our first project is to start eating correctly.

Depression, anxiety, body image issues—it all comes down to what we put in our mouths. What we put in is what we get out.

Food is the foundation of everything. Rubbish in, rubbish out.

Food is not our friend. Food is a tool.

Food is not optional.

What we eat and when we eat and how we eat are not optional, either.

Athletes, dancers, celebrities, supermodels, bodybuilders—all the people whose bodies we admire—they all treat food as a job. They aren’t out there eating whatever they want. No way. They count every calorie going in. They don’t eat trash. They weigh their food down to the microgram with every macronutrient accounted for. They wouldn’t dare to treat food as anything else because they know that everything they do depends on what they eat. They can’t eat a bunch of trash and expect to get the result they want.

They value the result so highly that they make certain they eat accordingly. They treat food as a job because it IS their job.

I can hear the protests now. We would probably argue that this approach robs eating of all its pleasure. If we’re telling ourselves this, I would ask just how much pleasure we’re getting from eating.

If we eat compulsively or unconsciously, we aren’t getting any pleasure from food at all anyway. If our eating habits are causing us mental illness or unhappiness, they aren’t giving us any pleasure. If they cause us to hate our bodies or to feel terrible about ourselves, it isn’t worth the moments of pleasure we get from putting something sugary in our mouths. Anorexics definitely aren’t taking any pleasure in food.

If we eat from a place of valuing ourselves, we can take just as much pleasure, if not more, from a crisp, juicy tomato or strawberry as we would from cramming a whole chocolate cake into our mouths. If we eat for health, both physical and mental, eating a fresh salad can give us far more pleasure than abusing ourselves by binging on something that will make us feel bloated and guilty afterward.

Disordered eating gives us no pleasure and it certainly doesn’t make us happy. The energy, well-being, and pride we feel from being healthy and active gives us far more pleasure than eating pizza at two o’clock in the morning.

Disordered eating is a form of self-abuse. It’s a form of self-sabotage that keeps our problems and our other disorders going. It’s a residue left behind from our traumatic past and it’s one of the many poisons we need to purge in order to enjoy healthy, thriving lives.

The purpose of food is to maintain life and to promote health. That is the only healthy attitude to have toward food, and to do that, we need to treat it as such. We eat for our health and for our own well-being and benefit.

Thank you for reading, everybody. If you need help right now, click the chatbot button at the bottom of the screen. You can get a free strategy session with me to get you started.