My relationship with food has been, to say the least, turbulent at times. I would have always characterized myself as a lover of food, yet still succumbed to feelings of confusion, fear, and anxiety around my body and what I ate. The more distress I had around food the less pleasure I experienced, really in every aspect of my life. I’d be thinking constantly about what else I’d eat later that day, and even found myself creating issues with friends so that I didn’t have to go out and be seen. The way I viewed my body was completely dysmorphic, and it resulted in a disconnection so strong that I felt it didn’t even belong to me. I compulsively tracked my calories and macronutrients, worked out to eat, and was in a pretty much constant state of stress. I started to study nutrition and get to know my body and mind through yoga, but for a while no matter what I tried, there was always an underlying fear around food. If it wasn’t what was going to make me gain weight, then it was “is this healthy enough?”. I often felt confused, frustrated, and the disconnect kept growing.
I remember asking a friend how she had overcome her body image issues, and she told me feminism was a major help. Made sense. I really wanted that to be helpful for me too, but it wasn’t the thing that resonated with me enough to create a shift. When I started getting more deeply into yoga and meditation, and took my first yoga teacher training, my relationship with food was pretty disordered and painful. Eventually something really amazing happened, slowly at first, but it was something I couldn’t ignore. As I delved into myself and found physical and mental strength and flexibility, I started to view myself so differently. I saw I had control over my awareness and how to direct it in a meaningful way. I could develop my capacity for equanimity, and I began to develop a deep reverence for how incredible my mind and body were. I felt empowered and in control. So I used every opportunity I saw to change my perceptions around my body and around food.
- When I passed a mirror and wanted to criticize my body, I laughed at the hilarity of being so attached to something so ephemeral, and instead engaged in positive and caring thoughts
- I used positive affirmations and engaged in the power of neuroplasticity!
- I made use of practices that helped to RELEASE unconscious fears and attachments (like kundalini yoga, and Vipassana meditation)
- When I had thoughts about NEEDING to workout in order to eat, I refused to go to the gym, and instead chose yoga to deepen my connection to my body and make sure I was getting physical movement rooted in self acceptance
- I chose relationships with other people that were encouraging and uplifting, and didn’t reinforce the negative associations I had with body image
I believe you have to go to the root and heal your relationship with food to reconnect with the joy of eating and love of your body. It’s a bit of trial and error sometimes to find the right foods for you, but the fear, confusion, and anxiety that surrounds eating should be addressed as soon as possible with love and understanding. Holistic nutrition is grounded in the understanding that we are multi-faceted and diverse beings who require an approach to health and wellness that’s just as multidimensional.
Empower yourself through education and experience
Getting clear on what foods are best suited to you is a great way to reconnect with the pleasure and excitement of eating. Learn about nutrition, find out your Ayurvedic constitution, take a cooking class, or explore and experiment with different foods you’ve been eager to try. While there are foods that are definitely devoid of nutrients and things I wouldn’t recommend (i.e. processed foods) that can do real harm to your health, I believe you should learn to develop an intuitive understanding of what foods are best for you. I’m talking about seeking out and experimenting with whole and unprocessed foods that catch your eye or make your mouth water.
Connect with food the way it’s meant to be — form a relationship with what you eat. I believe your food choices should be a combination of pleasure and celebration, with wisdom and nutrition. We shouldn’t be sacrificing our experience, something so intrinsically connected to how we digest and assimilate in the first place, nor should we be mindlessly overindulging on foods that don’t support our health. It can be a fine balance. It could change with the seasons, or as you yourself make leaps and bounds. This is all part of the journey, and to really connect with that “no one-size-fits-all” understanding, can be truly liberating.
Do you want to experience more pleasure with what you eat? Read Food Pleasure & Connection: Part 2 for more insight.