Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What is your relationship with food?

After discussing some mental challenges I have with weight loss with a sweet friend, she suggested that I take an honest look at my relationship with food.   I thought it would also be helpful for me to take an honest look at my relationship with my body while I'm at it - because I think that the two are connected. 

Everyone has a relationship with their bodies. In my own observations and experiences I can group people into 4 different categories (listed in no particular order): 

1. There are those people out there (God love them!) who love their bodies fully and completely. 

2. However, for the majority of people, it is merely a slight to moderate dislike with an acceptance that this is just the way they are (and if not a full acceptance then not necessarily a dislike enough to do anything to change it). 

3. For some, it is a love/hate relationship where they love themselves (and hate the problem areas) enough to do something about it (or at least attempt to do something). 

4. The last group are those who just hate. These people tend to have eating disorders, self-esteem and body image problems. 

I spent most of my life as a TWO with tendencies to cross the line into the mindset of a FOUR at any given time. However, my relationship with food quickly got out of control and because of friends and family who care about me - I find myself as a THREE today and not a FOUR. (Gratefully) 

If I'm truly honest with myself - which I promised I would be. My relationship with food looks something like this. 

THREE views food as first and foremost a way to feed their emotions. Food is used, for the most part, as reward and punishment and on some occasions used as fuel for their bodies. THREEs spend every second of a meal or snack thinking about whether or not this is a "bad" choice or a "good" choice - that decision will determine how they feel after they make the choice and eat it. THREEs either feel shame or pride immediately after food is swallowed (based solely on the judgement of good or bad made prior to putting the food in their mouths). THREEs do not trust their bodies at all. They think that they can eat healthy and exercise for a week and lose one pound but if they have one slice of pizza they will gain three. Since they will gain three pounds with one slice they might as well eat the entire pie because there may not be another pizza made in their lifetime and starting with the next meal they will have only allow themselves to have lettuce for the rest of their lives!! THREES will continue to eat even when they feel full because they still feel sad, lonely, happy, angry - whatever emotion triggered the food fest. THREEs have usually had some traumatic experience in their lives that caused them humiliation due to the size or look of their body. They unrealistically think that the chair they are sitting in will not hold their weight and they will collapse to the ground in sheer humiliation while skinny ONEs point and laugh at them. (Even though true ONEs aren't the ones who are passing judgement on other people's body size - its the FOURs that are usually the worst about this). THREEs operate out of fear - of food, of their body's reaction to food, of their ability to reach their goals ... fear is always the driving factor. 

Yes, I am a THREE. In all of my glory. However, I aspire to be a ONE. 

I believe that ONE's relationship with food is a healthy understanding that food is something that is meant to be enjoyed, but it also fulfills a purpose. They eat when their body tells them they are hungry and they make decisions based on what is best for them in the long run - not simply in that moment. Food does not fill a void or soothe a pain. They eat slowly because food will always be there and they will be hungry again - there is no fear that the world will end tomorrow and you will never have another slice of pizza. If something deemed "unhealthy" is eaten, they trust their bodies enough to process the food and return to a normal state again soon because the body is a great stabilizer and has the ability to level itself out. Once the hunger is satisfied, ONEs stop eating because the food has fulfilled it's purpose. ONEs do not understand what it is like to be in fear of doing something physical because their bodies CAN'T. ONEs have never been kicked off of roller coasters because the shoulder bar won't close. ONEs have never spiraled into a deep depression because they just ate an entire birthday cake in one sitting because they over-analyzed a situation and reacted in fear. ONEs may have other fears and insecurities - but food is not one of them. 

So, how does someone go from the mindset of a THREE to the mindset of a ONE? I really believe that you can have the mindset of a ONE without being skinny. So here are the steps I'm going to take to get there: 

emoticon Make an effort to determine WHY I am eating. (Am I hungry or am I eating emotionally?) 
emoticon Slow down. 
emoticon Stop when I'm full. 
emoticon No more self-hate or shame about food. 
emoticon Remind myself of my accomplishments every day. 
emoticon Give myself credit for how far I have come and forget about how far I have left to go. 

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