Finding My Way to a Healthy Relationship with Food

08 01

Today I want to share about how I found my way to a healthy relationship with food. I’m not professing to feel this way 100% of the time however I’m at a good place. It has been a journey and will continue to be as I learn more about what nourishes my body. The intention behind sharing my experience is perhaps it will resonate with you or give you inspiration to try something. Finding what works for you will most likely be different and that’s OK!

I’m going to take it back to the beginning, when food became a “thing” in my life (around 13 years old), to present day. I will share what the environment looked like around me, my internal struggles and where I was with food at that time. As most of you know, I’m going to keep it real. For me, this post is about SO much more than just food. It is about self-love, acceptance, health, longevity and feeling GOOD in my body. Here we go…

The food journey started for me when I was about 13. I was going through puberty and my hormones were majorly shifting. I became more aware of my body, all of the changes happening and boys. Was I attractive? Did anyone think I was pretty? etc. i.e. external validation. Prior to this I was not self-aware of my body and “looks”. I was an active kid, playing soccer and dancing however I tended to always be a bit overweight (20-30 pounds). Heading into my teenage years I felt VERY uncomfortable in my skin and would often compare myself to the skinny “perfect” girls around me and in magazines. To put it into perspective, I would wear baggy sweatshirts in the summer and never want to be in a swimsuit. I tried to hide my body.

Looking back I realize I used food as emotional comfort. I had a lot of instability in my household growing up, as I know many can relate. I was alone often, so food became my comfort.

My surroundings looked like this: I had a step-parent that suffered from disordered eating – in and out of rehab. That in turn made the entire household VERY food conscious and hyper controlled. There was no healthy conversations around eating, nourishing our bodies and being “skinny” was the goal. It was only restriction, a specific type of food and no understanding of why. So needless to say when I went to friends houses and saw their pantries, all I wanted was something sweet or a fucking potato chip! Like, seriously. This experience taught me it’s about balance. Deprivation is not successful.

So… that was my foundation. Heading into high school I became fixated on my weight and losing weight. This is where diet culture came into my experience. It was early 2000’s so fat free, sugar free, Atkins (low carb) and others were very trendy. I tried everything. During this time I also started going to the gym. Cardio, cardio and more cardio was the name of the game. The weight started to come off slowly around 18-19. And let’s be clear, this was because I was being very controlling with my food and spending hours at the gym.

Now I was in college and at this point I still had no understanding of eating to nourish my mind and body. I started a food journal which only made me more controlling about everything I put in my mouth. So much of my day would be consumed with what I was going to eat. Which honestly is silly for me to think about now. Legit, all I was eating was oatmeal, egg whites, salads, chicken, and steamed vegetables – ya know the drill. As I mentioned I was in college, so I was drinking and late night eating at times. The next day guilt was not fun. So lots of restriction and spin classes were happening. Honestly writing this, it sounds so fucked up however I know I was not the only one.

Flash forward to my mid 20’s… I was at a normal weight, 130 pounds for my 5’5″ frame and I decided to say bye bye to my food journal. It was one of the best things I ever did. By this point I had been doing it long enough, I knew how many calories where in EVERYTHING and honestly, was ready to let go. Surprise, surprise, I did not gain a pound and it was a turning point in my journey. I had become an expert nutrition label reader: calories, fats, carbs, sugar, etc. but I didn’t know WHAT I should be eating for my body and WHY… so I continued down my path. This is when I decided to try the Paleo diet.

The Paleolithic diet is essentially: meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, fruits, and veggies, along with healthy fats and oils. At this time Whole 30 was also becoming popular. So where did I start?? I went to my good ole friend, Pinterest, and started to look up food charts on what I could eat and recipes. This is when my love of cooking began. If I was going to commit to eating this way, I wanted meals that would taste good. I was sick of eating plain, boring food. When I started creating my own recipes and cooking daily is when I truly understood what I needed to nourish my body and feel good. I was SO much more self-aware of how food impacted the way I felt: physically, energy, mood and focus. My true education around food began during this period. Once I started to feel REALLY good, I was committed to a healthy journey around food.

Now I am 36, about 8 years after trying paleo, and my relationship with food has only gotten better. I do not follow a certain diet. I eat what works for me and that is: protein (a lot), healthy fats, vegetables (lots of greens), quinoa, brown rice, a little dairy, berries, seeds, nuts and sometimes bread!! Yes, bread BUT I make it at home – fermented sourdough. I stay away from processed foods and sugars at all costs. If I want something sweet, I typically make it myself. Now that I know so much about how food effects overall health, energy, mood, etc. I will always make it a priority to know what me and my family are eating.

Let’s be clear, it is alllllllll about BALANCE and not deprivation as I mentioned above. If I feel like having french fries, I have them. Since I eat a healthy and clean foods 90+% of the time, I’m not worried about it. Food does not control me. I now get excited about how I can create nutritious meals for my family and what recipes I can make that taste delicious! My weight is a function of the way I eat not the REASON I eat a specific way. It’s secondary. If I feel good, eat clean, move my body and my weight reflects that. At this point I’ve also learned it’s not about external validation. If I’m taking care of myself on the inside I will in-turn feel my best on the outside. It’s not about anyone else.

I’ve also come to place where I’m not the cardio queen anymore LOL. Actually the exact opposite. I look at working out through a much different lens. My goal is to be strong, not skinny. I do a lot of strength work through lifting weights and pilates. Both have transformed my composition and I truly love to do them. I spend time out in nature, walking and hiking. This has become my happy place where I am moving my body, grounding my spirit and enjoying time with my family. I have a much more detailed post about working out that I wrote after having baby number two here.

I have realized that just because someone around me has an unhealthy relationship with food, doesn’t mean I have to. It is my choice and my experience.

Finding what works for you is key. Once you make the commitment to yourself to nourish your body and eat clean foods, your journey to a healthy relationship will begin. Educate yourself on food, start to try new things/cook and become aware of how it makes you feel. It’s a journey – a day at a time. Things that are worth it do not happen overnight. Give yourself time and grace. No guilt and no shame.

A few things I do to help me and my family eat healthy are: meal prep on Sunday for the week ahead, go to the store once and carve out 30-45 minutes to get dinner prepped each night. All three of these things help save time throughout the week, alleviates anxiety and ensures we are all eating well.

I’ve found this time in my life as an opportunity to give my children the education around food that I did not have. We talk about it daily so my boys are aware of how food plays a role in their lives and the physical things it helps support: brain health, energy, strength and more. Knowledge around this will allow them to live the best versions of themselves.

And so the journey continues… I’m currently in the midst of trying out specific foods during different times in my cycle. Understanding my hormones and how food impacts them is so powerful. I will share more about this soon.

I’m also looking forward to the time in which I can grow my own food – very interested in this. We currently own part of a dairy farm and through this, I have become more aware of where our food comes from, how animals are treated and that we as a society can create better farming environments. Our dairy is in the midst of becoming fully regenerative, which I find to be VERY exciting! If we slow down and take a beat, come together, I know we can create a better world for our children.

Gratitude for my body is a daily choice and one I’m committed to. Self-love has become an important part of my mental health. I’ve got one shot to take care of my body and I’m going to do the best I can! Wishing y’all the best on your journey.

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