3 Things that Can Make a Big Difference in How You Approach Food & Your Body
The process of making peace with food and body can feel daunting. There are countless ways we experience a tumultuous relationship with food and body in our everyday life: in our relationships, in our day-to-day decision making, in our work, and in our homes. It's not uncommon for me to hear clients express how they know something isn't right with their relationship with food, but to feel completely overwhelmed with how to actually take action toward a more peaceful, positive relationship with food and body.
First of all, please know this: you don't have to do it all at once. You just have to keep doing the next right thing. This process is messy, nuanced, imperfect and beautiful. You've got this!
Here are three tips you can work on today to work toward a more peaceful approach to food and body.
Wear clothes that fit your here-and-now body
Having a closet full of clothes that fit and are comfortable on your here-and-now body is a really important part of positive and sustainable eating habits. Being able to wear clothes that fit can enable you to connect to your needs, without constant mental distractions and "shoulds". Conversely, if every time you get dressed you are reminded of the fact that you've gained weight and that clothes don't fit, you will likely struggle more with your relationship with food and body. So, sorting through your closet and putting away the clothes that don't fit can actually make a pretty big difference in how you approach food and body. Whether or not you wind up throwing them out, or just leaving them in the garage for another time is up to you.
Think: underwear, shirts, bathing suits, clothes for work, clothes for home. Shop thrift stores if needed and sort through your closet. Whip out your weekend to-do list and add "closet inventory" to it and notice how wearing clothes that fit and feel good positively impact your connection and approach to your body.
Let go of the scale
If the scale tends to define what kind of day you're going to have (i.e. you're in a good mood because you're down or you're in a bad mood because you were up on the scale) it might be time to pause and zoom out. Take an honest look at your relationship with the scale: why are you stepping on? What are the effects of weighing yourself? Does this help you align closer with your values? Does weighing yourself make it harder to care for yourself?
Chances are good that the scale is actively making it more difficult for you to connect to your body and to care for it. We often assume that weighing ourselves is directly correlated with healthier living. The truth is, though, the scale is perpetuating the diet cycle for you . The dieting cycle is not your fault and not a sign of weakness: it is the literal natural consequence of dieting and is tied to poorer health outcomes.
If it feels scary to let go of the scale forever, you could try an experiment. Put the scale away for a week, a few weeks or a month and notice how this affects you. Get curious about the experience: are you more present with your family? Do you notice an increased amount of brain space when you're not obsessing about a number all day? Do you see any changes with how you connect to your body and/or feed, move, rest? Take some time to experiment and notice the effects.
Say goodbye to the diet mentality
The diet mentality is formulaic, dichotomous, and all-or-nothing. A mindset of permission, connection, and messiness is actually a far more helpful approach than the dieting mentality. It can feel scary to let go of the rigid dieting mentality we've all been taught to have with food. But the interesting thing is that permission, acceptance and connection are values that tend to promote sustainability and an overall healthier approach to food than the dieting mentality. In other words, the diet mentality leads to poorer health outcomes, both mentally and physically.
So how do you let go of the dieting mentality? It starts with awareness. Spend some time today and this week noticing your self-talk around food. Do you notice a lot of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts"? Do you hear yourself berating yourself for your eating? Do you notice promising yourself you'll restrict tomorrow because you've already ruined today so might as well go for it? These are all common ways of thinking that come to us from diet culture, and these thought patterns are not helpful. Recognizing them first is key.
After you've built awareness around your thoughts, the next step is to validate and accept those thoughts. You are not bad for thinking them. Your feelings are valid. Then, sink deeper. Pause for a minute and connect to your inner knowing. What would your relationship with food look like in the most ideal situation? What are some action steps you can take today to challenge the diet mentality and move closer to a peaceful, positive relationship with food?
This process is difficult but so worth it!
This process I'm describing is a lot more complex and nuanced than a blog post allows me to explore fully. If you are intrigued and looking for more guidance in how to make peace with food, check out our schedules and make an appointment. Remember, your insurance may even pay for your sessions with a dietitian!