Today I’m sharing about how my life improved drastically by improving my relationship with food.
Over the last year, I’ve shared more and more about my own journey with my relationship with food. From my early teen years, food wasn’t just food. It was a way to manipulate and control things like my size and my weight. It was a defining factor of my level of “health”. It was a source of stress, anxiety, guilt, shame, etc.
What started out as a way to fuel for sport, lose a few lbs, and eat “healthy” turned into years of hyper-focus and unhealthy obsession with food, exercise, and body size.
I’m not writing this post to go into detail about my previous eating, exercise and body image issues. I’m writing this post to tell you how much my life has improved since I improved the relationship with food. I’m writing this post so that if you, too, have dealt with food/exercise/body image issues, you’ll see how worth it it is to do the work and improve your relationship with these things, too.
So, without further ado, here are 5 ways my life has improved since improving my relationship with food.
My Relationships + Social Life
In my early teens and throughout high school, I definitely didn’t have a good relationship with food but it didn’t really affect my social life. I kept my disordered eating habits relatively hidden behind the scenes of my highly athletic, highly social teen years. Things shifted in university and I struggled with existing friendships and making new ones due to the fear of late nights, late night eats, and the weight gain that I feared would accompany these things. I’d go to parties or to out to eat with friends on special occasions, but found myself staying in most of the time in order to feel my best, eat “my best” and not miss a workout. I often feel like I missed out on really important friendship-making years because of this.
Since healing my poor relationship with food, I feel so much more free to make decisions about my social life without feeling anxiety or guilt about my “healthy lifestyle”. There’s no more fear of the calories in the snacks at a get together or fear that I’ll be too tired for my workout the next day. I’m still a bit of an introvert, but my decisions to go out with friends or stay in alone are no longer conditional to food, calories, exercise, fear of weight gain, etc. I feel so much more confident in my social life and have built some awesome relationships since healing my relationship with food.
My Physical Strength
I’ve always worked out. I was an athlete for most of my life, so exercise and pushing myself is natural and feels pretty good to me. As an athlete, something I noticed as a teen and as a university athlete was difficulty feeling strong and holding my own in my competitive, physical sports. I now recognize this as a result of my under-fuelling and lack of rest/recovery. When I was restricting food and constantly chasing a lower body weight, matter how much strength training I did, I never felt much stronger, and always felt tired. I was a soccer player, and it pains me to think how much different my career could have been if I wasn’t essentially starving my body of the fuel it needed.
Since then, I see how much of an impact actually fuelling my body with LOTS of calories (couldn’t tell you how many, I just listen to my body) and ENOUGH rest makes. This has nothing to do with how my body looks, or any sort of number. I can’t tell you my weight, my muscle mass or body fat percentage or anything like that because I don’t know the answer. I don’t care to know. I do care how energized I feel day to day, how strong I now feel, and the enjoyment I get from exercise.
The Eating Experience
Something else I now know is that when you get rid of food rules, restriction, feelings of guilt or moral judgement about food choices…you can actually enjoy your food.
For so long, I was so caught up in portion control, eating “clean” and cutting calories in every which way that I could that I never found true pleasure in eating. I was so focused on controlling my food that ultimately, it was controlling me.
I’ve said this before, yes, food gives us fuel. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s pleasure, it’s comfort, it’s exciting and fun. It’s something we share and experience and this isn’t something that should be forgotten or neglected. However, so many of us tend to neglect this aspect of food because we’re constantly fed messages that if we’re getting pleasure from food it means it must be “bad”. Ever heard the term “guilty pleasure”? Yeah.
When you stop stressing about reducing your intake, obsessing over ingredients and if your meal is “good” or “bad” you actually get a chance to really taste, savour, and enjoy your food without these judgements getting in the way. I also realized that so many foods I desired but denied myself aren’t actually that appealing to me, once I realized these foods were available to me and allowed all times. Now I can fully enjoy the foods I really love, and pass up ones that don’t excite me.
My Mental Health
The first three improvements mentioned have all contributed significantly to how improving my relationship with food improved my mental health. Better relationships + social life, enjoyment in exercise and a stronger, more energized body, plus the ability to have fun, experiment and enjoy food all play a huge role.
I’m a pretty high-strung person. Dealing with stress and anxiety is ongoing. However, eating, exercising and the way I looked were huge sources of stress and anxiety for me for a long time. Once my relationship with these things improved, so did these sources of mental turmoil.
I’m a much happier, healthier person overall thanks to my positive relationship with food. And one thing I’ve learned is that taking care of our mental health is HUGE, and having a healthy relationship with food is healthier than any amount of healthy food you will eat.
My Quality of Life
Just to sum everything up here, I thought I’d leave you with this final improvement.
Everything in my life is better thanks to finally improving my relationship with food. My social life, relationships, my energy levels, my sleep, my mental health, my strength, the ability to enjoy things like food and exercise, my work, etc. Diet culture and the idealization of smaller, thinner bodies and “clean eating” rob us of so much. It’s all interconnected, so being free from rules around food and exercise and having this quality of life is so much more worth it than being any size, any number on the scale, or looking a certain way in the mirror. I hope this post reminds you of just that.
If you can relate at all, or your relationship with food, exercise, or your body is something you struggle with, I highly recommend checking out our Eat Unconditionally 7-Day Mini Course that’s launching on July 22. If I can heal my disordered, confusing, stressful relationship with food, so can you. Sign up here!