“Break away from the negativity surrounding food. Allow yourself to take this journey one step at a time, and realize that no matter what that this is a process.”
By Miles, Owner and Founder of Milesfit
All of us, whether we know it or not, have a relationship with food. Being that eating is essential for survival, it’s fairly reasonable to expect that over time we all develop our own habits, preferences, and feelings about food.
This relationship begins when we’re very young, when we try something delicious (or disgusting) for the first time, beginning to develop our preferences and tastes. It continues through our upbringing when we are exposed to family recipes, cultural practices, and rituals around eating, which shapes our emotional attachment to food. Then, in adulthood, we gain more agency in our food choices, further developing our own tastes and habits.
Our life experiences around food and eating are all vastly different, and form a complex relationship with food that follows us throughout our lives. This can be a positive relationship: eating is often a social practice and can bring people together, and we can learn how to treat our bodies kindly with the foods we eat.
It can be a practical relationship: food satisfies us and keeps us energized, and oftentimes we use it to relieve the stress of our busy lives.
However, we can also develop negative relationships with food. Food and eating can create anxiety and be surrounded by feelings of guilt and fear.
For many of us, we are told from a young age that there are “good foods” and that there are “bad foods”. “Good foods” typically fit into this category: natural, unprocessed, full of fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a number of other easily marketable health buzz-terms. “Bad foods” are processed, high in fat, high in sugar, and almost invariably marketed for their flavour and “fun” quality.
The truth is: food is food, whether it’s a grass-fed steak or a couple of oreos. There is no true hierarchy. Sure, there are absolutely foods that do more for your body than others. Foods that nourish you and help you grow. But, as I’ve said before, food is also meant to be enjoyed, and there are certain foods that exist simply to be enjoyed. There’s no shame in that. It’s just a matter of understanding the difference and making healthy decisions with that difference in mind.
When we see foods in the Good/Bad binary, we open ourselves to a host of problems. We tell ourselves that it’s an all or nothing game. We either eat no “bad” food at all, or we’ve failed. What often happens when we start a fitness journey is we avidly avoid any and all foods we’ve told ourselves are “bad”. We last for a while, and feel great about how well our willpower is holding up.
Inevitably, as we live our lives, we run into situations where those foods are present. We feel bad just for wanting them, and feel even worse if and when we end up eating them. It sends us down a spiral of negativity and shame, and often leads to us completely abandoning our journey and overindulging in those foods because we’ve been so strictly avoiding them for so long. We see it as the floodgates opening, and we let ourselves get carried away.
When we have a negative relationship to food, health and fitness becomes a much greater challenge. Everything is an uphill battle because our lives become mired in over analyzing our food choices, and the stress brought on by believing in the “good/bad” binary.
The key to begin mending our relationship with food is to let go of that binary. We must accept food as food, and not deprive ourselves of the foods we enjoy. Yes, moderation is important, but moderation is much more manageable than complete deprivation.
Don’t write off entire food groups. Advice like “cut out all fat” or “cut out all carbs” is unsustainable. How on earth can anyone be reasonably expected to completely avoid such major nutrients? It’s simply not possible in the long-term, and further promotes negative associations with food.
Remove guilt and shame from your life. Break away from the negativity surrounding food. Allow yourself to take this journey one step at a time, and realize that no matter what that this is a process. So what if every now and again you let yourself enjoy a treat with friends? If you practice consistency and patience, the results will come, and you won’t need to deprive yourself for them!