Tag Archives: food choices

A Better Relationship with Food Means Making Deliberate Decisions

We make deliberate choices every day, often every hour about what and how we will eat. There is freedom in this.

We make deliberate choices every day, often every hour about what and how we will eat. There is freedom in this.

I just want to point out that getting better from our struggles with food doesn’t happen by chance.

I talk to a lot of women who seem to believe that there must be a secret way out of all of this – one that will allow them to be somewhat unconscious or inactive while someone or something else does the work (I’ve been there!).

We won’t wake up one day able to eat the exact right amount for our body without judgement, without overeating and without a lot of conscious choices just because we’ve been hoping that would happen.

I certainly tried that. I remember literally trying to “pray” away my weight as a kid. And as I got older, I definitely daydreamed about just waking up in a body that wasn’t confused about food.

We won’t “fix” our stuff just because someone gave us the right diet plan. Being told what to eat and how much is liberating, but only briefly. I say briefly, because on any diet, we will find ourselves choosing to not eat the things or quantities we are supposed to at some point. We will make decisions about food, regardless of what we’re “supposed” to do.

There have been many times over the years where I just thought if someone else would tell me what to eat, exactly what to eat and I didn’t have to make decisions about food, then I wouldn’t have the struggles I did. I wanted to opt out of all decision making about what I put into my body.

But the way out is by actually facing those decisions head on, taking responsibility for our choices and having the consciousness to be able see what our actions lead to.

The best thing to do is to accept that almost everything we do in our food life is because of a choice that we made. Even the choice to not make a choice and have someone else make it for you (i.e. having someone give you a specific diet plan) is itself a choice. The lack of decision is also a decision.

We will only improve our relationship with food by making deliberate and more conscious choices and decisions about:

  • what we eat (ex. Will I choose to eat this compelling donut in front of me or the nutritious lunch I planned?)
  • how we eat (ex. Will I choose to eat slowly, chewing every bite thoroughly before swallowing? Or will I choose shovel handful after handful of chips into my mouth without even taking a breath?)
  • how much or little we will eat (ex. Will I choose to eat until I’m uncomfortably full or will I stop when I’ve had comfortably enough?)
  • when we eat  (ex.  Will I choose to eat because it’s a certain time of day, because it’s been 4 hours since I last ate or because I am physically hungry? etc)
  • why we eat (ex. Are we choosing to eating from a recognition of our physical hunger? Or are we choosing to eat so that we can avoiding feeling our feelings?)
  • even the other stuff like letting go of judgement, loving our body and loving ourselves as we are right now. It all feels abstract and the thoughts we have about ourselves do pop up without conscious choice, but it’s still a conscious choice as to what we will do with those thoughts. Will we choose to let them pass through like clouds pass by in the sky? Or will we choose to choose to focus on them and allow those thoughts to grow?

This is not a blame game. I know people often feel sensitive and defensive when they hear that they have a choice about something because it sounds as if we are choosing to be unhappy, overweight, or to live a complicated relationship with food. But just because we have a choice over our actions, doesn’t mean that it makes it easy to make the best choices all of the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will make good choices even when you are aware of the consequences of the choice you are making. So before we get riled about trying to figure out where to place blame, let’s just decide that there isn’t anyone or anything to blame. This is just how it is and let’s take responsibility for what we can, and not worry about what we can’t.

Focus on the actions you can take to improve things in your food world, like bringing more awareness and more attention to your choices, your meal times, your purchases at the grocery store, how you eat, when you eat etc. Make awareness your job.

When you start to feel acutely aware of the inner thoughts you have as you make these choices (oh, we all have them!), you’ll notice that you can decide to go along with it or choose to do something different. You’ll start to notice that when you decide to make a different choice that you feel better, happier, have less digestive distress etc. And when you feel all the good things that come with making the best choices for your body, making those choices more often will get a little easier!

But first you have to make deliberate and conscious choices regularly, daily, even hourly sometimes. You must do this daily – it has to become part of your life’s practice.

Choose to not reach into the candy bowl again.

Choose to not eat in your car.

Choose to exercise even when you don’t want to.

Choose to eat vegetables even though chips might be more appealing right now.

Choose to go out and visit with friends when you’d rather be downing a pint of ice cream on your couch.

Even with acute awareness and practice, sometimes you will still choose the things that won’t feel best. You will still occasionally choose to eat more than you had planned. You will still sometimes choose foods that don’t feel so great in your body. But that doesn’t have to mean that anything has gone wrong or that you aren’t doing the best you can right now. Normal eaters sometimes do these things too. And for someone healing their relationship with food it is normal to wonder if these perceived “slip ups” are proof that you aren’t improving things or if it’s normal. It’s all in how you handle it. Will you view one single overeating episode as a reason to go back to overeating all the time? Or will you use your knowledge and awareness to let that go and make a different choice going forward?

Realizing that every bite we put in our bodies is because of a deliberate decision we have made is actually very powerful. We can choose to view that as crappy and feel like we are being blamed for our eating challenges or we can choose to see freedom in knowing that we can be active participants in the way out.

Knowing you can choose at every meal and every situation is very liberating. It is freeing. It can help you relax around food. It can help you beat yourself up less (because there will be more choices to make going forward). I know it isn’t easy and I’m not promising that making good choices is easy from the start (it’s not!) – but to get to the “easy” and I know that most of us are always looking for easy, you have to first understand and accept that we have choices to make, bring your attention and awareness to your actions and choices and then start deliberately making choices from a conscious place.

There is a lot of hard work in this. And yes, sometimes it’s really uncomfortable, painful and you’ll feel “I don’t wanna!”. That’s fine – you can feel that way. Just don’t stay there all the time (that’s a choice too cutie!). Come back when you are ready and let’s make more deliberate decisions together.

Could you use some support in this area? Schedule a free consult with me here.

You can also download a free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!). It’s my starter tool pack for those who want to begin changing their relationship with food.

The Realization that Stopped My Holiday Bingefests

Historically, when it comes to food on holidays, I completely lose my shit. Go off the rails. Eat my weight in potato chips. And gain quite a bit of weight that I end up attempting to work off all winter, sometimes longer. Even if I do well leading up to it, exercising and eating well, the day of the actual holiday comes and it starts at least a 5 day eating frenzy! Thanksgiving is no exception – my husband, brother and law and I spend the whole 4 days together reading, playing games, binge-watching The Walking Dead, enjoying cocktails and eating up all the leftovers.

Considering I make a lot of vegetables, this doesn’t have to be a big deal, but since there is also lots of pie, cheesecake and leftover appetizers and dips and things, it’s been ugly many times in the past. I can think of multiple occasions when I found myself sitting on the couch with a bowl of chips and dip after guests left, not even hungry, but desperately wanting that rich creamy deliciousness that I hadn’t had since the previous Thanksgiving. Sure, I ate some in front of guests, but I wanted to consume a large quantity of it, when I could enjoy it without the distraction of others.

I’d go to bed with a full and distended belly and wake up the next morning feeling physically terrible and emotionally fragile. I’d feel so defeated (by dip, it’s just dip!!!) that I’d eat breakfast and yet be counting down the hours until I could snack on whatever tasty item my mind was obsessed with in the fridge. And then I’d snack on that, and then something else, and something else, until by the end of the 4 day weekend I was sick, irritable and a good 8 lbs heavier. Getting myself back to normal eating after several days of this was always hard, especially with Christmas season following close behind.

The last couple of years I’ve been able to stop the ridiculousness before it began. What’s awesome about that is not only do I not physically feel sick for days at a time but I also get to enjoy the rest of the holiday season without feeling shitty about myself, which means I don’t do things (like binge eat) that will make me feel even shittier. It’s a wonderful feeling to not feel so compelled to bury myself in food . . .but my solution to this annual problem was surprisingly simple.

I came to the realization that I can eat these foods any time I want. I’m not just saying that. It’s the truth. If I want them, I can eat them. I have free will. I have the $$ to buy them. I have the time and energy to make them. We make food choices every day and a choice I could choose is to eat dip and chips and cake more often, if i want!

I don’t just have to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy Ina’s pan-fried onion dip or Karina’s flourless chocolate cake and the reason I found myself going nuts on them is because I completely bought into the belief that I shouldn’t have them, I thought they were too fattening or that they were “bad” for me. I believed they were so bad for me that they took on an emotional charge – and that charge pulled me to them like a magnet and steel.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat cake and creamy dairy dips daily – but once a month, twice a month? That’s really not a big deal. Keeping these foods so off limits that they could only be enjoyed once or twice a year gave them a power over me that made eating them a charged experience.

Recognizing that I’m the only one putting a limit on these foods and that if I actually want to eat them I can, took the emotional charge away from them – which means I feel less out of control around them and frankly want them way less! I may eat them more frequently but I eat far less of them when I do.

When I do eat them now, they taste good and I enjoy them, but that compulsion to find a way to eat as much of it as I can is just a memory. Because, if I want to eat it again next week or next month, I very well can!

Let these ideas sink in:

  • Rich, decadent foods aren’t “bad” and you are not “bad” for enjoying them occasionally.
  • You can eat what you want, when you want to.
  • You actually may not even want the things you thought you did when they are always available to you.

Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years are coming. Lots of holiday parties, cookie swaps, cocktails with the girls – think of what foods or drink you romanticize or obsess over and answer these questions (in your head is ok but on paper is more effective).

  • What thoughts do you have around them?
  • Describe what you hope to get when you eat these foods. What feelings will they bring you (good or bad)?
  • How does eating them make you feel about yourself?
  • Do you have any restrictions around these foods (when, how, why you should enjoy them)?
  • What do you think would happen if you could let yourself eat these foods whenever you wanted?
  • If you did eat these foods whenever you wanted, how much do you think you would eat? How long before you get sick of these foods?
  • Are you willing to let go of some of the charge these foods hold for you?

I know this sounds overly simple, and it is. It’s just one of many steps you can take to have a more relaxed life with food. We think getting better requires some major complicated epiphany but really it’s just many different steps and thoughts, practiced over and over and over again, until eating in a more loving and kind way becomes your norm. Every week I come here and write about some aspect of emotional eating, dieting, binge eating or other related subject and sometimes it won’t speak to you, other times it will hit the nail on the head. Maybe, just maybe THIS idea is one that will speak to you.

And if it does, let’s do a call! The intro session is free.

I’m Not Judging You For Eating That

photo credit: mhaithaca via photopin cc

photo credit: mhaithaca via photopin cc

As I place my order with our waiter, I can tell by the way you’re looking at me that you are second guessing your choice. The way your eyes dart back and forth as you look down at the menu tells me you are searching frantically for an option that you think would be “ok”. The waiter looks around the room impatiently but manages to keep a tightly pursed smile on his lips.

I’m guessing you felt his impatience because you put the menu back down and quickly order. “I’ll just have the  . . . “.  He grabs our menus and hurries away to another table.  Without me saying anything or even changing the expression on my face, you blurt out (any one of these):

1.  “Oh, I’m only ordering this because I didn’t have breakfast today”
2.  “I’ve been so good lately that I’m rewarding myself. Back on the diet train tomorrow!”
3.  “I never eat this stuff but I haven’t had this in so long!”
4. “Do you ever cheat? You’re making me look bad!”

If we go out to lunch and I order a green salad and the wild salmon, there’s no need to add a disclaimer when you place your order (of macaroni and cheese, buffalo wings or a glorious piece of cheesecake or anything else).

I’m not judging you for what you eat. I’m not watching your every move. I’m not making an assessment of your entire diet because of one meal we share together.  I hope you extend me the same courtesy.

While I encourage eating less processed food, more whole foods from nature and being thoughtful about what ingredients we put in our bodies, I want you to know that it doesn’t mean that I expect that you will eat the exact way I do (or that you want to). We each have reasons for choosing the foods we do. It might be because it tastes good, it’s tradition, it feels good, it’s affordable, your kids like it, it’s good for you or any other reason. I know I have mine. What works for me may not work for you – and that’s totally ok. I promise I’m not judging you for your choices. My goal is to help you improve your diet and lifestyle and I will do that by meeting you where you are right now. And if where you are at the moment is a macaroni and cheese and cheesecake kind of place, I’ll be right over. I’ve visited more frequently than most.

If you are someone who doesn’t like vegetables, as your coach I would be setting you up for failure if I recommended you suddenly fit in 8 servings of vegetables every day. If I can get someone to go from eating 0 vegetables a day when we start working together to eating 2 a day after 6 months I consider that a major improvement and I know they do too.

I didn’t start eating the way I do overnight.  My food journey has been a long and varied one. When I was 23 I thought being “healthy” meant staying under a certain amount of calories, eating a lot of processed soy in place of dairy & meat, artificial sugars (because I was saving calories!) and drinking as much beer as I wanted as long as I exercised.  At 27 I thought being “healthy” just meant cooking everything from scratch, and as long as something was homemade, it didn’t matter if it had 3000 mg of sodium and 4 lbs of cheese in it (for proof, just visit a food blog from my past. It’s like a cheese and bread festival over there).

Over the years my diet has changed to whatever felt right to me at the time. Sadly, for many years “felt right” meant bingeing on junk food after restricting for long periods. After learning about food sensitivities and emotional eating, I’m much more in tune with what foods make me feel terrible and what makes me feel good.  So when you see me ordering certain types of food in a restaurant or saying “no thank you” to something I’m offered, know that I’m trying to do the best thing for me, right now.  And right now, the best thing for me is to give my body food that nourishes it and that doesn’t cause it uncomfortable symptoms or binge behavior. Those same foods might be ok for you – you know what’s best for your body.

My food choices are not about making you feel bad or about trying to appear perfect.

I spent a huge chunk of my life judging myself for the food I put in my body and feeling judged for every bite. People made comments about what I was eating to the point where every bite made me feel like a shitty person. Believe me when I say I have absolutely no desire to make you feel shitty too.  If me choosing to eat the way I do makes you feel shitty, that really sucks because it’s not my intention. If you think I’m judging you, yes it makes me feel kinda crappy but you’re the one that it really hurts. Are you going to enjoy what you just ordered now? Not if you think I’m calculating the good or badness of the contents of the plate in front of you. Honestly, I’m thinking about how glad I am that we finally ordered because I have to pee and also that I’m so excited to catch up with you.

photo credit: mastermaq via photopin cc

photo credit: mastermaq via photopin cc

I want you to know that I’m human. Even though I watch my sugar intake most of the time, I’m pretty sure I ate more chocolate over the holidays than most of you reading this (and most of it was NOT dark chocolate). Despite choosing to not eat cheese most of the time, last night I ate cheddar cheese and salami (and neither of it was organic or local and it was definitely loaded with chemical preservatives). I drink alcohol. I drink coffee. And I eat a lot of other things that you might think someone in my field may not do.

Do I walk my talk and eat the way I encourage others to eat? Yes, around 90% of the time. But 10% of the time, I give in to indulgences. And sometimes I derail hard and that 10% and 90% reverse for a few days. But then I get back up and go back to what I know works and feels good for me.

It’s my job to help others change what they don’t like about their lives & health and I can do this because of my training, but also because I have been a chameleon of change in my own life.  In this field of work, people often assume you must be perfect 100% of the time. I remember being terrified in coaching school because I was the opposite of perfect.  But I’m not finding that is actually a benefit when doing this work. I’m able to relate to people’s struggles better and they find me easier to talk to because of these experiences.

I know changing anything about ourselves isn’t easy. I know you’re probably going through your own battle. I know you’re probably scared to really share what you struggle with. You’re not alone and I promise I’m not judging you.

Judgement shouldn’t be a part of any meal on your end or mine.

Next time we share a meal together, I hope we both can order whatever is best for us at that moment, enjoy the meal and each other wholeheartedly and go about our day. No judgement of each other or ourselves. That’s best for everyone.
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