The holidays are upon us and that means family time, parties, delicious food and cocktails galore. I know for a lot of women the food and drink aspect of these celebrations can bring on unnecessary anxiety and stress. I remember feeling this way, and after years of struggling with what I ate, I can finally say that I have a pretty healthy relationship with food. During this time of year I like to focus on eating a healthy breakfast like a fruit smoothie or an oatmeal casserole.
At parties I keep in mind Michael Pollan's mantra, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That means trying anything that looks delicious, with trying being the key word. I try it, I move on. The rule of diminishing returns applies to food. Your fourth bite is never as good as your first so why bother? I try to eat real food (not processed crap) and plants (fruits, vegetables, the things I recognize from the produce section).
But the thing is, it took me a really long time to get here. I hear people say all the time, "You're so lucky," or, "You have such good genes." Well, I do have good genes. I'm the first to admit it. But genes can only get you so far, and I had a rocky relationship with food for a long time. Not an official eating disorder, but certainly disordered eating.
In high school I spent the summer before my senior year away from home. It was the first time I was completely in control of what I got to eat, so what did I go for? A lot of Frappuccinos, pasta and ice cream. When my jeans didn't fit at the end of the summer I was devastated. I wanted a quick-fix. A re-do of all that summer eating. I wanted to be back where I had been, but of course that was impossible.
I struggled with my relationship with food throughout college. I exercised a lot. I weighed myself every day. I read a lot about food and dieting. I attempted low-carb, smoothie and calorie restricted diets. But then I would go get ice cream (or chips, or pizza) by myself. My whole-hearted desire to lose, lose, lose could only last so long and ultimately I ended up giving into the foods that I craved. I knew that my relationship with food wasn't healthy and I wanted to get back to where I had been before I left that summer, able to eat without guilt and without fear.
There were two books that really helped me along the way. The first was French Women Don't Get Fat and the second was Naturally Thin. I also learned to keep in mind Michael Pollan's mantra. And while all of this was helpful, nothing was an overnight cure.
Eventually I started applying little pieces of advice to my everyday life. I try and eat real food (not processed). I try and eat three meals balanced meals a day. And I try and build exercise into my daily life. Having a husband who has a healthy and realistic relationship with food has also helped, and at some point after college, these little changes all added up and one day I realized that my relationship with food was repaired. And you know what happened after that? I started to lose weight. Slowly, not a lot, a little here and there. And I was back to where I was before that summer (and even a little lighter). By letting go of all of my anxieties I finally ended up where I wanted to be all along.
I never really intended for this post to be so personal, but I think it's important that as women we are open with each other. This isn't about "being thin" or looking a certain way. It's about being able to eat a burger every once in a while without bombarding yourself with guilt. Sure there are days I think, yikes I over did it, but it's never accompanied by the onslaught of self-hatred that it used to be.
These next few weeks are about celebrating our family, our friends and the things in life we hold most dear. I hope at least something in today's post helped someone realize that no food should overshadow how special that is.