Food and me have always had this special kind of relationship. I learned that it could help subdue my emotions, and my gosh do I seem to have lots of these. Food was there to help soothe me – offering a distraction so I could avoid what I felt could be an embarrassing emotional display. Why was I so sensitive, why did I wear my heart on my sleeve? Growing up, showing these emotions just didn’t feel safe or even acceptable. I felt unbelievably vulnerable. My answer, my protector was food. Eventually I realized I was not really living life anymore. When I looked around I saw that others find life challenging yet fun and did not appear to be an overwhelmed mess like me. I couldn’t keep up with the stress of hiding what I thought was a strange and shameful relationship with food as well as carry on a fully engaged life. I felt like I was failing in all areas. Eating is a physical need but it is also there to provide pleasure, satisfaction and social connection. In fact, it can also help us cope in difficult times. But our relationship with food can turn into a hot mess when signals get crossed and even more exacerbated when it is our only way we cope with tricky or uncomfortable times. For me, food offered a huge distraction from any difficulties I had during the day – I couldn’t wait to get home to say hello to food and let the world melt away. Food ended up being one of the only ways I figured out how to soften the hard edges of life. Confound this already complicated relationship with food by being an athlete in high school. I had no clue about how much food I needed to keep up with the hours of vigorous physical activity I was doing plus being a growing teenager. The cherry on top was trying to fit into the ‘thin’ beauty ideal during the volatile hormonal stage of life we endure in high school… So that was my trio – using food as my one trick pony to self soothe; experiencing ravenous hunger when I didn’t know how to meet my energy needs; and trying to exert control over all of it so I could conform to the beauty ideal. This persisted for years.
After formally studying nutrition for seven years and still not finding the solutions I needed, I continued to seek out answers. Sensible eating rather than dieting was definitely encouraged in my nutrition degree as well as in my professional development as a Registered Dietitian. But it wasn’t until I found Intuitive Eating and the Health at Every Size (R) paradigm that the final missing puzzle pieces appeared. I have dedicated a big part of my life to making sense of my relationship with food so I can actually live my life. To me it was worth it and it was the path I needed to take to heal but it is obviously not realistic for everyone suffering from a distorted relationship with food to spend this much time fixing it. In fact, if we knew then what we know now, I would have been classified as having Binge Eating Disorder and this may have helped me get the proper treatment much sooner. I am so relieved to have my journey validated now rather than buying into the simplified “eat sensibly and exercise” motto that logically made sense but made me feel like a epic failure. For so long I couldn’t figure out why I was so messed up, I hadn’t the slightest clue why I couldn’t get it right. I don’t want anyone to have to go through the shame I experienced if they are struggling with their relationship with food. I want more than anything for others to get the support they need. If you are looking to heal your relationship with food, I highly recommend reading the Intuitive Eating book, this will no doubt be of huge help. You can stop right there if you’ve found what you’re looking for. Or if you need to dig deeper before you find your healing place, getting extra support is very helpful. I recommend finding both a Registered Dietitian and a Mental Health Provider aligned with the non-diet, Health At Every Size (R) paradigm who will collaborate with your Primary Care Provider. An amazing colleague and fellow non-diet warrior, Josee Sovinsky has created a map of providers who align their work using the Health at Every Size (R) paradigm. Check it out here.
As a non-diet dietitian, I would love to help you learn how to eat with confidence and without dieting or food rules. We can get started by booking your complementary nutrition clarity call with me to learn more about the process and see if we’re a good fit to work together. You can expect to leave our phone call with questions answered on what next steps may suit you best to meet your needs, within your means.