I still remember the first time I thought something negative about my body. On my way home in the car from gymnastics, I looked down at my stomach which stuck out out against my tight black leotard and grabbed it between my hands, thinking to myself “Wow, my tummy is really big”. I was ten.
These feelings didn’t continue too much until early in high school when the combination of quitting dance and starting a new medication made me gain 25 pounds. I quickly decided that I had to go on a diet and religiously began counting calories, restricting myself to only 1300 per day. I remember laying on my bed one night, my stomach growling and so proud of myself that I had only eaten 950 calories that day.
Later on, when I was tired of counting calories, I tried the Paleo diet which quickly made me lose 15 pounds. But, I was so unhappy. I began to have such a negative relationship with food. While friends ate pizza and bagels for lunch, I would have a cup of grapes, a handful of nuts and a salad. Even with the weight I lost, I still didn’t feel like I was reaching the number on the scale I wanted. I began to see food as the enemy, something that was always working against me.
Looking back on this now, I am so sad that I spent so many years with such a negative relationship with food. I can’t believe that during such formative years of body growth, I was depriving myself of vital nutrition.
While I still have a long way to go, it is amazing how far I have come. I don’t diet anymore and I don’t count my calories. I try to listen to what my body is telling me. If I am hungry, I will eat. If I am full, I will stop. I allow myself treats but I try to make sure I am getting enough protein, fruits and veggies.
But, I am not always great at listening to my body either. Since coming to college, I have realized that I use food as a source of comfort and stress relief. If I am studying for an exam, I feel like I deserve a snack and next thing I know, I am eating a whole bag of M&Ms. My body has become so used to me giving it food when it is bored, stressed and tired. And this has not contributed to my healthy relationship with food either. Still, I have learned that the key to a positive relationship with food is fueling yourself with things that taste good but also make you feel good.
This quote, from Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, has really resonated with me:”Our obsession with appearance, our fixation on diet and our food- and information-abundant culture have given rise to an epidemic of unhealthy relationships with food. Food has become our focus instead of being the fuel for a full life.”
Fitness and health is a journey, one that I am just starting to embark on. This summer, I am going to be living by myself for the first time in my life meaning I am going to have to learn how to cook (yikes!). But, I feel ready to learn nutritious recipes, experiment with different foods and learn how to fuel my body in a positive way.
Since I am no expert, here is a list of resources with information on creating a healthy and positive relationship with food that I have found particularly helpful:
- Creating a Healthy Relationship With Food from Alive
11 Steps To Rebuild Your Relationship With Food from mindbodygreen
- 8 Steps to a Healthy Relationship With Food from Active