3 Things that Helped Me Shift My Relationship with Food & My Body
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know we often talk about the things that surround cooking and eating healthy… like our relationship with food, body image, self talk, and breaking through less healthy habits to get to a better place.
But maybe you’re wondering… “Julie, are you ALWAYS so sunny and balanced about food and your body?”
My answer… HELL NO.
In fact, I didn’t always have a healthy body image or a healthy relationship with food like I do now. It was actually pretty messed up for a long time. It all started in my 20’s and 30’s when I was a total road warrior tech consultant, traveling and going out to eat every night…and (gasp!) my body was changing, maturing, as all bodies do, and the media sure didn’t help.
I picked my body apart in the mirror and obsessed over how certain parts looked. I tried weird workouts to change my body type. I took terrible diet pills that made my heart race at work and super-restrictive trendy diets that left me hangry. I exercised as punishment for eating and sometimes until I injured myself.
My emotions around food were seriously messed up too! I would fall into binge eating sleeves of crackers or bags of chips when I felt emotional or stressed and beat myself up for eating something I had weirdly deemed “bad” (food is just food! not good or bad). I was overly obsessed with the number on the scale or the size of my jeans, to the point where it dictated my mood for the day and my self-worth. I would go back and forth between overeating to the point where I felt gross and then punishing myself by not eating normally the next day.
Dark confession: During two emotionally stressful times in my adulthood, I even teetered into an eating disorder and my weight fluctuated by 30 lbs. On the surface I looked “skinny and happy” but I was one miserable Julie.
I clearly had some serious self-work to do to heal myself and my relationship with food. But what was wild to me was how many other strong, smart women…just like me…just like you…felt similarly about their bodies!
Here’s how it all changed for me and how I healed.
1. Raising my daughters…and getting called out by a 2-year-old
One day after an argument with a family member, I found myself in the kitchen stress eating huge handfuls of cereal out of the box like a wild woman. My then 2-year-old daughter said “Oooh! can I do that too?!” As in “Hey Mommy! Pass me that big ole Costco sized box to snarf down like Cookie Monster too.
Honestly, there’s nothing like having someone innocently SEE you in something unhealthy to get you to see yourself. I had these two beautiful little girls watching me and taking cues from me! HELL NO did I want to pass my hang-ups onto them, or have them see me stress eating or be restrictive with food and harsh about my body. It became SO important to me to figure messy-me out.
I decided to never comment on my weight in a positive or negative way. I stopped using the true (three-letter) F-word as in “I feel so fat” or “does this make me look fat” or “if I eat that I’ll get fat” to gently remind other women not to talk about themselves that way too and for me to start some serious self-work.
The words we use with ourselves and in our self-talk matter. We are so hard on ourselves as women about so many things. And we are wonderful and amazing and worth SO much more than whatever body size or shape we happen to inhabit at any given moment!
2. Going to culinary school, working in food, and being surrounded by it all day.
You’d THINK that would have been a challenge right?
Working in food and being around it all day in recipe test kitchens taught me to pay more attention to the 1st few bites which taste the best anyway (once I’m full I can’t work anymore!) and that mindful eating trickled into my daily eating too. It taught me to not throw food mindlessly into my mouth and that I don’t have to “finish the whole thing” OR not “let myself” enjoy food for what it is.
Being immersed in food reminded me that it’s to be enjoyed, it’s cultural, it’s celebratory, it’s for nourishing ourselves not punishing ourselves. I happily dove into creating 1000’s of FUN healthy recipes to make it joyful to eat well…while also geeking out over super authentic, sometimes more decadent, enjoy in moderation, special or cultural dishes.
Food became a medium for me. Nourishment for my body, not a battleground.
3. Love yourself where you are right now
After much reflection and self-work, I realized that you can’t wait to be happy and it’s so important to love yourself where you are right now. I realized the happiest times in my life were NOT related to my body’s weight or clothing size. (I was at my most miserable in life when I fell into eating disorders and super-restrictive eating, and stress eating)
I’ve gotten to a place where those classic “last X lbs” or “I used to wear this size” don’t affect my level of self-love, my happiness, what I choose to wear to make myself feel good, or how I feel about food. I also know how to catch myself and flip my script if any of those old unhealthy thoughts creep back in. Now, I focus on how I FEEL vs a number that is sure to fluctuate constantly and a body that will only continue to change. I focus on eating healthy food that nourishes me vs viewing food as an enemy in a battle.
I focus on enjoying what my body does for me vs picking it apart for flaws and on viewing exercise as a way to feel strong, energize myself, to clear my mind, stretch and stay flexible, to enjoy that “I’m alive” feeling of my body moving.
If any of this rings a bell and you’ve struggled with these feelings too, I want you to know I understand and feel you. Yes, I’m here to help you with healthy things to cook and eat – but it’s about more than JUST that. I’d love to hear from you – if any of my pretty messy and sometimes embarrassing stories resonated with you, if you’ve at times felt the way I did. Let me know in the comments below!