As I continually become more involved in the nutrition world, I can’t help but notice, people in general don’t have a good relationship with food, myself included.
Whenever I’m working with dietitians I continually hear comments (some joking, some not) about how people think we’re judging them if we see them eat certain things or they’re worried about us seeing what’s on their plate. Granted if seeing me reminds you of how important nutrition is and triggers you to make a healthier choice, I am okay with that, but I don’t want to be some kind of source of fear or anxiety, or make you feel uncomfortable. Here’s a little secret. If others in the field of nutrition are anything like me, they’re also worrying about being judged on what they have on their plate. Not by other nutrition professionals, but by others who know our field of study and expect us to be the epitome of a healthy diet, whatever that really is.
The truth is, I’m not paying attention to what’s on your plate or judging you in any way.
I’m gonna be honest, last month I went to Famous Dave’s, ate until I couldn’t eat anymore, and then had banana pudding for dessert. And last week, I ordered a cannoli because I’ve never had one, it sounded delicious, and I wanted something sweet. These are just a few examples and the list goes on, and on, and on. I eat dessert and make less than ideal choices too, I’m only human.
I think some people are rather surprised when they see me eating some of the things I eat. Part of that has to do with the fact that my diet is higher in fat while monitoring carbs, so a burger with bacon, cheese, and avocado (minus the bun) falls perfectly into my eating patterns. The other part of it has to do with what I mentioned before, that because I am studying nutrition and considered to be “in shape,” theoretically, I wouldn’t be eating the “unhealthy” foods. That’s completely understandable and how I would think about people in the health and nutrition field too, until I became more exposed to it and learned more about food.
I have a sweet tooth, that’s for sure. I’ve come to realize that whenever I go to the grocery store or look at a restaurant menu I point out all the stuff that I shouldn’t be eating. It’s almost more attractive because I “can’t” have it. But then I realize, I’m the only one telling myself I can’t eat it. If I wanted to I could eat a dozen donuts, no one is stopping me. Would I pay for it a few hours later or the next day in how I felt? Absolutely! But I CAN if I want to.
Allow yourself indulgences every once in a while (but maybe only one donut instead of a dozen), it keeps you sane. As long as you’re eating a balanced and nutritious diet about 80% of the time, you can afford to enjoy sweets or excess food now and then. The key is just to not make it an unhealthy obsession. If you obsess over every little thing you eat, how much you eat, and how often you eat, you’re going to find yourself in a dark place. I’ve been there, and I’m working on pulling myself out.
This is where it gets personal and where I started wondering if I should post this or not, but here it goes...
There’s also an associated guilt when indulging. Growing up in the dance world full of small, two piece costumes and tiny bodies (and then that being a major focus of my time in the professional sports scene) led me to have an unhealthy view of my own body and body image in general. Because I went through some unfavorable experiences in my career, it is difficult for me to be satisfied with myself. Normally I don’t like telling people that. I don’t make comments about being unhappy with my body or emphasize the content and/or quantity of what I eat in public because I know that I am healthy, in shape, and I’m not as “big” as my mind portrays me to be. I’m also careful about talking about this because I don’t want to offend anyone. People tell me I’m tiny all the time, I know that, even if that fact gets buried sometimes. So, by me expressing that I’m uncomfortable with my body, I feel that I may also make others feel uncomfortable with themselves.
There was one point in my life where I only ate/needed 1300-1400 Calories a day, when I was in class all day and not exercising regularly due to lack of time. Now, I struggle to keep it just below 2000 Calories a day. Sometimes eating that much freaks me out. I have to remember that with an increased amount of daily activity and increased muscle mass, the way I fuel myself needs to change. If I’m hungry it’s okay to eat, if I’m being excessive and start to see changes in my body and in my health then I can re-evaluate my habits.
This post may have gone in a quite a few different directions and I made it way more about myself than I intended to but I have a point to all this. We all need to work on how we view ourselves, food, and the relationship between the two. Eating a healthy diet MOST of the time is incredibly important. We need to regularly put good nutrients into our body to stay healthy and get us through our day to day lives. Here’s the key, FOOD IS FUEL.
Don’t go to that dark place and make food the enemy, find a healthy balance that works for you and your lifestyle.