Ending negative food talk

Just take a minute and think… when was the last time you were out to eat with friends and nobody justified what they were getting to eat? It seems as though every time I go out, someone is justifying ordering a burger because they worked out that day. Or someone is debating whether to get pizza or a salad because they are trying to lose weight. Or someone says that they don’t really “need” dessert because they are restricting sugar.

Even my dietitian friends and I admit that we are sometimes guilty of this same rhetoric. Recently in the office another dietitian offered us pieces of chocolate. Between a few laughs and jokes about how we don’t “eat like dietitians,” we decided to indulge in the chocolate. What seemed like an innocent moment resonated with me all day long. Why did this minute-long conversation bother me so much? It was the fact that DIETITIANS (read: food and nutrition experts) had to debate and then justify eating one piece of chocolate. We all knew that this chocolate would not hurt us. It would not cause weight gain. It would not cause heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. But we treated it like it would. We felt as though we didn’t deserve it because we hadn’t eaten perfectly that week. We felt as though we couldn’t indulge in a normal, small treat because we are supposed to eat some perfect “dietitian diet.” We felt as though we could not eat something without needing to discuss it among ourselves. While these comments may seem harmless and we often don’t think twice before saying them, they lead all of us into a very dangerous trap.

Saying those things does not necessarily mean that you have an eating disorder; however, your comments can hugely affect somebody who does. You never know who around you has suffered an ED in the past, is on the track to developing one, or is actively suffering from one. Not all people who suffer from an ED fit the skin and bones body type we often associate with EDs. The overweight friend sitting next to you is just as likely to have an ED as the paper-thin friend you would think of. Your words have the power to further an ED. Just think: You’re out to lunch with your friends. One friend seems to always order a salad or plain chicken and veggies. You comment, “I wish I could be more like you. I want to order salad, but really want a burger. I wish I had your willpower.” Your seemingly kindhearted compliment was actually eating disorder validation in disguise. Your comments can also cause those in ED recovery to become hyper-aware of their food and set them off the track towards normal eating that they’ve worked so hard to stay on.

In my own recovery, I found that negative food-talk hindered me and left me spiraling towards relapse. I had worked so hard to destroy my own negative thoughts towards food and weight, not realizing how easily other comments could undo my progress. I clearly remember eating out at a restaurant with friends and deciding to order a fried chicken sandwich and queso fries on the side. I did not feel the need to discuss my order with everyone else at the table. However, after I ordered someone commented, “Oh wow I didn’t realize dietitians eat fried food. Doesn’t that make you fat?” Between laughs, my other friends blew off the comment as the joke that it was probably intended to be. I, on the other hand, immediately felt a surge of guilt. When the food came out and I realized that everyone else had grilled chicken and salads, I felt as though I was judged. All eyes seemed to be on me. Would I actually eat this “forbidden” food I had ordered? Of course I would because I wanted it. But everything else in me told me no. My head told me, “Remember what she said? Fried food makes you fat.” My ED told me, “You’re a bad dietitian. I knew you would never be good at this.” But luckily, my heart told me, “You’ve worked so hard to get to this point. Keep your relationship with food healthy.”

The person who made this comment meant it in the best way. She did not see how it could affect me. She did not see how it could affect herself. Even if you do not think these types of comments will trigger you to develop an eating disorder, these thoughts and comments put you on the track to disordered thinking, which can easily turn into disordered eating. Commenting on food leads to fixation on food, which leads to obsession over food, which leads to dysfunctional relationships with food.

So how do we fix it?

The best place to begin is to come from a state of gratefulness instead of fixation. Be absolutely thankful for the food that is in front of you, no matter what it is. Discuss how delicious the food tastes, instead of how many calories are in it. Talk about how happy you are that you have finally gotten together with your friends, instead of the newest diet trend each one of them is trying. Be present in the moment, instead of becoming distant and distracted, fixating on the calories in food.

During my recovery, positive mealtime talk meant everything. True laughter, deep conversations, heart-to-hearts over pasta and garlic bread meant everything. Making mealtime about more than just the food meant everything. It meant recovery. It meant relapse prevention. It meant true happiness.

Each one of us has decisions to make – vital decisions. We can decide whether we will perpetuate food talk or destroy it at its roots. We can decide whether we will intentionally engage in food-less conversation or be the person who mindlessly starts talking about calories, diets, and food trends. We can decide whether we will order food without a comment or objection because we want it or if we will discuss the options endlessly with our company, in order to find justification to eat the food we want.

The decisions you personally make about food talk can cause, advance, or end an eating disorder. Sound dramatic? Re-read this post.

Care to share?Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

The 10 Commandments of Recovery

Recovery from anything, especially an eating disorder, is a difficult, testing process. I found that during my own recovery, I developed 10 “commandments” that helped me to stay grounded and level-headed. I hope that these commandments speak to you and fill you with a sense of hope, as recovery is so possible and so worth it.

  1. I will choose to forgive myself because I am worthy of life and love.

I feel that recovery begins with forgiving yourself and realizing that your past does not have to dictate your present. Recovery is a choice that you must make on your own. It requires you to forgive yourself and know that you are worth more than your weight, the number of calories you consume, and the clothing size you wear. Your body deserves love. Your body deserves life in the fullest.

  1. I will not envy the bodies of others because I am uniquely and wonderfully made.

You are allowed to admire the bodies of others without questioning the beauty and strength of your own.

  1. I will honor my body with rest.

You must give your body rest. This means days completely off. No exercise. It’s okay to take a break. Your body absolutely requires rest and will thank you.

  1. Food is food. I will put it in an appropriate place in my life.

Food is simply food. It is carbohydrate, protein, and fat. It is energy. It is not meant to be obsessed over or idolized. Eating is a part of your day. It is not the center of your day. Separate your life from the food you eat. You were surely meant for much more than counting calories and planning meals.

  1. I will base my health on how I feel, not how I look.

Remember that health is not quantified by weight, measurements, or size. It is measured by how you feel and how much love you show yourself.

  1. I will not feel guilty for eating what I want, knowing that no food is inherently good or bad.

Learning to eat a wide variety of foods and listening to your cravings is essential. Your body knows what it needs and is inherently smarter than you. Know that no one food is off limits and you can eat what you want without a need for compensation. Balance is key.

  1. My mind was meant to do more than count calories. I will put it to better use.

This one speaks for itself.

  1. I will not base my morality on the foods I eat, or how often I exercise.

You are not good for eating a salad, just like you are not bad for eating a donut. You are not good for going on a run, just like you are not bad for sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. Food does not define your morality. Exercise does not define your morality. Your body does not define your morality.

  1. I will not let today’s decisions become tomorrow’s regrets.

Today’s choices do not dictate your mood, emotions, and feelings about yourself tomorrow. Each day is a blank slate; its own separate entity. Do not carry burdens from the past with you. Do what’s best for your body and health each and every day, and give yourself grace for the days when you do not.

  1. I will choose recovery every single day.

This one is the most important of them all. Choose recovery. Actively engage in recovery. Own recovery.

Care to share?Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Grace, not perfection

The start of a new year always brings thoughts of change, goals, and resolutions. However, I have found that in the past these New Year’s aspirations led me on a path of anxiety, perfectionism, and ultimately, defeat. A resolution to “be healthier” led to calorie counting, compulsive use of a fitness app, and excessive weight loss. A resolution to “get all A’s” led to endless nights of homework, declining social events to study, and isolating myself to my desk chair and empty bedroom. A resolution to “exercise more” led to daily exercise, a constant need to burn calories, and feelings of guilt for sitting still. I tend to take everything and magnify it through the lens of perfectionism. A goal cannot simply be met. It must be exceeded. But this year, three words kept replaying over and over again in my mind as I settled in, ready to start the New Year: grace, not perfection.

How could I stand to move away from perfectionism? It is practically a part of who I am at my very core. After thinking about it for a long time I realized perfectionism is simply a crutch that I use to fill up the spaces in my life where I feel inadequate, unqualified, or unworthy. But looking back, the times in my life when I have been the most successful, happy, and free are the times where I have shown grace, not perfection.

Perfectionism will always fail you. If you hold yourself to a standard of perfection, you will never be enough. Your own expectations for yourself should build you up, not tear you down. Why would you set goals for yourself that you wouldn’t dare set for anyone you love?

Perfection creates doubt; grace creates contentment. Perfection leaves you empty; grace fills you up. Perfection is unreachable; grace is realistic. Perfection is fleeting; grace is lasting.

This year I challenge each of you to strive for grace, not perfection. Realize that perfection is a myth. Grace is a truth. Set goals for yourself that will allow you to show progress. Set goals for yourself that are attainable and realistic. Set goals for yourself that will bring about positive changes in your life. You are worth more than the lies that perfection will feed you. You are worth more than the unattainable goals you set for yourself. You are worth grace.

Care to share?Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone