Are you worried about food? I am. I know I’m not alone, because I’ve been talking to a lot of women these days who are worried about food. We women are often worried about food, and the holiday season is just a scary time when you’re worried about food.
So, let’s take a collective deep breath and investigate with kindness this thing we have about food, okay?
First of all, is it true that your eating is a problem? Do you have data that you eat too much, or the wrong things? Here are some questions to ponder:
- How’s your blood work? Do you have elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood sugar?
- How’s your waist to height ratio? This is a better indicator of obesity and health risk than BMI, for most of us.
- How’s your fitness level? Do you get through your day without too much fatigue or a lot of caffeine? Can you do what you like to do?
- Do you often eat when you’re not hungry?
- Do you often keep eating when you’re full?
- Does thinking about your eating take up too much mind space?
- Do you feel anxious about food and eating?
- Do you make food rules and then break them?
The answers to these questions will help you decide if you’re actually overeating, or if you just think you are.
Secondly, whether you really do overeat, or if your diet is actually fine and you’re just in the habit of worrying about food, it’s not your fault. There are SO many reasons why we can feel like a mess around food:
- Our survival brains are wired to love sugar and fat.
- The chemical cascade that happens in the brain when we eat sugary fatty salty crunchy foods is identical to the cascade that happens when an addict takes a hit. These foods are addictive and they act on our brains like street drugs.
- Food is everywhere! And we have to eat.
- Our culture encourages us to live in our heads, so we lose touch with our bodies. We forget what “hungry” and “full” actually feel like.
- We don’t eat in a vacuum. We experience social pressure to eat and drink certain things at certain times. This is especially true around the holidays.
- There’s so much choice, and so much conflicting advice, about food.
- and on and on and on…
Third, if you do habitually overeat, overeating is almost certainly a “treatment plan” to handle discomfort.
If you worry about food, it’s not your fault. However, your eating is your responsibility.
Your body is your responsibility.
Your health and peaceful mind are your responsibility.
Feeding yourself well is your responsibility.
Reclaiming ownership and taking grown-up responsibility for ourselves requires two things: mindfulness and compassion. So for the next week, notice with gentleness and kindness what’s going on in your heart and mind and body when you eat:
- Notice if you’re hungry, and what “hungry” feels like.
- Notice what you really want to eat.
- Notice if you’re full, and what “full” feels like.
- Notice what emotions you’re feeling before, during, and after you eat.
- Notice how your body feels after you eat.
Just notice and attend, with gentle kindness. Keep a food and emotion diary if that floats your boat, recording what you ate and what was going on with you internally and externally when you ate it.
Next week we’ll dive more deeply into the power of mindfulness and compassion. In the meantime, here are some resources:
- Geneen Roth’s Women, Food, and God
- Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet and The Four-Day Win
- Marc David’s The Slow Down Diet
- Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance
(Wondering where I’ve been since July? I took a break from my blog and coaching practice to catch up with myself, emotionally and physically, after this last year’s transitions.)