Around this time of year, there’s a little something that most of us have on our minds almost constantly. Whether we feel good or bad about it, whether our body is truly telling us we need it, or we just want it, this little something has a huge impact on us, and for good reason. That little something is food. Savory meats, hearty veggies, sweet treats, nuts, legumes, snacks, dips, cheese, soup, grains… you name it, it has a good chance of passing over your plate, or at least in front of your face, during the holidays.
There can also be an unpleasant feeling that accompanies all these glorious foods that seem to be everywhere this time of year… GUILT. As women, we’re constantly bombarded with the message that we should be skinny. And the source of becoming fat? Food of course! Well, yes, food does play a part. Much of the fat in your body is just stored extra calories, little units of sustenance your body would resource during meager food times. But the feelings we have about food, especially when it’s “bad” food, can create a constant little hungry monkey on our backs that likes to munch on cookies while it whispers about how our self worth is tied to food.
The monkey says “That margarita is going to make you gain 10 pounds” and you say “I’m going to gain ten pounds.”
The monkey says “You ate that brownie, you have no self control” and you say “I’m weak, I shouldn’t have had that brownie”.
The monkey says “That doughnut will make you ugly” and you say “Ugh, I feel so fat.”
FOOD IS GOOD, SO FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT
It can be really hard to view food as a positive, because most of us learned from a very young age that food=calories, and calories=fat, and fat=ugly. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a really shitty way to think about something that our bodies have to consume in order to survive. What if we decided that breathing wasn’t attractive? Really?
Food is very powerful, and it has the power to do good for us. But in order for it to do good, you have to view it as good, and feel good about it. So you ate a bowl of ice cream? Did it make you happy? And did your body feel it was worth it afterwards? That can be a key to feeling good about food; paying attention to how it processes in your body. I LOVE a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone, but once it hits my intestinal track, all lactose hell breaks loose. I love the flavor, but it does NOT make me feel good. But you know what? Sometimes, on a hot summer day, I say “screw it”, and enjoy an ice cream cone, guilt free. But it’s in my control whether or not I’m going to have that ice cream cone.
GETTING TO KNOW FOOD
A great tool in changing your mental relationship with food is to learn about it. Why is a carrot stick better than a potato chip? Sure, chips are higher in calories and fat, but why else? What are they lacking that carrots have? What are carrots lacking that potato chips have? And why can eating potato chips be so satisfying? Why does our body need fiber, vitamin C, omega’s, B12? Just learning about all the positive aspects of food, yes, even your favorite foods, can start to change your thought process about it.
Food is a tool, and it is fuel for our bodies. Everything that goes into our bodies provides some sort of nutrition, and also creates waste. Some foods are going to create more waste (which can be detrimental) than others. Sure, it’s great to taste a chocolate fudge brownie on your tongue, but once it’s in your gut, it doesn’t matter what it tasted like. Your body goes to work separating it out into usable and non-usable parts. Perhaps that brownie didn’t make you feel the best once you started digesting it? Sometimes though, those junky foods are just worth it for that incredible flavor. There’s no need to feel guilty about it. But if you do feel a food is harming your body, have the respect for yourself to keep it out of your diet, or only eat/drink it on occasion.
FINDING YOUR FOOD BALANCE
So, how to balance those foods that give our tongue joy, and the foods that process better in your body? One of the best ways to do this is to add more healthy foods in, not cut unhealthy foods out. As you add more healthy foods in, you just start too loose room for the junkier stuff. If you eat a bowl of ice cream every night, why not challenge yourself to eat a banana and some salted almonds (they make a delicious combo) right before you eat the ice cream. I bet you won’t even want as much ice cream as you normally do. Plus, you have the knowledge that you’ve consumed something good for your body, but still get to have your treat!
Food should be a joy! It is, after all, an integral part of staying alive. And it’s also an important part of our body’s chemistry, providing the nutrition it needs to keep our hormones balanced. It can be a delicate dance, but food is your partner in this life. We’re so lucky to live in a part of the world where we can walk into a grocery store and have an array of food, healthy and non, right at our fingertips. But we’re also burdened with unhealthy choices that manufacturers make very easy for us to lay our hands on. Making the right choices can be hard.
If you can view food for what it is, a nutritious friend that is here to help you, not hurt you, then your entire outlook on food, and how amazing it is, will change. So go give an apple a hug, and the next time you enjoy a piece of pie, remember how miraculous it is that your body can digest it!