One of my resolutions for the year has been to continue on a path of becoming more fit and physically healthy. Part of this involves simply planning my meals and workouts for the week, but in some ways I think the progress is going to be more in changes in mentality and thinking.
Especially concerning food.
My relationship with my body has been complicated. Part of this comes from being a woman. There’s a lot of pressure when you have a woman’s body to conform to current beauty standards. Just today, while I was shopping, I was looking at the clothes and thinking I might like to buy some of them… if I lost about 20 pounds and possibly gained 2 inches to my height somehow. Another part comes from things I have discussed before about being raised as an evangelical Christian. I didn’t know how to trust my body, for one thing, or the emotions, thoughts, and desires it produces. Also, I didn’t know how to treat my body when I saw myself as primarily a soul. Sure, I figured it would be a good thing in general to stay healthy so that my body wasn’t a hinderance to the rest of my life, but I didn’t really see achieving a good level of fitness as something that would enhance my life… in the long run (think: when you are going to live without a body for eternity).
I’ve done diets before when I was very overweight, and I was successful at losing 30 pounds. Dieting was a really important step in my life in understanding food, monitoring portions, and understanding the kinds of food that affect my body in different ways. But lately I’ve been seeing a problem with diet mentality that I’m not sure how to address (part of this awareness has come from others: reading a blog called Fit is a Feminist Issue, and reading this post from WorkHardStayHumble about intuitive eating).
Diets encourage a mentality of good eating and bad eating. If I eat “good” foods and I stick to my diet, I have been “good” today. But sometimes I slip and eat “bad” foods, and go over my calories, and have a “bad” day (or, I was “bad” today). This mentality wasn’t working for me, and I realized it wasn’t the kind of mentality about food I wanted to have for the rest of my life. I don’t want to attach a value to food and, more importantly, to myself for eating that food. Not that I want to become very unhealthy, but eating a cheeseburger once and a while won’t make me unhealthy – and I’m not “bad” for doing that.
Reasons I think this mentality wasn’t working? One is just how discouraging it is, when I was tracking my calories (like on myfitnesspal), to see that little number of “calories left” to get in the negative and turn red, even if I was only over my goal by 10 or 50 calories. It made me feel bad, or like a failure for the day. Also, it encouraged a cycle of “good” eating and “bad” eating – “giving in” to the craving for a burger and fries, or a chocolate martini after a bad day at work. I had trouble tracking calories on those days because I already felt like a failure, and it lead to mindless eating and indulging. Finally, like I alluded to above, it made me feel like a “bad” person when I ate “bad” foods, and feeling bad about myself didn’t make me want to eat less…
So, I want to reframe my thinking about food.
The main idea is that I’m not “good ” or “bad” because of what I eat. I have value and meaning that has nothing to do with food. But, I do have goals about eating because I want to feel more energetic and less bloated. I want to look a little slimmer and eat in a way that will support muscle growth (from exercise).
I want to think of food as not “good” or “bad,” but as a way to reach my goals and continue on a path of good health. Not to mention, I’m a person who loves food, so it’s something I really appreciate and enjoy about life, and I want to continue enjoying it (which is part of mindfulness in eating – taking time to truly savor my food).
This is the only body I will ever have. I want to treat it well and enjoy it!