The more that I talk to others about food and hunger - the more I discover that humans are becoming completely overwhelmed with how and what they should be eating and are completely out of tune with their body's signals on when they are hungry and what would satisfy that hunger.
I've determined that what destroys a human's relationship with food and natural ability to listen to what their body needs and wants nutritionally, can be boiled down to three things: Lack of self-worth, diets, and processed foods. It may be one of these elements, or two, or a combination of all three that can destroy our relationship with food.
Yes, there are extenuating circumstances such as illness and disease - but I am going to allow these to be outliers for sanities sake. I also believe in the metaphysical notion and mind-body connection that disease can be exacerbated if not caused by not being at ease or ...
As I have discussed in previous posts, Louise Hay, the great Metaphysical Teacher and motivational author, explains this concept at length.
If there are four fictitious gals that reflected the realness of the highs and lows of self esteem, worth and love - it's Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. And, although I may make reference to Sex and the City - which exudes femininity to highlight some of my points, I have known just as many men in my life that struggle with their relationship with food as I have women.
1) Lack of Self-worth
What does having self-worth mean? Or look like? What does self-worth have to do with food, and specifically our relationship with food?
I'll admit, I'm sitting here with my cup of coffee and looking at the words 'self worth,' and realizing this concept may be rather difficult to define.
Or, perhaps not. Perhaps it is quite simple to define - though grasping the definition may be where the difficulty presents itself.
Self. Worth. The self is worthy.
The self is worthy of what? Love. Respect. Happiness. Success. Peace. Forgiveness.
These are only a some of the essential life giving states of being that self-worth fosters.
To get a broader context, I quickly googled 'self worth,' below is the first result (which seems to also define self-esteem):
- "In sociology and psychology, self-esteem reflects a person's overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. Self esteemencompasses beliefs (for example, "I am competent," "I am worthy") and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame."
And the dictionary definition of self-worth is:
"The sense of one's own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect."
When one does not feel worthy or deserving of: love, forgiveness, or wellbeing (to name a few) - it is a far cry to ask of them to nourish themselves as they so rightfully deserve. Mind you, nourishment absolutely comes in many forms to feed our body, mind, and soul - but I'm going to focus on food.
It is when there is a belief of being unworthy, that we use food to abuse our bodies. I hear it time and time again "I know what I need to do, I just need to do it."
Humans under-eat as a way to punish or deprive ourselves. We overeat as a way to fulfill a hunger that cannot possibly be filled with any type of food.
We eat foods that we know are going to leave us feeling lethargic, bloated or other undesirable side-effects because we are already tired, depressed, and dependant.
We tax our internal organs with an excess of alcohol consumption or drugs (either OTC or otherwise).
Each and every one of these extremes are destructive behaviors that threaten our peace with food by causing emotional and physical distress like pain, discomfort, anxiety, fear, disappointment and self-loathing.
Why do we do this?
The causes of have lack of self-worth or low self esteem are vast and in and of themselves can be extraordinarily complex but I will attempt to address some of them.
Several factors may be a play:
- There is a belief deeply rooted that we don't deserve to be well (or happy, satisfied, healthy, accepted)
- There is a belief deeply rooted that we are not enough or whole
- We don't love ourselves or respect and honor our body
- We are using food (or alcohol/drugs) to distract ourselves from being with ourselves and our life - to distract ourselves from feeling
- We are placing the needs of others before the needs of ourselves leaving us drained and bitter
- We are in a toxic relationship that is effecting the value that we place on ourself
- We are in a toxic or environment that clouds our judgement
- We have a chemical or hormonal imbalance that impairs are ability to make healthy lifestyle choices and/or perpetuates dependancies
- We have attempted dieting to promote a healthy lifestyle which left us more confused and out of touch with the mind-body connection than ever before - see below for Trifecta #2: Diets
All of these scenarios will have an effect on one's self-worth and not only destroy someone's relationship with food - but also their relationship with their self and ultimately risk becoming out of touch with who they are: their authentic self.
They don't work.
Living diet-free is a concept not commonly known to Americans. Below is a bit of my philosophy.
#1) Eat real food. Eliminating processed foods is key in starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and relationship with your body. Consuming foods that are closest to their natural state as possible brings our bodies closer to the natural world and more capable of relying on our body's natural intuition.
#2) Zero scales. Weight scales are nothing more than white noise. You will know the optimal weight for you by the way you feel. If weight-loss is your goal, by becoming aware of how your body responds to food, weight-loss (if it's needed) will happen.
#3) No templates. There are a few things that can be shifted and work for just about everyone (like reducing processed foods), the rest depends on each individual person.
#4) Embrace patience. When transforming your lifestyle, you are not just breaking one habit. You are breaking years of countless small habits and re-learning what health means to you and your body. This takes time and great awareness.
#5) Nourish, then exercise .I believe that what you eat has a far greater impact on their health than exercise. Exercise will then support you in living a healthy lifestyle.
Sure, we can be guided. We can have doors opened for us. We can be informed. But it isn't until we get to know our body and how food effects our mind and body that we become in tune with the right way of eating for our individual body.
What comes to mind when you hear or see the word diet? I'm guessing the words freedom and abundance don't come to mind. Certainly not peace.
Atkins, Paleo, Zone, South Beach, Raw Food, Ketogenic, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Vegan, Weigh Watchers, Jenny Craig, Blood Type, Glycemic Index Diet, Macrobiotic, Master Cleanse - the list goes on and on. Shoot, I even discovered that there is a grapefruit diet and cabbage soup diet. Oh, and I've even gone to Banana Island.
Now - have some of these diets been successful or even aided in great weight-loss and/or healing ailments, illness and disease? Absolutely! But the problem is that they are not sustainable. Nor should they be for proper nutrition intake and assimilation.
Many of these diets are awesome short-term "resets" such as raw vegan as a way to heal gut-health and/or cleanse the body of heavy metals and other toxins and bring the body back into a more slightly alkaline state rather than overly acidic.
Mind you, these lifestyles (such as vegan, raw vegan, paleo, keto) each have a high success rate even though they are vastly different because they are focused on eating real whole foods - in other words, they are getting away from the Standard American Diet (aka SAD) and going back to a more simple and nutrient dense way of eating.
Eating real whole foods as close to their natural state as possible (and organic when possible) promotes mind-body health, abundance, and happiness and can be maintained long-term so long as the individual stays in tune with their body and evolves the foods they are eating or not eating over time. What works for one person now may not work for them 10 years from now. We are constantly changing - even on a cellular level.
There are numerous other problems with diets - I'll attempt to highlight the biggies below:
- They are not individualized and are often based solely on what worked well for one person or a subset of people in completely different life circumstances
- They can disrupt the gut-flora balance
- They can be too restrictive causing feelings of frustration, deprivation, and may lead to binging or other disordered eating
- They can cause obsessive thinking and eating behaviors that may be a gateway to eating disorders
- They promote automatic/mechanical ways of eating vs. listening to our intuition and honoring our hunger
- They take the joy, pleasure, and fun out of eating and promote feelings of anxiety, fear, and sadness
There are few things that sadden me more when I hear things like 'curb your appetite,' 'suppress your appetite.' Hunger is a natural and healthy part of being human! The key is finding the right foods for you . Food is fuel for our body. There is no doubt about that. But, food also brings us pleasure. Food comforts us. Food brings people together. Food brings us life.
And don't even get me started on the Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig's of the world. Listen, I love that they are intended to make people good, lose some weight, and become more aware of their portions but they are focused on weight loss rather than health and the food is packed full of nutrient void processed ingredients.
The first step, is to eliminate all processed foods and focus on eating real whole foods as close to their natural state as possible. This leads my to the third factor in the trifecta that destroy's our relationship with food.
3) Processed Foods
Where to start with this one?
It seems as though there is a real movement in eating whole real foods (yay!), yet there is still a mass amount of processed foods on the shelves at shockingly low prices. And many are wondering, what is so bad about processed foods? I look a the box and it says that it is an 'excellent source of fiber and protein,' what's the problem?
The problem lies in the process in which the ingredients go through before they even hit the assembly line. The heat and bleaching that is done to otherwise nutritious ingredients strips the healthy enzymes and vitamins right out them making them essentially nutrient void and in some cases toxic.
The problem lies in fillers that are not food and instead are artificial chemicals produced in a plant.
When we eat things that are unnatural and void of nutrients - it causes an entire host of complications such as:
- Hormone and endocrine disruption
- Gut-flora imbalance creating a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria
- Onset or trigger of disease and illness
- Onset or trigger of autoimmune disorders
- Mental disturbances such as anxiety, depression, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Bipolor Disorder etc.
- Metabolism disruption causing excess fat and weight
- Inability to assimilate and breakdown nutrients
So what now?
It's time to become very familiar with what we are putting into our bodies. Our bodies are the vessel that carry us through this life. What we feed our bodies - physically, emotionally and spiritually are the keys to a healthy relationship with food. Our minds and bodies are constantly adapting to the environment around us and that what we consume can free our beings to achieve optimal health. Being mindful of the nature of things in how we live our lives, what we consume, and how we move can empower us to come closer our natural and intuitive state.
Does this mean that you cannot ever enjoy something that is packaged/processed like your favorite chocolate bar, ice cream, or pancakes? No, I believe in the positive power of indulgence ... but you will be coming from a place of knowledge and empowerment vs. confusion and helplessness.
Believe in yourself, trust your body and eat whole real foods.
You got this.