Eating can either be an act of love and respect for your body…
…OR it can be a way to deprive and/or harm yourself.
You get to choose.
Eating as an act of love and respect:
- Eating when you are hungry (ideally before you reach the point of ravenous hunger)
- Eating to nourish your body (sometimes food is just fuel)
- Eating a variety of satisfying foods (variety of foods = variety of nutrients = body functions properly) *Don’t forget the “satisfying” part. Forcing yourself to eat foods you hate isn’t love or respect.
- Eating to care for your body’s medical needs (e.g. adjustments made for diabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, food allergies, etc.)
- Stopping when you are mildly full or satisfied
- Honoring boundaries with food, most of the time, so as not to harm your body (i.e. not overeating very often)
Eating as a way to deprive and/or harm yourself:
- Eating when you’re not hungry
- Forcing yourself to eat foods you don’t like
- Undereating or restricting
- Dieting (…more on this below)
- Overeating or bingeing
- Not honoring boundaries related to your body’s medical needs
- Not letting yourself eat foods you enjoy (deprivation)
- Using dieting tricks even if you don’t consider yourself on a diet (e.g. eating certain foods just because they promise to decrease belly fat; or drinking a lot of water before/during eating to make you feel full)
- Subconsciously eating in a way that leads you to beat yourself up later (scapegoating food as a reason to shame yourself) *This one’s tricky because it tends to happen at the subconscious level – meaning you don’t even realize you’re doing it in the moment.
Dieting – helpful or harmful?
Most people think of dieting as an act of love towards their bodies – a way to get “healthier” or “happier.” I put those in quotes because it’s an illusion. But this illusion makes people think that by dieting they are taking care of their body – and this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The hard facts:
- Dieting is the #1 predictor of future weight gain
- Dieting harms your body’s metabolism
- Dieting deprives your body of key nutrients it needs to function properly
- Dieting is a form of psychologically degrading yourself
- Dieting does not make people happier – it keeps them in a cycle of misery
- Dieting repeatedly promotes inflammation in the body – which can also promote various health conditions
Therefore, dieting is most certainly harmful, not helpful. And it does not make people healthier. Even if people temporarily see “positive” changes in things like blood pressure or blood sugar, these are only temporary because they only last as long as the diet. And the rebound after the diet often results in worse health than before the diet.
Yet, the cultural dialogue around dieting is that it’s a good thing. In recent years, because of the bad reputation the actual word “diet” has gotten, diet companies and products have rebranded themselves with different language. The result? A lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Examples are things like clean eating, intermittent fasting, gluten free…even Weight Watchers has revamped themselves to sound less like a diet. They all operate under the veil of “healthy lifestyle change” – but we all know that the reason people ultimately do it is to lose weight.
Back to treating your body with love and respect
I digressed a little bit above, because I think that the dialogue around dieting is an important one to keep having, given that the diet industry continues to make billions of dollars per year. What this means is that people are still falling for it. So I’m going to keep talking about it.
To return to my point earlier, though, you can choose to treat your body in a way that is loving and respectful, even if you still wish you looked different. There are plenty of people in my life that I treat with love and respect, even if I don’t particularly like certain aspects of them. You can do the same for your body.
Starting right now, call a truce with your body. Tell it you are sorry for the mean things you’ve said and done. Thank it for all it’s done for you. Next time you’re hungry, ask yourself what you’re truly hungry for and honor it. Stay present with yourself while you’re eating, and stop when you’ve had enough, before the point of discomfort.
You can choose to take these actions towards your body, even if you don’t feel yet like you deserve it. Sometimes the unexpected result of doing so is that over time you actually start to like your body more when you treat it well. It’s worth a shot, huh?