It's taken a while for me to get here, not here to this article, but here to acknowledge the relationship I have with food and with my body.
Let's start with a very short backstory, and I'm not going to get knee-deep in this because, well, I'm not trying to bring up trauma, but my first diet was at age 8. You read that correctly. I was drinking Slim-Fast, doing my Olivia Newton-John aerobics, and tracking my food at age 8. I used to write everything down in a little spiral notebook - the first of many spiral notebooks over the course of my life. Dieting at 8 years old would prove to be indicative of a negative body image and ED. I would relapse three times in the course of just as many decades.
My history is also indicative of relationship struggles, in general. Adverse childhood experiences, attachment wounding, and abusive language would perpetuate an idea that I would amount to nothing and nobody would ever want me if I wasn't perfect - and that included my body.
Though I had already begun working on this relationship, my car accident in October of 2020 would force me to do some deep emotional work because what I couldn't do was move my body. I gained more weight in a matter of months than I ever did in recovery and I started to freak out. I needed to meet my demons here if I was going to save myself from relapse.
Now, as I said, I'm not going to give my life story here, but I believe in transparency, and if I'm going to talk about cultivating a healthy relationship with food and body, then I feel I have to be honest about my own journey. Your journey may not be rooted in the same kind of trauma, but friend, if you're struggling to have a healthy relationship with yourself, there's something more than a mental block in your way.
Part of cultivating this relationship is acknowledging that it isn't just physical, it's mental and emotional too. If anything I've said so far or anything I list below causes something within you to rise up, please see someone.
Healing the relationship with our bodies and our diets is often rooted in shadow work, so while you can certainly begin to examine and explore on your own, I wouldn't recommend going it alone the whole way - a lot can come up, you should have someone to help you process it.
With that said, to keep this light I've cultivated a list of things that I am ditching in the name of self-love as I continue to repair the most important relationship of all - the one with my body.
What I've ditched in the name of self-love
In an effort to take back control of my wellness, here are a few things that I've decided to ditch.
Wearable tracking devices - while it's not easy for me to cold-turkey quit all forms of tracking, I have fully ditched any tracking device that's worn on my body. This means no smartwatches, step-trackers, fitness monitors, tracking rings, or anything else I've forgotten or never knew existed. I do currently still use the Lifesum app for generalized movement and food tracking, but since there are no devices connected to it, the data is reliant upon me providing it, which I don't readily do. I opted to continue with Lifesum as a means of identifying new trends in my habits as they become more natural and normalized for me. I also still weigh myself once a week, again to track the trends. For example - since trying to recalibrate my body and determine my set weight, I've had to monitor the balance in activity and caloric intake. The goal is to eventually drop any form of tracking unless required by a doctor for some medical reason. Tracking ultimately continues to fuel the notion of restriction or number-specific goals, and I'm really not about that life.
Labeling foods as good and bad or any euphemism for such - is mostly self-explanatory, but you might be asking what I'm referring to when I say "a euphemism for such," so I'll tell you. Labels like: healthy, not healthy, clean, cheat food, natural, or artificial imply the exact same thing as calling something good or bad. All food is inherently good for you in the sense that you need it for survival, so let's move on from binary values that impart guilt and shame. When you're trying to decide what to eat at any given moment, you should really only be asking yourself "what do I want right now? how will it fuel my body? how does it meet all of my needs (emotional, mental, and physical)?" Be mindful of the things that are specific to you, such as monitoring cholesterol or managing diabetes, etc, but don't place moral labels on food as a way to prevent you from consuming it for any reasons other than what your medical provider has given you.
Following any singular diet or fitness plan - this one might be surprising because I don't think we give much mind to following meal plans or workout plans, but they can be equally as damaging as the aforementioned inaccurately labeling food. For example, I used to jump around from diet to diet and fitness plan to fitness plan looking for a quick fix and anything that would help me stay within a specific zone. I was rarely (if ever) following a plan per the advice of a doctor (anti-inflammatory being the only exception while undergoing treatment for endometriosis). Even though my decision to be vegetarian years ago started as a moral decision, it eventually also became a dietary choice based on remaining a certain size and weight. Even intuitive eating has been bastardized by the fitness community and turned into yet another scheme for weight loss. "That girl" you follow online is an intuitive eater, right? Unless you're training for something, both diet and fitness should be flexible, balanced, and again, should help you to feel good overall. Mix up your weights and cardio and mobility and calisthenics, and REST with your carbs and protein and fiber and fats, and DESSERT!
Listening to anyone other than a clinical professional or registered dietician - I'm going to get hate for this, I just know it, but please stop listening to people whose job isn't to provide health facts, resources, and support. Stop listening to influencers with a platform and no knowledge, who impart incorrect information and continue to push unrealistic, false, and downright dangerous paradigms about health, fitness, and nutrition. Again, please talk to your medical provider, mental health counselor, and/or a registered dietician when embarking on a wellness journey. It's one thing to follow people who are also sharing their journey and are careful about what and how they do that, and it's something else entirely to give your money or attention to people who are just good at making videos or TikToks.
Expectations that size matters - this is less sultry than I let on; I'm referring to clothing size. For one thing, sizes vary from brand to brand and across countries, so clothing size has never been a reliable means of measuring body size or health. It's still all too easy to try something on in a particular size that we know is correct, only to have it feel snug and then leave us spinning out because we now need a larger size. It's fabric draped over the body - please, I beg you, let it go. The key to being comfortable in clothing is to find clothing that fits the body well and is legitimately comfortable to wear. Period. I have my generic starting sizes that I select when trying on clothes, but I've had to really let go of any shame around needing to size up when necessary. There are some things that just run smaller - on everyone - and it's okay!
Using "should" language - this is the most pervasive, easily overlooked, and deeply harmful and aligns with pretty much everything else on this list already. This sounds like: "I should work out today," "I shouldn't eat this," "I should lower my calorie intake to fit into these pants," etc. "Should" implies that there is a right way or expectation for something to happen correctly like you should put ice cream in the freezer or it will melt. Having a healthy relationship with food and movement doesn't rely on what you "should" be doing, it relies on you having a deep knowledge of what works best for you and then living in that knowledge every day. Healthy relationships acknowledge challenges, have an honest approach to managing them, and honor each part completely - it's true for self, for relationships with others, and relationships with our bodies.
So where are you on this journey? Are you just starting to explore your relationship? Have you been nurturing it for a while? What is the hardest part for you? What have you ditched in the name of self-love?
Sending you light and love,