When it comes to food, it’s always been complicated. I wish it wasn’t, oh man I wish it wasn’t. My body has more often than not felt disjointed from my mind, as if the emotional and the physical were never really on the same playing field. Either I was too focused on my physical body, or struggling to stay mindful and “present”. I found myself always operating in extremes, black or white, too far or not enough. 100 miles or 1,000 push ups a day — nothing ever really seemed “enough” for me.
It’s no surprise then that I gave food this same attention. With so many messages swirling around in society, it’s so hard not to get caught up in the faddishness of it all. Keto. Paleo. Vegan. Flexible. Intermittent Fasting. Even in the most basic terms, and ones popularized by famous writers, “eat food, mostly plants, and not too much,” begged ensuing questions of, “well how much is too much?” “should I never eat meat?” “should it always be organic?” and so on.
For someone who has struggled a majority of their adult (and even pre-pubescent) life in some form of diet or calorie restriction, it’s no wonder I’ve always felt so conflicted around food. And my god I wish that weren’t the case. It’s also no wonder that my stomach has had so much sensitivity to certain foods — because if you train your body for years and years and years to worry about a particular food’s nutritional bio-availability and calorie content, there isn’t much energy left for actually enjoying it.
When I called my doctor and told her about the cramps I was having after what felt like every meal, her natural response was that I had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I think deep down I wanted her to say this. I wanted a medical professional to tell me I had to embark on yet another diet. A diet that is extremely restrictive, yet trusted because I had a reason — to “treat” my IBS. I think deep down the disordered relationship with food, the one I thought I had worked so hard in repressing, reared its ugly head as a way of telling me there was still a stronghold on my conscious mind.
It’s also no wonder that at the time of this phone call, with final exams in full swing, resume and career workshops crowding my calendar, cortisol levels through the roof, that I found stomach distress at an all time peak. So when there was something tangible for me to control, my diet, I took it and ran. I couldn’t control my grades, I couldn’t control my work load, I couldn’t control my job prospects, but I could control what went in my body.
I’m not saying I don’t suffer with IBS. And I’m not saying you don’t have IBS either. Chrons disease, ulcerative colitis, leaky gut and SIBO are all valid, real, terrible belly problems that need a qualified professional to diagnose. One huge and often overlooked treatment option for those who deal with sensitive digestion is learning to practice mindfulness.
Your mind and your gut are linked together in an incredible and paramount way. When you’re nervous, preparing for a big presentation, typically the last thing on your mind is sitting down to a plate full of eggs and bacon. You’re usually not hungry! For good reason. If for years and years and years you’re constantly stressing about the food you’re taking in, your gut can hear it. It understands the signals it receives as a mechanism of distress, and most likely won’t play nice when you’re trying to get food to sit nicely in your stomach.
Admitting these things to myself was by no means easy. I felt like a fraud. I felt ashamed. I still feel embarrassed for pushing a solution to a problem I was dealing with that I truly believed to be the end all. The truth is, I still feel scared around food, but unlike in the past, I’m finally ready to stop asking for dressing on the side. I’m sick of saying, “no thank you” to a slice of decadent birthday cake brought in with love from a co-worker, or skipping out on the glory that is an actual burrito. Not some “naked” burrito bowl, but an actual, fully-loaded, guacamole stuffed, cheese melted, chicken and bean burrito.
Fuck “everything is ok in moderation.” What does that even mean? Everything is okay all the time. Our bodies are incredible self regulators that NEED NO RULES. As mature, problem-solving creatures, we know what we need. We know that eating five donuts a day may illicit a boycott from donuts for at least a week. We know that a home cooked meal can be curing both physically and mentally, and we know the joy that eating cold pizza for breakfast can illicit. Why deny ourselves those simple truths? Why impose silly, self-righteous restrictions in order to assert control over something that we really don’t have control over?
Diets don’t work.
Diets don’t work.
The diet industry PROFITS off of your naiveté (and fear), as it did for me for so many years.
I am far from perfect, but I’m trying my best. When my sweet boyfriend says he wants Indian food, I want to stuff my belly with curry and lick my fingers of the residual spices that linger. When my best friend says she wants to grab a drink, I want to order a fancy cocktail and enjoy the buzz I know will follow…without mentally calculating the calorie and sugar content. When my amazing mother cooks a meal for us, I want to sit down at the dinner table without her texting me ahead of time asking, “will I eat this?”
All of this will happen by simply saying, “yes.”
From now on, you’ll see a lot less of me posting every single crumb on instagram. You won’t hear or see me label things “healthy.” You won’t witness me turn down pancakes (unless the waffles seem more promising). You may not even see me run 100 miles for a little while and you may not even notice a huge change. But you will see me smile a whole lot wider.