After years of struggling with negative body image, I remember one day feeling like I had had enough. Valentines Day and ramen noodles played an integral role in this epiphanic realization. It feels strange to sum up nearly a decade of obtrusive thoughts into a single moment, but it’s true. It just sort of happened. I felt exhausted worrying that if we went out to pizza somehow it would be the end of my abs. I felt utterly exhausted worrying that if I relinquished control over the evening menu that somehow my status of health would deteriorate. And more than that, I felt embarrassed that with almost no hesitation, if a friend recommended a new restaurant the first question would be, “oh can Gabi eat there?”
Life is too short to make cookies without “unrefined sugar.” And it’s also too short to make cookies with it. My point being, life is too short to worry about doing it right. There is just as much delight in baking a sweet batch of dark chocolate chip teff cookies as there is in making cookies adhering to the traditions of Nestle Tollhouse. I’m guilty of at times being a bit too pushy when it comes to both sides. Food choices are personal and we are in no position to judge how someone chooses to fuel their bodies.
I am still very much learning about how to listen to my body. Eating intuitively, especially as an athlete, can be challenging. Relinquishing food rules and food habits is no small feat. And while I don’t think it’s meant to be, if you’ve struggled with distorted relationships with food, it is. Especially because it seems like we’re living in an age where it’s more common for someone to be on a diet — be it some sort of label (vegan, plant-based, keto, avoiding carbs), than not.
I am still learning how to approach this subject respectfully. It’s deeply personal and I never want to insight any sort of discomfort if you (dear reader) feel anxious around food. Because I still do! But everyday I try to challenge that voice that says I can’t have bread at lunch and dinner, or that because I had oatmeal for breakfast I can’t also eat rice for lunch. See — we all have odd things we’re working with and it just takes practice letting go. Dropping rules, label reading, body checking, and calorie counting, is like unlocking shackles around your ankles you didn’t even know were there. It’s deeply liberating. But where do you start?
@Don’tSaltMyGame, Laura Thomas — I owe a lot of my journey towards food freedom to this London based nutritionist. She vehemently dispels nutrition myths and has been a pioneer in loudly advocating for body positivity. Her website and podcast are amazing resources that have covered the gamut of intuitive eating and body love. From why preservatives aren’t the devil, to the amazing benefits of milk, to eating a normal diet even if you have PCOS, she really covers the spectrum.
@The Food Medic Podcast, Hazel Wallace
@NutritionMatters, Page Smathers
Eat Up!, Ruby Tandoh, Like with Laura Thomas, eating up this book made me want to live. It made me realize how much I’ve been missing out on when it feels like so much of my headspace is taken up worrying about food. Please, swallow this book whole and enjoy the feeling of pure delight that washes over you after you’ve eaten your own chocolate covered egg. (After you read this book you’ll understand the reference)
How To Feel The Fear, and Eat It Anyway, Evie Simmons and Lauren Dennison
Just Eat It, Laura Thomas
Health at Every Size, Linda Bacon
The No Need To Diet Book, Pixie Turner
The Fuck it Diet, Caroline Dooner
There are ten tenants of intuitive eating. Serving as building blocks, if you don’t (honestly) work your way through each, it can feel like there are unresolved gaps in your recovery that only serve to confuse the larger equation.
- Reject the diet mentality.
- Honor your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
- Respect your Body
- Exercise — to feel good
- Honor your Health
Your body is amazing. It doesn’t need to be bombarded with weird eating habits. Trust me. Been there, done that. Ask yourself of your current routine, “do I want to be doing this when I’m 70?” If the answer is an honest no, than why the hell are you doing it now!? Try your best to listen to your body, but don’t get bogged down if it feels like it isn’t cooperating. Sometimes I get really bad period cramps that make me want to lay on my stomach and do nothing but eat popcorn. If I don’t drink enough coffee, I get a gnarly headache. Consequently, sometimes when I drink too much coffee before a run I get terrible acid reflux. Indian food almost always makes me bloated, but spicy tandoori chicken and soft, fluffy naan is almost always worth it. We aren’t perfect. Our bodies aren’t either. If everyday you do your best to honor your hunger cues, to say thank you to your body for doing the amazing job of just being alive, you’re on the right path.
So ditch the diet mentality. Load up on wholesome, nutritious foods and don’t ever be afraid to help yourself to seconds. Eat from a wrapper, eat from the frozen food aisle, eat plants and eat meat! Eat what makes your body feel good, and the only way you can do that is if you trust it enough to tell you what it wants. The more you practice honoring those moments of quiet intuition, the more peace you’ll find will ensue on your plate, and subsequently, the more respect you’ll begin to garner for your body as a result.