I want to tell you something that I think you might need to hear:
There’s nothing wrong with you because you constantly think about food.
There’s nothing wrong with you because you’re overweight.
There’s nothing wrong with you because you overeat, undereat, or binge.
There’s nothing wrong with you because you can’t seem to figure all of this out, no matter how hard you try.
If you struggle with food, you probably believe that there is some deficiency that you have which keeps you from having a normal relationship with food and being at a natural, normal, healthy weight.
You may believe that when you’re good all day but then come home and raid the fridge that there’s something inherently wrong with you. You may believe that because you’re overweight that you’re not strong enough to stick to a “plan”. You may believe that because you’re constantly thinking about food to the point where it’s impacting your social life and career that there is clearly something wrong with how you function and that you have deep “issues”.
But I’m here to tell you that your preoccupation with food, or your reliance on food, does not mean that there is something wrong with you. You’re totally fine, you’re completely perfect, you’re a whole and capable individual.
Your preoccupation with food or your reliance on food is simply just a symptom of something else going on – of a need that isn’t being met. And whatever need it is that isn’t being met, you’re RIGHT for having that need. You’re a completely perfect human being who has real needs, and on a deep level, when those needs aren’t met, you’re going to try to meet them. For many women, that shows up in our relationship with food.
We turn to food to feel the way we want to feel – comforted, loved, excited, happy.
We turn to food to distract ourselves from something that we can’t bear to think about or to feel.
We obsess over food as a way to control our environment and our weight and to guarantee that we’ll feel happy and safe.
We start a new diet in order to feel like we belong and are part of a community.
There is always a reason why we have a funky relationship with food. But that reason is NOT because there’s something wrong with you.
That reason is that there is something else going on, and food or your preoccupation with food is trying to shine a light on it.
When I start working with clients, there is always a lot of self bashing at the beginning, most of the time without the person realizing it. This is because they look at their “food issues” as this horrible, shameful , embarrassing, f*cked up part of them.
In reality, your “food issues” are freaking brilliant. They’re telling you something incredibly important and serving you in massive, massive ways in your life. They’re protecting you and helping you meet your needs as a woman.
That deserves a heck of a lot of appreciation, right?
In my own life, my food issues served as major red flags for many many years. When I was happy, I didn’t care that much about food. But when I felt off, when I felt unsupported, when I felt bored and stuck in my career, when I felt unengaged socially, that’s when food stepped in and helped me. Controlling food and my diet helped me feel safe and feel like I could control my happiness. Food was always there for me when I was hurt, lonely, confused, or feeling bad about myself. To this day, when I find myself turning to food or thinking too much about food, I thank that part of me for such valuable knowledge and then use it to recalibrate.
When you start to look at your funky relationship with food NOT as a problem but as a symptom and a sign that there is something else going on underneath, that’s when you can truly start to heal your relationship with food.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear: How do you look at your “food issues”? Can you tell me one positive thing that your preoccupation with food has given you? What may it be trying to tell you about what you really need?
I can’t wait to hear what you have to say here!!
Adrianne Shelton says
My food issue right now is that food is something I can make the best part of my day. It’s been a very difficult year. But I am a pretty good cook, so I know I can make something we’ll all look forward to. Which, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. I believe food is important in relationships and celebration. And I believe celebration of small things can be very healing. My personal problem with it, though, is not being afraid to stop the “celebration.” Why do I keep eating when I know I’ve had enough? When I know I can always have more later? How can I stop turning perfectly good meals into guilt fests because I ate a little too much? I am rarely stuffed, but I constantly second-guess myself, or eat a little too much when I know I have had enough. I then feel like I’ve “failed” at intuitive eating. It’s a very black and white food world to me, so I know I need to relax and give myself time. I just am wondering how you got from A to B. How did you ease the transition and be kind to yourself along the way?
Hi Adrianne. Awesome question! It sounds like what you’re saying is that food provides a big source of pleasure and excitement in your day and that sometimes it’s hard to stop the celebration. First of all, food CAN be a source of pleasure and there’s nothing wrong with that. What about focusing on increasing your excitement and pleasure throughout your whole day from other things? What is so great about food and how can you replicate that throughout your entire day? I would just totally shower yourself in fun, exciting things (they can be small) and see if that makes a difference. In terms of how to be kind to yourself in the transition, how about saying to yourself “hey girl, I’m trying to figure it all out and understand what I truly need. sometimes I’ll overeat in the process because I’m still trying to figure it out. thanks for sticking with me” — that’s a really kind, gentle way to accept that it all takes time. what do you think?
Adrianne Shelton says
I think that definitely sounds like what I need to do 🙂 I do need to figure out the details of that though. My current season in life has three awesome, but time-consuming, little boys, one going through chemo. I’m not complaining, I feel very blessed to have the life I do! But I definitely have to stop and think of how these parts of me fit into my day. Since I chose to be a wife and mom, I want to do my very best. But I also know that I’m going to still be me when my kids are less labor-intensive, so I want to find out WHAT it is I’m really craving when I turn to food. Not whining, just thinking 🙂 Thank you for your advice!
The piece you wrote about knowing when you’ve had enough is exactly the same problem I always have. The food will still be there when I get hungry again, and there is no lack of food access for me, it’s just I continue to shovel it in and proceed to feel guilty after. I also have the same black and white thought process. I don’t have any words of advice for you, but at least you know you’re not alone.
Debi Oswald says
Oh wow did this come through at the right time. I am going to reread this in a little while when I have more time to think this through. I have been trying to remove all of the good/bad connotations of eating. and the weight loss site I used for 3 years is FULL of it and it is driving me crazy. So few people think of dealing with the underlying emotional issues instead of focusing on the food.
What gives me some anxiety is that I really do have a good life. My natural tendencies as an artist personality makes me not like to to do things when told, and be super organized and needing to do things on time (I am a teacher! 🙂 ) and I know that sort of thing stresses me out. And I am sure there are other things that are bothering me. I do need to sort them out. I tend to block/deny things that I can’t easily fix. I have a bunch to think about here- thanks for this EXCELLENT post.
I’m so glad you got something out of this post, Debi. I can relate to a lot of what you said. I would challenge you to think about ways to bring your artistic/creative personality into your organized/structured work. Where are you being creative and artistic? Can you up that part of your life? xoxo.
Kammie @ Sensual Appeal says
Since I stopped putting focus on weight loss and just learning to be okay and feel like I’m good enough, I have stopped binging and stopped worrying about what I eat. I do have times when I overeat still though but the focus on myself and my feelings has allowed me to realize what the food I was binging on/overeating does to my body from a physical standpoint. This is literally VERY VERY new to me, maybe a week or two, where somehow my perspective shifted and I started being aware of what these foods to do me and why I might be craving them. For example, always craved yogurt – especially once I started eating it, I just wanted more and more and more. From a physical perspective, I realized that there might be something wrong with this – I’m thinking I might be becoming more lactose sensitive than before since I found out one of the ways to tell if you’re sensitivite to a food is that when you eat it you start to crave it that much more. I’m trying to limit dairy now and I haven’t had the cravings.
I guess this is a different type of realization but just noticing food from a more objective manner, as food – something that provides us fuel, and provides us fuel in DIFFERENT ways, has been a side effect of practicing self-love and intuitive eating (at least somewhat).
Otherwise, I have also noticed that the most overeating I do happens when I’m bored or I’m truing to avoid doing something or when I want to numb some feelings. It’s hard to figure out how and when it happens but it’s a process.
Hey Kammie — good for you for staying so aware of what’s going on for you and for your body. It’s definitely a process — stick with it, it sounds like you’re making massive progress!
So, this hit home today. To be honest, I’ve had a pretty hard time this last week. I’ve been sick for nine days and the lack of exercising and just feeling blah has gotten to me. I’ve gained a pound or two and have been bored so eating out of comfort. Then I have started thinking about how to lose the weight.
After reading this post, I’ve realized, what I need is rest and to take care of myself. I always have this big to so list, and I have slowly been trying to make myself do things. But I feel like sitting in a comfy chair and reading a good book. That’s what I really need right now. ;). I don’t need extra food or a diet. I need to feel comfortable.
Ahhh beautiful, Sonja!! Take some time to relax and care for your beautiful body. Sending you lots of love 🙂
Kim W says
I am not happy to have had (and sometimes still have) food struggles, but I appreciate what they have taught me about myself through this challenge. They have taught me that I am a strong individual and that I can get through this and anything I set my mind to. They made me finally come to a point where I realized I just need to appreciate my body and take care of it. && I have been able to pinpoint why I often still struggle: loneliness. I have been trying to soothe over this feeling and surround myself with loving people, and do things that make me happy when I am alone.
Kim – great point about the loneliness. Also, the closer you get to yourself, the less you’ll feel lonely because you feel so at home with yourself. Great job in listening to this voice and for taking action on it!
Jamie, I may be one of your few male followers. I have been trying to observe intuitive eating for many years, unsuccessfully for any genuine length of time. I just want to tell you how encouraged I am by your work and blog. Thank you so much!
I love my male followers Dave!! Thanks for the encouragement and I’m so happy to help support you on your IE journey. It’s so rewarding. Of course, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.
Katie @ Live Half Full says
I needed to hear this- and you are so right. Time to get to the bottom of this once and for all!
“In reality, your “food issues” are freaking brilliant. They’re telling you something incredibly important and serving you in massive, massive ways in your life. They’re protecting you and helping you meet your needs as a woman.”
-This totally made me cry. It was something I needed to hear right now. Thank you for this blog.
You’re brilliant. You’re posts are inspiring, convincing and true. I can just FEEL the love you spread to all through your words and your support. I just started following along, but you are a special gift to the world. Thank you!
Aw thank you Courtney! You are so sweet!
This was an awesome post . I found lately that this is true . I was never obsessed with food but last few weeks been turning to it so now gonna join gym Monday instead and get out and do more . Your site validated me inside . There is nothing wrong with me , I just need a little more social life as been studying too hard , spending time alone . I’m also going to do house sitting just to get away from my usual routine . Brilliant article . I love you Jamie for speaking your mind with no shame And being my voice .
Thank you from
Bottom of my heart- this is what I needed to hear !!
Thank you for your inspiring read. I know I have been obsessed with weight and food for the last 20yrs. 4 yrs ago I was diagnosed with a severe wheat allergy and most recent I’ve had to go on a low fodmap diet for severe IBS. Those two food restrictions limit my food greatly. I find that I am constantly trying to figure out what to eat and cook. I also obsess with the scale. My previous thoughts have been if I could just lose 5 pounds I’d be much happier. But I know I wouldn’t be because I have lost and gained it several times in the last 6 months and have felt no different. I believe it’s a control thing. I am very Type A personality!! Reading your blog has inspired me to throw away the scale and find inner happiness. Please continue to inspire. I am looking forward to your fall seminar coming up in September. It’s a daily battle for me but reading your blog helps. Thank you!!
RHONDA M HARMON says
I always that I was addicted to chocolate and would deny myself to have it for fear that I would keep eating and not stop. I even used to joke about my relationship with chocolate. After reading the book Intuitive Eating and finding this challange I now allow myself chocolate. What I am finding is that I am not a slave to chocolate as I thought. It is good but not as great as my mind made it out to be when I wouldn’t allow myself to have it.
I am taking a closer look at myself and finding myself and what foods I really do crave and enjoy.
You know what I hate? Dreading a get-together with family and friends because it’s at an Italian restaurant and “what the hell am I going to eat?” I’ve never been the girl to just order a salad. To me, if you go to a burger joint you should eat and enjoy the damn burger. But every time I start focusing on a diet I get anxiety about ANY upcoming social event. I know I won’t be able to resist the wine, the good food. I usually don’t resist and then I feel weak after. Ugh. It’s ridiculous.
Food relaxes me. When I finally get home from a long day at work, take care of the kids and get to bed – I want to sit down and watch the latest netflix binge – with popcorn and wine. And damn do I feel relaxed after.