This is what a healthy relationship with food looks like:
You enjoy a wide variety of foods. You fill your diet with lots of different foods from every food group, so that you meet your nutrient needs through variety. You do not force yourself to eat foods you don’t enjoy (or that you have a medical reason to avoid).
Sometimes you eat purely for pleasure (like that cupcake, or glass of wine) but most of the time the choices you make fulfill both your nutrient and pleasure needs. You eat a salad because you WANT it, not because it’s what you think you SHOULD eat. And if you don’t want salad, you have something else. When you eat purely for pleasure, you savor the experience and then move on. You don’t assign shame or guilt to your food choices.
You eat when you are hungry, and you eat foods that nourish you, make you feel awesome, and help you meet your goals. You also realize that there is no such thing as perfection, and that your habits over time are far more important than any specific food you do or don’t eat. You understand that one meal doesn’t cancel out all the other meals you eat over the course of a week. You understand that there is a lot of room for flexibility within the context of a balanced, varied diet.
“Eating whatever you want whenever you want isn’t going to result in healthy lifestyle or longevity. Eating Doritos every day would land you in the hospital!”
“Sugar lights up the reward centers of the brain, which makes you want more sugar. Copious amounts of sugar is really bad for you!”
The people making these comments have a disordered idea of eating. They may not have an eating disorder, but they are making these comments from a place of fear. They are projecting their own fears and beliefs, about how they think they would behave if they allowed themselves to eat what they want, onto other people.
Do you see how the belief underlying both of these comments is that if a person eats what they want to eat, they will only eat ‘junk’, and eat excessive amounts of it? In the first comment, there is an assumption that if they ate what they wanted, they would eat Doritos every day. And in the second, there is the assumption that if they allowed themselves free rein, they would overeat sugar.
Both of these assumption belie a disordered relationship with food. Because you see, if these people had a healthy relationship with food, they would understand that they would be able to eat Doritos and sugar in moderation, enjoy them, and move on.
The answer here isn’t to ‘force’ oneself to eat a certain way. The answer is to address the disordered relationship with food. Because when their relationship with food is healthy, they won’t be compelled to eat Doritos and sugar in excess. They will be able to eat them in moderation, freely, and without forcing or feeling deprived.
Because that is what a healthy relationship with food is like.
I believe that the entire diet industry is deeply disordered, so these disordered ways of thinking about food are normalized and even promoted as healthy. Far too many people believe that the way they think about and approach food and eating is normal and healthy, when in fact it is disordered and destructive. The diet industry is dragging us all down into a spiral of disorder, shame and obsession. And telling us all the while that it is normal and healthy.
Need some help healing your relationship with food? Check out these free resources, and consider seeking out treatment from a qualified Eating Disorder professional: