In my job, I talk about and am surrounded by food all the time. I post about it, have written cookbooks on it, and coach others through how to upgrade their own food life. Food is a huge part of my life.
But to be honest, that’s not necessarily my biggest passion. Food is great, and knowing about the definition of REAL FOOD vs “healthy food” is important.
But today, I want to talk about my true passion…. and the real reason why I started Simply Real Health.
About WHY food matters.
Not just only as our physical fuel. But for how connected and tightly interwoven it is to the rest of our lives: our relationships, our purpose, our work in this world, our energy, our moods, our patience, and how we show up in the world every single day.
Because being healthy and having a truly healthy lifestyle, is not just about the content of your food. And being perfect with it (like every diet and program wants you to think).
It’s how feeding yourself (and others around you) with more love and grace and intention, shifts things for good….and forever. It’s this piece that is the trigger, the domino, and a rarely talked about, but is such a necessary part of the journey.
And it’s what lights and lifts me up like nobody’s business: helping other women uncover this piece in their life too. Because once they do, it’s like a magical fire that gets lit, and they become so much more alive in their own lives.
So, as we kick off this month’s theme around here of cultivating and creating a better relationship to food and therefore a more vibrant life, I find myself sitting here with so much to say. Partly because, after so many years of coaching and teaching other people, I know it’s the THING that changes everything else, and the thing that makes everything else irrelevant when it comes to a happier life.
Also, because it’s been such a personal and huge part of my own story– finally connecting this piece, and all the freedom it’s created in my own life- around or not around food.
Let me back up. Because it’s been a long journey, at least for me to get here. And there are so many parts of it that didn’t have to be so hard, or so long, which is why I wanted to share it today. In case it can help you fast-track, and get these so much sooner in your own life.
I know that this story won’t resonate with all of you, who have great, balanced and healthy relationships and perspectives on food. Those of you that have never been on a diet, have always been able to eat whatever you want without thinking twice, well, this probably isn’t going to make such sense to you. Maybe come back next week, when the next recipe is out.
But for those of you that have never been like that– you’ve always been on a quest of some sort, maybe going in and out of phases with food your whole life, well then, this post is for you.
Because I, for one, have been there. And would still be there today, if I hadn’t had made some big shifts years ago.
So, it all began, way back.
I think it was maybe 4th grade.
I have a very distinct memory of it being class picture day, and lining up by height. Me, at 5 foot 3, in the very very back: not only the tallest girl, but the tallest person in my class. With cute little curves, that undoubtedly were the bane of my existence, along with my height.
Great for my basketball team, but really, nothing else. I’ll spare you the details about the 6 years of my life that made up for my awkward phase, but just know, that it started right here.
In fact, now that I think about it, I can’t even really remember a time when I didn’t have curves. Luckily those large men’s T-shirts were all the rage (Why, why?).
I think I always just had those curves- it’s how I was made. I was never heavy or overweight, but I was definatley a athletic build with hips, boobs, and a butt on a petite frame. And defiantly with a slower metabolism than most other 4th graders.
I know this, because I was friends with all the fast metabolism girls who could eat whatever they wanted (they, of course, desperately prayed at night for boobs and a butt to grow, and fast).
But the point is this: I realized at an early age that I couldn’t get away with what they were doing (and eating).
Which came to be blessing #1: the knowledge that I’d have to always put a little bit more effort in to workout, stay healthy and take care of myself.
I can see it easily now and am so thankful for it, but in the moment, this was no divine “gift”.
It was so frustrating. And what felt like my biggest obstacle to tackle. IN 4TH GRADE. Hello, what? Doesn’t that seem like way to young to even notice things like that?
Anyways, the point is: I was never like all the other girls.
My parents, bless their amazing hearts, both had great and healthy relationships to food themselves, especially my mom. She is literally the epitome of balance, never believed in diets, and loved food. For most of my young life, I remember thinking that she was the coolest about food, and how I wanted to be, too.
And thank god for her (seriously, thank you Mom. I know you are reading this now. I can so clearly see it now, because as I got older, I saw what happens when mom’s don’t have good relationships to food- they pass all of that baggage onto their kids, whether they know it consciously or not.
She is most likely the reason that later on, things never got worse than they did.
But, there was one difference- I was just naturally a slow burner, and she was a fast one. A little bit different of a body type. I could eat the same as her it would show up differently.
So, with all of these things combined, food was always something to me.
Something to be cautious of, careful of, and interested in, so that it didn’t sneak up on me.
Most of you have heard my story from this point on, about how in middle and high school, this cautious awareness of mine with food led me to be hyper-interested in my health, and being the healthiest I could be.
I’d spend hours reading every book, magazine, textbook, about it, testing it, and trying all the new things, being my own experiment.
Bring on the whole wheat sandwiches! The fat-free milk! The scrambled eggs whites! The Kashi Go Lean Cereal & Balance Bars! Mom, take me with you to the store, actually came out of my mouth every week.
But, it wasn’t long until that my harmless little interest in being healthy turned into something with a little bit more edge and fear attached to it. Maybe it was just getting a little bit older, and the vanity thing starting to matter more.
And no matter how much I worked out or ate healthily, or how many strategies I tried, food was still sort of a puzzle for me. A code to try and crack.
And with each successive attempt or experiment, there seemed like a little residue or build-up left behind. So many random bits of information and food facts, and rules, lingering around in there in the crevices of my brain.
As the years went on, things got more and more foggy, confusing, and conflicting. And the further I got in my food knowledge, the more doubtful and skeptical I’d start to feel about ever being able to just NAIL IT with food and never have to think about it again.
I’d tell myself that I must not be trying hard enough. Or, I’d get down on myself for messing up, when life got in the way of my perfectly laid food plans.
I did the fat-free thing. Ate only fruit and cereal for a while. I went through a phase of ordering a venti non-fat vanilla (or sugar-free vanilla) latte and a blueberry scone everyday at Starbucks (because, it was lower in calories than oatmeal and had less cholesterol than eggs, duh).
And then, vegetarian. Then vegan. Then high fiber only. No, no, no. It’s all about high protein now. I was always the weird one, always on this quest of sorts, to just find the one right way to eat that would solve everything. And was that too much to ask for?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Clearly, this is going to lead right to a eating disorder, right?
Well, no. It never quite got that far. And honestly? Part of me cringes to even tell you this story, because it didn’t get that far, and I know it does for so many people.
But I’m telling it anyways, because what happened instead, I think, is just as much worth talking about.
But what it was, was this: very disordered eating.
Which can happen no matter what age you are, size you are, what background you have, or what your parents were like. I guess that’s my point.
That everyone has a relationship to food, even though no one wants to talks about it.
So, can we just stop that?
Starting right here, and right now.
I want to talk about it. To open it up, and bring it to some light. To make it not so shameful and weird to say that your relationship to food might not be the best. For whatever reason. At whatever season of life you’re in.
And being honest with some of the things that your relationship with food, leads you to do, or fixate on, in all the other areas of your life. If you’re stuck and stagnant with food, it permeates into everything else too.
Because truthfully, whatever goes on inside your head around food, matters. Because it actually takes up so much headspace and time and effort, and so much of your life.
And maybe it’s been so many years and that self/food talk in your head is just your normal.
You know, the one that tells you to just finish the bag of cookies, it’s been a bad day, and then at least they will be gone. Or have that 3rd glass of wine, because it’s already open. Or to finish the bag of chips, because you already “messed up” today, and what’s the point?
It’s also the voice that fills your brain with guilt and shame the next day: Noooooo….why did you do that? You have no self control. No willpower. You messed up again. Ok. Today. Start again today.
For me, I actually had no idea that this voice or these thoughts weren’t normal. They were my normal, and part of my daily life. But what they created over time, became something so much more scary, because I started to actually believe them.
By college, I started to feel even more annoyed and frustrated.
Why did I have to try so hard, and everyone else seemed to have it so easy? And what was all this healthy effort really getting for me? I had nothing to show for it.
People would say to me: oh, come on. relax. Just eat it. It won’t kill you (when talking about pizza, cup-o-noodles, or late night Thai food). But I couldn’t. They didn’t know that I couldn’t do that without days of guilt and “working it off” at the gym after. Punishing myself, essentially.
So, I tell you all of this because here’s the truth: all of us have a relationship to food.
We all have thoughts and voice– and yes, men too. Some thoughts are positive and loving and great, and others are anything but. Or mediocre. Or depending on the day.
So today, I just want you to challenge you to check in: what’s it like in there, in that little sweet head of yours? If you had to rate yourself (honestly). Scale of 1 to 10. If you didn’t have to tell a soul, what would it be?
How free do you feel with your food? In what you’re eating, and in the joy and enjoyment factor, vs guilt and confusion.
Strip back your pride around it, and that I’m-too- busy-distracting myself with other things and sweeping it under the rug, thing. What are those thoughts saying?
And before you get nervous to take a clear look, let me say this: welcome them all in.
Let them trickle or come fast and flowing, without censoring or judging them. It’s all good, and all ok. And maybe it could be a relief to actually come face to face with some of them.
Write a few down, if you see a pattern in certain situations, around certain people, etc. It’s all so juicy and good.
And the first step to releasing their hold on you.
What happens next in the story? Part 2 is now up.
Have you heard?! Next week, I’m doing something fun: 5 daily inspirational masterclasses on the 5 surprising things that will help you create and design a healthy lifestyle that’s more sustainable, more joyful and more vibrant. Everyday I’ll be popping on to teach quick 10-15 minute lessons that you can take and put into practice in your own life. They’re all free, and things I wish that every woman knew.
Sign up here & you can pick the time that works best.