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, it’s not necessarily my biggest passion. Food is great, and knowing about the definition of REAL FOOD vs “health food” and diet 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/plan/strategy out there preaches).
Being healthy is about learning how to feed yourself better. With more love, grace and intention.For the long haul and for the long term of your life, through all the ups and downs. It also means learning how to feed and nourish yourself mentally, emotionally, relationally and spiritually too.
That is a true healthy lifestyle, in my eyes.
And truth, it’s the rarely talked about, but 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 and magnetic in their own lives.
So, as we kick off this month’s theme around here of cultivating and creating a healthier relationship to food and therefore a more vibrant and magnetic 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 foundational THING changes everything else that comes after it.
Also, because it’s been such a personal and huge part of my own story– after years and years of focusing on just the surface: my food and workouts namely, it was the act of finally connecting these deeper pieces of the puzzle (and of myself) that changed everything for me.
Let me back up. Because it’s been a looooong 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: the un-edited version. In case it can help you fast-track, and get there 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 much sense to you.
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 and up and down in phases with food and your body for 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, let’s back it up, to where it all began. Way back.
Like 4th grade, way back.
I remember the day so vividly. It was class picture day, and we were all instructed to line up by height. Me, at 5 foot 3, and 10 years old, in the very very back: not only the tallest girl but the tallest person in my class. With curves on my body — that were were undoubtedly the bane of my existence, along with my height.
I mean, it was great for my basketball team, but really, nothing else. I’ll spare you the details about then next 8 years of my life that made up my awkward “phase” (can we call it a phase when it was almost a decade?! ha). But just know, that so much of it started right there.
In fact, now that I think about it, I can’t even really remember a time when I didn’t have those curves. Luckily those large men’s T-shirts and stirrup stretchy pants were all the rage (Why, why?).
I mean, I was never heavy or overweight, but I definitely had a naturally more athletic build with hips, boobs, and a butt, all on a petite frame (because my height came early, but then never changed). And definitely 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 into a workout, staying healthy and taking 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 too 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. Self proclaimed hippies in college, they were eating brown rice and veggies long before it was cool to do so. Being healthy was talked about often in our house, but never in a dogmatic way. In a balanced way, truly.
Especially my mom. She is literally the epitome of balance still to this day, has never believed in diets, and has always 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 to keep my eye on, so that it didn’t sneak up on me.
Most of you, if you’ve been around here for a while, have probably heard my story from this point on, about how in middle and high school this cautious awareness of food led me to be obsessed with learning about my health, and trying to be the healthiest I could be.
Yes, at age 12.
I’d spend hours reading every book, magazine, textbook, I could get my hands on about nutrition: testing it, and trying all the new things, being my own experiment and test case.
Cue the whole wheat sandwiches! Fat-Free milk! The scrambled eggs whites! The Kashi Go Lean Cereal & Balance Bars! Mom, I wanna go to the store with you— 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, it would leave a little build-up left behind. I had 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 every day at Starbucks (because, it was lower in calories than oatmeal and had less cholesterol than eggs, duh).
And then, vegetarian. Then vegan for a year or two. Then vegan-high fiber only. No, no, no, wait. That’s out. It’s all about high protein now.
And always always working out. Every. Single. Day. I loved it. Outwardly it was to “be healthy”. But inside, I was also secretly scared of what would happen if I stopped.
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.
Was that too much to ask for?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Clearly, this is going to lead right to an 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 you anyways, because what happened instead I think, is just as much worth talking about.
What it was, was this: very disordered eating.
This can happen no matter what age you are, the 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.
And it affects your whole life: your thoughts, your emotions, your worthiness and value, your self confidence, your relationships, your daily life, your actual physical health, and your ability to shine bright and be aligned in your life.
Because food is everywhere.
It’s a necessary part of life.
But none of us ever learn how to harness it’s true power– as the foundation for a calm, powerful and authentic life.
We never learn about it in our culture: everything is focused on marketings and fads and diets. Food as a grounding, normalizing and positive force in your life- to be shared joyfully? We’ve got a long way to go. So it’s no wonder that most of us struggle with it, at some point in our lives.
So 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 be confusing or not always positive, if you were really honest with it.
It’s time to start being more 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 and up-and-down with food, it permeates into everything else too.
Because truthfully, whatever goes on inside your head around food, matters. Your thoughts matter. How you talk to yourself about it, it matters. Your mindset around it, it matters. Your emotional world, it matters. Because all of this 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.
It’s the voice that says:
You know, just finish the bag of cookies, it’s been a bad day, and then at least they will be gone.
Or to pour that 3rd glass of wine, because it’s Friday and it’s already open and you deserve to relax and de-stress after the week you’ve had. 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 suck. You messed up again. Ok, today….. we start again today.
It’s the all-or-nothing mentality.
For me at least, 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 scarier, 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 orders). 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 with 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). A scale of 1 to 10. If you didn’t have to tell a soul, what would it be?
How free do you feel about 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 here.
Have you heard?! The 10 Day Challenge is on now! It’s not too late to join us here for Day 6 on Monday for 10 days & 10 inspiring ways to upgrade your daily habits, food, and routines for a healthier and more joyful life!
photos by Carina Skrobecki
I love this thoughtful and nuanced perspective. I’m working on finding balance, as well, and am looking forward to the rest of the series!
Cassandra Kettenhofen says
My initial response was, finally! There’s another little girl, just like me. Tall and with curves. Except it was third grade and the boys’ nicknamed me, “big bra!” And food was my nemesis! Thank you, Sarah! ???