It is a just-after-dawn Monday morning as I am writing this. Normally, I would not point out such a thing but in this case I need you to understand it is very early on a Monday. I’m sitting at my desk where I have a mostly unobstructed view of a six-foot wide picture window. While I’m cruising Facebook or giving my silent opinion on which celebrity wore what dress best I can watch the day break. This morning’s day is breaking a little different. Since I am in the midst of transformation I have “liked” dozens of Facebook pages devoted to diet, fitness, and exercise along with my very large group of inspirational, transformational types. But on this Monday morning many of them are focused on a similar theme–forgiving one’s self for eating particularly on the weekend.
The messages caused me to take a step back.
Food is not meant to be forgiven. Food is meant to be eaten.
Perhaps the notion of needing forgiveness for eating any number of calories is the real problem in our collective psyche. Perhaps that is the reason why so many people are overweight and struggling. Perhaps too few people know a normal, healthy, active American woman should eat around 2,000 calories a day. Men are in the 2,500 calorie range.
I can almost hear a universal gasp as I typed, “around 2,000 calories a day” because I know women, and a few men, who think eating that number a sin.
Food is not a sin.
Eating to sustain and support a healthy body, never.
And yet so many of us, feel the need to beat ourselves up over a perceived diet transgression. Notice I said us. Yep, I’m guilty from time to time about feeling bad about eating food.
And, it needs to STOP!!!
One of the pages offering this Monday morning advice suggested “be extra gentle with yourself for next few days.”
Yes, days to recover from eating a little too much.
I remember that feeling. I remember saying it. I remember encouraging others to wallow in the misery of eating.
Today, I admit I was wrong to ever feel that and to encourage others to feel that way too.
This Monday morning after a Reward Day (Chris Powell’s Carb Cycling program) of eating 2,423 calories do you want to know what I feel?
Okay not nothing.
I feel ready to get back to work.
I do not feel bad about that number of calories. If anything, I am disappointed there was not a couple hundred more. Yes, I said more. A “normal” Reward Day for me should be closer to 2,800 calories. Yesterday was a comedy of errors. My dinner was one cookie, a cup of chocolate pudding made with non-dairy milk (trying it to see if it worked and it did), and a bowl of oatmeal. It was supposed to be chicken fried steak with all the fixins but an extra long nap took care of that. My dinner isn’t what I planned, or wanted, or even what I would normally ever call dinner. But, thankfully it was Reward Day so I could “get away with it.” Oh look there I go thinking those foods are wrong.
So again I ask, isn’t that sort of behavior part of our problem?
When there is an entry in the DSM (the diagnostic manual of the mental health field) for “disordered eating,” which is not the same as an eating disorder and is defined as any irregular eating pattern not described as anorexia or bulimia, then I have to insist the answer is yes. I am not a mental health or other health professional but in my opinion the more we assign “goodness” or “badness” to food and eating the more disordered the behavior becomes.
Food is not, and should not ever be, a walk of shame. Food should be nourishment alone. Food is fuel and it is meant to be eaten.
As a recovering obese woman, I am the first one to raise my hand and say I haven’t always had the best relationship with food. But, notice I said I am recovering. In part I was raised by a woman who became totally unhinged at the thought of a partly eaten bag of chips on the fridge who could not rest until she devoured the whole thing and who still suffers this way. However, today I am proud to say there has been a bag of my favorite sweet potato chips in my cupboard for over a month and I have not felt one twinge of compulsion that I simply must eat the rest of the bag before my life could go on–and I have been that way for a very long time now.
Yesterday I ate two whole ounces of sweet potato and beet chips while I was watching football without one ounce of drama.
This morning, I recognize there are way too many people out there feeling dramatic about what they ate yesterday. If that is you, stop. Please, just stop feeling bad about food.
You ate it.
Today you are going to eat more food. The Bento lunches you see were packed by 100 Day’s of Real Food’s Lisa Leake’s elementary-age children. Just kids. Kids who know how to eat good food. For more information about whole-food eating please visit Lisa’s amazing blog 100 Days of Real Food.
So now you can decide all hope is lost or you can love yourself, and trust yourself enough to make better choices today.
If doing it for a whole day still feels scary, make your next meal spot-on and celebrate those choices. Use a Bento box. They are a great resource for learning portion control. Then, do it again next time.
Doesn’t the happy feeling of healthy choices feel so much better than beating yourself up over not so great but totally normal choices?
Normal. Everyone eats more than they should from time to time. It happens. To everyone. But calling yourself names or worse because you did it is not a healthy attitude toward food.
My best advice: Make peace with food. Make your next meal your best meal. Your new life awaits.
PS…This very long post wouldn’t be possible without the generous permission of Lisa Leake. Her cookbook “100 Days of Real Food” drops 26 August 2014. If you’re looking for wonderful ideas about how to eat real food please check her out.
PSS…I would like to point out I had a disastrous food day–three protein bars in one day and one of which was one of the most vile things I ever swallowed–but my dinner of garlic pepper chicken, cast iron roasted cauliflower, and gingered carrots righted my ship in no time. Because I absolutely live every word I’ve written to you I put my day in the past and a wholesome, real food dinner in my belly. Eat. It’s good for you.