I may be a seasoned dietitian specializing in help women 50+ heal their food obsession now, but I once was a knowledge-filled graduate student studying nutrition who felt simultaneously obsessed with food and exhausted by it.
I knew the strategies I should use, but couldn’t seem to consistently use them… and they made my obsession with food worse.
Like most students, I was stressed. In an effort to deal with my mounting to-do list, I would go to the school convenience store every day to buy an artisanal dark chocolate bar.
I thought: dark chocolate is a healthy choice after all!!
The chocolate gave me pleasure. It made me feel better. I was rewarded for all the hard work. I got a break from the stress.
Soon, the chocolate bar-a-day habit (plus some!) led to weight gain. The weight gain paired with all the knowledge I had from school about how to lose weight led to feeling obsessed with food.
I’d either eat “perfectly” and think, “what a fabulous dietitian I am going to be,” or difficulty would arise in my life, and I’d stop at Whole Foods on a break, buy a tub of guac, and freshly fried tortilla chips, and eat the whole thing!
I wondered: why couldn’t I be satisfied by kale and sardine salads like my classmates who looked like nutrition goddesses? (True story.) I wondered what was wrong with me.
The truth is there was nothing wrong with me. I was a victim of All or Nothing Dieting which undermined my ability to trust myself around food.
All or Nothing Dieting said I either had to eat “perfectly” or “what’s the point?”.
And the inevitability of ending up with chocolate in hand made me stop trusting myself after a while. It fueled my obsession with food.
I sought help from Counselors, other Registered Dietitians, Naturopathic Physicians, and the latest in science.
I discovered the solution to creating a supportive relationship with food, my body and my health so I could eat with joy instead of eating to seek joy was to cultivate the Courage to Trust.
The Courage to Trust that…
- Food isn’t the problem (and neither are you).
- You can hear and respond to the cues your body is giving you, instead of eating to numb or restricting for control.
- You can mindfully indulge and consistently make nourishing choices.
- You are worthy of care and love, just as you are, even while pursuing weight loss.
By now, I’ve helped over 100 women eat with joy in my private virtual practice. I specialize in helping postmenopausal women heal their obsession with food so they can eat with joy instead of eating to seek joy.
You can find out more about working with me here.
Let’s break down the components of Courage to Trust so you can understand what it takes to heal your food obsession.
Food isn’t the problem (and neither are you).
If you blame food for your eating struggles, you will become frustrated and baffled by the real barriers to healthy eating, without a solution to actually overcome those barriers.
And when All or Nothing Dieting fails (like it does 80-98% of the time depending on who you ask), the prevailing wisdom is that there is something wrong with you.
Yet, neither food or you are the problem.
When you can face your eating problems with non-judgemental curiosity and stop blaming both yourself and food, you will be able to engage in productive problem solving without the distracting focus on food or debilitating self-criticism.
You can hear and respond to the cues your body is giving you, instead of eating to numb or restricting for control.
The thing about using food to either numb or feel in control is that it works. Hello, emotional eating. And when you can learn to feel what you need to feel instead of numbing or resisting the feelings, your intense cravings for indulgent food and feeling obsessed with food will go away.
You can mindfully indulge and make consistently nourishing choices once your food obsession is healed.
Once the intense cravings brought on by using food to care for your needs instead of feeling are gone, it’s much easier to make consistently healthy choices.
The spur of the moment intensity around eating is softened so you can use rationality and sound judgment, just like you do in every other area of your life.
You are worthy of care and love, just as you are, even while pursuing weight loss.
All or Nothing Dieting is vicious. It tells you that you are not worthy of love and connection with others if you don’t eat perfectly and don’t have a body that matches the thin ideal.
Then, it plants these messages in your head so that you tell yourself you are terrible while looking in the mirror or eating things that taste good.
It can take some work to deprogram yourself from that nasty cult business and remind yourself of the truth, and believe me when I say this work is worth it.
For me, the knowledge that I was OK with myself whether I lost weight or not allowed me to find joy in the process of managing my weight rather than self-contempt and frustration.