Taking Back the Power Over Food - Alexandria Turner, MS, RD, LD
What if we were to tell you the healthiest “diet” is listening to your body and giving it what it
wants or needs? Is your first thought after hearing that, “if I did that, I would just eat [enter food item here] too much and not know how to stop”? That food item you are thinking of may be cookies, cakes, ice cream, or fried foods, and thinking about giving yourself permission to eat these foods whenever you want scares you, because you feel like you wouldn’t have any control over stopping. So instead, you conclude you are addicted to food and therefore, dieting or restriction is the key to staying healthy. Turns out, you cannot be addicted to sugar, carbs, or food for that matter, and instead the addiction to dieting or restriction (physical or mental) is actually what is causing your unhealthy relationship with food, not the food itself.
Releasing the power food has over you is such a relieving and eye-opening step in your journey to a healthy relationship with food, that allows for less mental exhaustion as you are no longer hyper-focused on what you should or should not eat, and instead are focused on what your body needs. We are firm believers in the idea that if you are craving a brownie, there must be something in that brownie that your body needs.
How many times have you craved a food item, told yourself over and over “I can’t have that, it’s bad for me” and tried to satisfy that craving with something else? Then you find the craving to grow stronger and stronger, and instead of fulfilling that craving, you end up overeating food you think will suppress that craving, and end up never fully satisfied. Finally, after all of that hard work to try to overpower the craving, you end up caving and eating the food you were craving in the first place? If you had given yourself permission to eat what you were craving, you would be satisfied and able to move on with your day to focus on other important things like relationships or self-care.
Here’s a scenario: Say you place three toy options in front of a toddler, but tell that toddler she cannot play with the rattle, she can only play with the other two toys. What is that toddler going to want to play with? The rattle of course! You gave that rattle so much power by telling her it was off limits. What if you place those three toys in front of the toddler, but don’t limit any of them, will the toddler choose to play with rattle? Maybe! But there is no longer the power of limiting the availability, thus controlling her decision in which toy to play with. She is not manipulated into wanting to play with one toy over the other. She has the choice.
The same phenomenon happens when you tell yourself you don’t have permission to eat a certain food. You give power to that food and in the end, want it even more, because it’s “bad” or “not allowed.” When we stop denying ourselves of what we want and giving up the mentality that there needs to be limits, that’s when we take back the power! So here is your challenge: give yourself permission this week to eat that food you are depriving yourself of, because you feel it is “bad” or “unhealthy” and watch how the power shifts to you.
Working with an eating disorder dietitian can help you break the hold food has over you. Nutritionists who specialize in eating disorders understand the psychological aspects of the relationship with food. They can help you learn how to attune to and feel better about your eating and your body.
If you would like more help navigating your relationship with food, please call or text Austin Counseling and Nutrition at (512)655-3878 or use the contact page to send an email.