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Diet and Paleo

My Relationship With Food

Struggles, food, foodie, health, relationship, disorders

I’m going to be honest… The relationship I have with food is a constant battle.

In the last two decades of my life, food has been a source of comfort and pleasure while simultaneously has been a source of guilt and pain. It has not traditionally been, what I’ve been trying cultivate the last few years, a healthy source of energy, pleasure and most importantly, nutrition. How I perceive food is a combination of how my family treated nutrition when I was younger plus a low self-esteem developed at puberty.

food, eating disorders, foodie, yum, eating

{How hard would it be to find self-control in this situation?}

When I was a child, I was taught from an early age to eat everything on my plate, with no regard to if I felt full. The issue goes back to the very beginning, when my Babushka (Grandma in Russian) would force spoon feed me my meals as a toddler. We have actual cassette tapes (yes, my Dedushka would record OVER Rolling Stones cassettes for this) of me screaming in protest over the last spoonfuls of borsch that my Babushka would make me consume. They thought it was cute, and it was especially attractive if a child was chubby. Skinny meant that you were starving, therefore hunger was not an option in my family. This actually stems from a deeper issue; my grandparents were born into an artificial famine made by the USSR. This meant that under communism, the government collected most of the harvest, but did not redistribute it, allowing millions of people, especially children, to die of hunger. Consequently, we were taught that every crumb of food was valuable, and that you would practically be sinning if you did not consume it. 

Although I ate a lot, I was never unhealthy because I balanced it with sports. I was always a competitive child, and loved running around with the kids. I participated in as many after school sports as I could. Throughout my adolescence, I’ve done gymnastics, ice skating, basketball, track and field, tennis and swimming. I was never skinny, but neither was I ‘fat’.

running

{Me, at 26, doing what I love}

When I hit puberty, however, I realized I wasn’t skinny, like the other girls. I started developing at a younger age than most, rendering me with more curves than I would have liked. I went from being a popular child, to an awkward pre-teen, who pretty much lived in one (baggy) sweater for 3 years. Group that with constant criticism from my mother on my weight and my appearance, I was falling quickly into unhealthy eating patterns. This included: eating when bored, eating everything despite being full, binge eating, stress eating and eating when I felt down.

me and food

{Me, demonstrating utter joy}

Needless to say, I carried these negative habits (as well as the weight) into my late twenties. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve started changing my perspective and my lifestyle. The last few years have been great for me – my self esteem is higher than it ever was before, I exercise regularly, I try to control my eating, I feel really active and I look better than I have in the last 5 years. While that is excellent news, there are still a few things I am struggling with today that contribute to my unhealthy relationship with food…

My 4 main struggles today:

1. I want to be perceived as fun.

Food is a social event to me. I constantly go out to dinner with friends. There is nothing I enjoy more than having a nice meal at a nice restaurant with a good glass of wine (or two) and an amazing group of friends. I feel like I have nurtured a reputation as a person who is always down to go out and party and have a nice time. Often, I feel the need to preserve that reputation, even if it’s not necessarily the best choice for me. While it may be prudent to either not go out at all, or just order something healthy, it doesn’t seem as fun to be the girl who orders a salad and water at a restaurant. I’d rather be the one with a large steak, fries and a couple glass of wine, thank you.

2. Food and Drinks are my reward.

One of my pitfalls is believing I’ve earned every damn cookie I see. While the reward system works great for people who stick with their fitness and diet and reward themselves only when they meet their goals, I reward myself for just breathing. I allow stress as an excuse for crap eating. After a long and stressful day, my go-to used to be some nice Indian delivery.

3. What is balance?

I would definitely classify myself as an “all or nothing” kind of person. I’m either all in the project, or I’m not at all. It’s the same mentality when it comes to eating or drinking. I don’t just have the one brownie, if there are 15 available. I don’t just have the one glass of wine, because, who does that? I struggle so much with being able to say, “this was enough” and not go overboard. The binge eating/drinking side of me really struggles to understand where is full/satisfied, because I’m constantly pushing the limits to the extreme.

4. But I still want to be skinny.

With all of these terrible habits, I still have one that is worse: I want to be skinny. Even though I have never been skinny, nor is my body designed that way, I still beat myself up for not being what society tells us is perfect. It’s always a huge cycle. I get mad at myself for not being skinny which prompts me to feel bad about myself and give up, and then eat more, which leads to me not being skinny. Circle of strife!

So what am I doing to combat these pitfalls?

1. I am trying to find alternative activities to eating and drinking that are fun. That way, I can still be a social butterfly, but not necessarily have to eat something. I also am learning to say “no”.

2. I have set myself some realistic goals and now I even have some mini-goals scheduled in. This way, when I’ve actually reached a milestone, I would have earned something special. I’m also trying to not let the rewards be food-related.

3. Previously, my perception of balance was eat whatever you want but work out as hard as you can. Now, I understand that it’s a matter of eating smaller portions, being realistic with your needs and not taking more than you need (even if it’s delicious cake). And if you want to indulge, don’t feel so guilty about it! Life is about trying things and taking advantage of all the wonderful culinary delights!

4. My expectations for what I should look like do not match reality in the slightest. I’m struggling with accepting this daily. But not only accepting this, but loving me. I am not a typical beauty, nor will I ever be a Victoria’s Secret model, but I am cute and curvy. I am strong and I am a survivor. I work hard and I care with all my heart. I am tenderhearted and loyal, and I don’t need to be skinny to be beautiful. Beauty is not just something that is on the outside, but it’s something that should fiercely radiate from the inside. I am working to develop the inner beauty. Once that is there, the outer beauty will be pale and ugly in comparison!

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