I felt like an overstuffed sloth from the large pizza I just finished. I felt heavy discomfort because of how much I'd eaten and could barely move. Half an hour later, I'd be back in the kitchen looking for something sweet to cleanse my pallet. The following day I would avoid eating extra carbs and feel guilty about eating something I'd really enjoyed. This was a repeated cycle for many years of my life, and I was starting to see an issue with it.
The issue I was having wasn’t from the pizza and sweets; the issue was in my behavior toward them. Most times we think of food as labeled either good or bad, but this doesn’t necessarily help us. Most of us enjoy eating “bad” food and kind of want to avoid “good” food. When we think this way, we're assigning meaning to food with judgements that don’t help us.
I used to believe that pizza was a "bad" food and would go through periods where I would avoid eating pizza entirely. This would last a couple weeks or months, then I would find myself back where I started, each time feeling more defeated. My brain would say this is bad food, you’re a bad person for eating this. I felt ashamed for doing the wrong thing, but this type of thinking wasn’t heathy or helpful.
Rather than repeat this cycle of "good" and "bad" and continue to feel super shitty, I decided to change some of the variables in my problem. Rather than looking at food as "good" or "bad," I now view it as enjoyment or nourishment. Instead of getting rid of pizza and sweets completely, I would learn to have a more balanced relationship with them. Food isn’t the problem! It’s your relationship with food is what is causing you harm.
Here are three habits you should consider breaking up with if you’re ready to have a healthier relationship with yourself and food.
BREAK UP WITH: Over-eating until you feel like shit
I’m just going to pull the band aid off: Your parents were wrong, and you are too. As children our parents would guilt us into being part of the Clean Plate Club, otherwise we are wasting food when there were people starving. Now that we're adults, this isn't helpful. Your needs are completely different now than that of a child.
Let me explain: As a child you need a crazy amount of food because you’re always running around burning up fuel. Your body's growing and needs food to help it develop. So it makes sense that a child would need to eat to a “clean plate" because their body requires the calories.
But we're adults now, so this means our caloric needs are different. The idea that you need to keep filling your plate completely full and clean it off no longer serves you.
Think of it this way: you’re an adult still checking under the bed. There are no monsters and you don’t need to be checking under the bed anymore.
Leave that plate dirty.
1. Eat until you are 80% full. This means that after a meal you still have the energy to go for a walk, do some chores, or go and be active.
2. Quit the Clean Plate Club. You don’t need to be cleaning your plate anymore, you’re the adult now.
3. Don't fill your plate. No one--and I mean absolutely no one--is telling you to fill your plate completely full.
BREAK UP WITH: Thinking that carbs are bad
I keep hearing that people think carbs are bad. I'm sure some people will continue to have this mindset--but not you! You’re smart; you’re taking the time to educate yourself on why carbs are actually your best friend and not your enemy. The idea that carbs are bad comes from not understanding how they work, plus the fad diets that scapegoat them.
Now, don’t confuse this for me saying you can eat all the carbs or that you should be negligent with them. Instead, here's a breakdown of what carbs do for you and your body:
We actually really need a molecule called glucose to provide energy to the body and brain. Where does glucose come from? Carbohydrates! It's stored in the body for energy. When you think of carbs, remember that they're fueling your body for physical activity and also fueling your brain for proper function.
Carbs don’t need to be complicated, nor do they need to avoided. When choosing what carbs to eat, think of your choices as materials you’re gathering to build a campfire.
1. Tinder (simple carbs)
You need tinder such as dry leaves or something that burns easy to help the fire get started. They burn up quickly and can't sustain the fire, but they do help to get it going. When you think of simple carbs, think of fruits, sugary drinks/snacks, baked goods, sweets, alcohol, etc. This is your tinder, they provide a quick burst of energy, but are not sustainable.
2. Kindling (starchy carbs)
The next material you will need to help build your fire is kindling: Small twigs and branches that aren't going to sustain the fire, but will help fuel it. Starchy carbs are the same, these are found in bread, rice, potatoes, and pastas.
3. Logs (fibrous carbs)
The last thing you will need to build your fire are the logs that will keep the fire burning for longer periods of time. This is where you will find more complex carbs that help you feel full for longer and sustain energy for longer periods of time. You can find these in your vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, edamame, and other greens.
1. Start eating more carbs.
2. Limit your consumption of simple carbs.
3. Remember that carbs are fuel for the body and brain.
BREAK UP WITH: Guilting yourself for having food you enjoy
People always talk about how terribly they ate over the weekend and how hard they will need to work out at the gym to burn everything off. If that's what you're doing, you're using exercise a form of punishment. The very thing you set out to do, you're now punishing yourself for? WHAT?
The problem isn’t food, it isn’t the weekend, it isn’t that you don’t have enough discipline, it’s that you're giving food more meaning than you should. You're assigning emotional attachments to things you enjoy, then beating yourself up over it. It’s a repeated cycle of confusion, and it's hindering your progress.
You can enjoy pizza, ice cream, sweets, pop, baked goods, and whatever else you want without feeling guilty. It’s a matter of changing your perspective about often you are having these things. If you’re eating pizza for all of your meals 7 days a week, then, yeah, that’s a problem, but if you’re having it weekly, you’re fine.
It’s when you begin to over indulge in the feel-good food that it becomes an issue. This also applies to food that is of nutritional value. How fucking boring would your life be if all you did was eat chicken breasts and broccoli?! As long as you begin to regulate and manage your pizza intake, you can have a healthy life AND food you love.
1. Be fucking nice to yourself.
2. Don’t add meaning to the foods you enjoy.
3. Limit your enjoyment foods because you still need nourishment foods.
Breaking up with unhealthy habits is hard, but it’s harder in the long run to hang on to them. If it’s only causing you harm, then it’s time to change some things. Good thing you have a better understanding of what you can do different now.