What we need to do is figure out how to change our relationship with food.
Food plays such a large role in our lives, before and after weight loss. It’s not going anywhere. And no matter what someone is selling, this fundamental concept is not going to change.
How Do I Change My Relationship With Food?
In order to change our relationship with food, we have to assign food a role, and define and set boundaries around those roles.
Your first, most important task is to define the role that food plays in your life. And set the limitations on how you will allow food to affect you.
The Three Roles of Food
Whenever you eat, think about the role that food is playing in your life at that moment. Assign a role from one of the three below:
- Fuel for the body to reach your goals in life
- Accessories to celebrate special occasions
- Medication to soothe a pain (physical, emotional, or spiritual)
These roles aren’t good or bad in nature. And we shouldn’t be aiming to eliminate any of the roles from our lives.
But in order to change our relationship with food, we must understand that these roles are just the assignments that we give to the food.
So, at every meal, intentionally decide which role the food is playing at that moment for you.
These roles are based upon my own personal experience, and this-authentic-life.com is all about real, personal experience. So, I do not have any scientific data to back this portion up.
My certification only comes from the school of hard-knocks, and a LOT of personal research into psychology, nutrition, and physiology over the last five years.
I’m not a therapist, a doctor, or a nutritionist. I’m your peer. This-Authentic-Life.com is one person’s point of view and personal experience.
I’ve been there, done that, and shed the tears, too.
Set your boundaries around these roles. And prepare to guard them aggressively.
Assign a role to everything you put into your mouth
Food is a natural part of life. Food is not good or bad. The way we use food can be good or bad. When we use food in a scientific way to keep our bodies going we are eating to live.
But food is also a way to show love. We are sharing or receiving precious resources.
The act of sharing either the food itself or the act of creating the food adds beautiful layers of depth to any special occasion.
Or it can even be used to medicate a physical, mental, or spiritual ailment. Usually, we turn to food to subdue a symptom of something else.
The challenge most of us don’t realize we are failing at isn’t not in eating or even eating the wrong thing. It’s in eating the wrong thing at the wrong time for the wrong reason.
Complex concept, but one that helped me get control over my food addiction. (You can read about that journey here).
Maybe you’re not failing at weight loss, but failing in understanding what your relationship actually is to food.
It’s not against some unspoken (or loudly shouted) law that you aren’t allowed to enjoy food. Or even to self-medicate with food.
The problem comes when we unknowingly do those things, and the ratio is off. When we aren’t aggressive in the boundaries around the roles of our foods, the lines get blurry.
Follow the 30/70 Rule For Role Assignment
A really good rule I personally use is to aim for 70% of what goes into my mouth each day to be to fuel or hydrate. Then, 20% can be for celebration or motivation. Only 10% of what goes into my mouth each day should be to make me feel better.
(Again, no scientific data to back this up, just years of hands on experience.) Also, it’s a general guideline, not a hard fast rule. But, this has really helped me to change my relationship with food. I think you’ll find it helpful, too.
It’s an agreement I made with myself. It allows for my inevitable failures, and allows me to get back on track without guilt.
I do still eat my feelings. And I think I always will. But I only eat about 10% of what I once did. My eating used to look more like the chart below.
Define and set boundaries around when you allow food to take each role in your day
With blurry lines, the roles are also blurry. We either start eating at every meal to self-medicate or see food as the celebration itself, not as an accessory of the party.
Are you at the party to eat or for some other reason? Either one is ok, as long as you recognize it.
If we don’t recognize how we assign the roles of our food enough times, we can fall into disordered eating behaviors.
This was the first lesson I learned when I was no longer able to medicate my life with food after gastric bypass.
What is disordered eating?
Disordered eating occurs when we do not assign everything we put into our mouths with one of three basic roles, and instead start to assign feelings, rituals, aversions, obsessions, or have other requirements of our food.
The American Psychiatric Association says disordered eating is not a diagnosis, but a descriptive phrase. And when we look at food as something that we need to assign to a specific role, this makes a lot of sense.
Food is just food. It is not there to replace relationships or love. It is not something to do instead of basic self-care.
It’s not going to fix the problems in life. Food is just food.
I encourage you to find a registered dietician nutritionist. Do not be mislead – I am not one, and I feel like I need to stress this again and again.
I am a peer, sharing experiences and personal research. Therapists and nutritionists play an important role in diagnosing real eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors.
My role as your peer is to help point you to them.
How to Stop Disordered Eating
- Set an appointment for a therapist and nutritionist.
- Start identifying the roles for the foods you are eating.
- Remove “Guilt By Association” from your food.
What is the intention behind this bite-size Milky Way? Do I need some comfort?
Will I actually be comforted, or do I need something bigger to comfort me? What am I actually upset about?
Is a trenta Double Latte from Starbucks going to quench my thirst? Or am I getting this massive, calorie dense drink for a different reason?
The reason you’re eating it isn’t the enemy here, by the way. There are no enemies.
But, if the reason you’re drinking a trenta Starbucks coffee is because you’re actually thirsty, save yourself the calorie intake and drink some water instead.
If you’re hydrating properly throughout the day, then you GET to have a coffee treat for motivation or status elevation.
And that’s ok, as long as we understand the role of this treat is to soothe your soul.
So, get the tall instead. Or, get the trenta, but with a calorie-free drink inside.
Savor every sip.
Relax in the comfort that comes from doing the familiar actions associated with ordering the coffee. (I just got some water instead of coffee, myself. So, this is a good reminder for me, too)
Maybe this is the missing variable in your weight loss strategy, too. If so, it can unlock seemingly effortless weight loss for you.
If not, then don’t give up, just keep practicing these steps.
Make sure to check out the other three ways to stop failing at weight loss!
And as always, happy weight loss <3
Related: How To Stop Failing At Weight Loss