Food controls my life. (Episode 118)

Do you feel like food has way too much power in your life and don’t see a way out?

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The transcribed episode can be found here.

Episode’s Key Points:

  • How do we know when food has too much power? It’s when we’re thinking about it ALL DAY LONG. At night, while you’re eating a meal… all day.
  • We as humans are wired to survive, and if we’re not getting access to enough food, our bodies are going to send food preoccupation into overdrive. But there are ways to think about food in a calmer way! And it isn’t more restriction.
  • Remember, food preoccupation is you being a successful human. We don’t want to demonize that!
  • Diet culture and body hatred perpetuate all of these food rules and body rules, but these rules are manmade… they don’t actually help us, and they disconnect us from our internal wisdom.
  • Using food to soothe is a SKILL! It’s not something to feel shameful about. But maybe this coping skill doesn’t suit you anymore, and that’s okay.
  • Unconditional permission to eat is KEY to reducing food preoccupation, and as long as you’re giving yourself permission, you can explore what I call symbolic hunger.
  • Food also has too little power in our life… but what does this mean? It means that we aren’t giving ourselves room within our relationship with food for anything but food as fuel. We also need food for pleasure, and we need to give ourselves true unconditional permission to eat.
  • You don’t need to be fixed… the world does!
  • Food is the GREATEST connector. It unites us, and it connects us to ourselves.
  • Our relationship with food is a great window into our relationship with ourselves. When we make peace with food, we make peace with ourselves.

Show Notes:

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help! Send your Dear Food letter to LoveFoodPodcast@gmail.com. 

Click here to leave me a review in iTunes and subscribe. This type of kindness helps the show continue!

Thank you for listening to the Love, Food series.

I have an abusive relationship with food. {guest Anita Johnson}

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Do you consider food to be your enemy or a waste of time? Are you tired of struggling with body image, yo-yo dieting, and food hate? Do you desperately want to embrace intuitive eating, but are too afraid of leaving behind the safety of an eating disorder? Listen now for a breakdown of how to confront these common food peace dilemmas.

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Episode’s Key Points:

  • Anita Johnston joins to talk recovery!
  • We live in a world of PARADOX… it’s about food, but it’s also not about food at the same time!!
  • So how are our food issues not about food? This struggle is a messenger to let us know that there are other issues going on in our lives… what other hungers are we starving for??
  • What is the symbolic nature of our food struggle? If we struggle with food restriction, it’s important to look at other areas in our lives where we are restricting. If we struggle with binge eating, it’s important to ask where else we feel scarcity in our lives.
  • How do we create a peace-keeping force in our lives? We explore compassionate curiosity, rather than judgment.
  • The foundation to food peace is compassionate curiosity!!
  • How do we discern our symbolic hungers??
  • First we need to change our patterns in our lives… then we can tackle the patterns in our relationship with food.
  • So how do we crack the code on our food behaviors??
    • Sugary foods usually indicate that we are needing sweetness in our lives, either from ourselves or others.
    • Salty and crunchy foods generally indicate repressed anger and frustration.
    • Warm foods mean we are yearning for emotional warmth.
    • Spicy foods are often connected to a desire or fear of excited, stimulation, or change.
    • Chocolate is all about sex, romance, and sexuality.
  • So what next? After we explore our metaphorical relationship with food, how do we reconcile that information with our everyday lives?
  • We’re the experts of our bodies!! We’re the only ones that really can understand what the food metaphors mean.

Show Notes:

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help! Send your Dear Food letter to LoveFoodPodcast@gmail.com. 

Click here to leave me a review in iTunes and subscribe. This type of kindness helps the show continue!

Thank you for listening to the Love, Food series.

Everyone thinks I’m a healthy eater but I’m a fraud.

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Do you ever make your food choices based on what other people might think? Have you ever eaten “for show,” or eaten in ways that aren’t sustainable because of your food reputation? Listen now for some things to try for your own path to food peace and to break out of this pattern.

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Episode’s Key Points:

  • Sometimes the way we eat, interact with food, and move our body can become our IDENTITY and sense of SELF-WORTH! But we CAN’T get a healthy sense of sense from our food choices.
  • Becoming a dietitian takes a LOT of work, including a ton of science education. Often, people who go into nutrition are intelligent and want to help people! These characteristics are so much more interesting and make up a much bigger part of our identity than our food choices!!
  • In order to heal, it’s time to let go of food as a part of our identity.
  • It’s VERY likely that your friends and family don’t actually think of you in the context of your food, and that this is an identity you’ve created and maintained all on your own!
  • Think about how you actually want people to identify you! Write it down, and keep it on hand for whenever you experience normal eating and feel like your identity is being compromised.
  • Bingeing is often a by-product of rigidity, restriction, or other forms of strict eating.
  • Recovery requires a team approach and a ton of support… find a dietitian near you who specializes in eating disorders and seek out therapy!
  • What is “normal” eating?? Normal eating is balanced, non-restrictive, and nourishing.
  • Our biology, and the drive to eat when we’re restricting, is here to save us!!
  • Symbolic hunger vs. physiological hunger: Sometimes when we follow rigid eating plans, our bodies start screaming for our attention! Depression and anxiety can surface because our physical needs aren’t being met.
  • There’s is science out there supporting why diets and restrictive eating don’t work! Seek it out.

Show Notes:

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help! Send your Dear Food letter to LoveFoodPodcast@gmail.com. 

Click here to leave me a review in iTunes and subscribe. This type of kindness helps the show continue!

Thank you for listening to the Love, Food series.

Eating when not physically hungry

A check in: How did you experience your hunger study? Some have provided gleeful feedback noticing subtle hunger cue differences. Many others reported frustration trying to pin down hunger’s moving target. I encourage you to continue with this practice and be mindful of your self talk. In order to heal your relationship with food, you will need to make many mistakes. This is a necessary part of the journey. I find clients progressing most when they use kind hindsight after an eating stumble. Let us know in comments about any stumbles you may be having.

Nonjudgemental curiosity will help you understand the symbolic hungers.
Nonjudgemental curiosity will help you understand the symbolic hungers.

Last week, I received this question from a reader:

Learning the different types of hungers has been helpful yet I struggle most with eating when I am not hungry. Like I KNOW I am not hungry yet I eat the food anyway. Especially really tasty food. Or sometimes it isn’t even that great and I am just watching TV after work then notice I have gone through a bag of chips. I don’t remember tasting them!

Can you relate to this? All of us experience eating when not physically hungry and it is a part of normal eating. Eating outside of hunger many times throughout the day, though, will affect health and the way we cope with life. At times it may seem like eating outside of hunger happens for no reason and I encourage you to dig deeper. There is meaning. I believe it symbolizes an unmet need.

Dr. Barbara Birsinger RD refers to eating outside of physical hunger as symbolic hunger. She is the author of Intuitive Eating Seven Step Process. She also trains professionals on a Food Decoding tool that discovers eating particular foods with feelings and needs while connecting a person with healing. I am grateful she has trained me in this and allowed me to better understand symbolic hungers.

What is symbolic hunger? That depends. To uncover what it means for you, I encourage you to practice kind nonjudgemental curiosity. Instead of saying, “I shouldn’t have eaten that I wasn’t even hungry!” try something different. Using should to describe your eating pattern is maladaptive…meaning it won’t get you anywhere but in a funk and dead end. Call out that should and step back. Consider a bigger picture. Changing your frame of reference here will open you up to the meaning behind this eating style: its symbol. Knowing this symbol will move you important steps further.

While you are stepping back from the should moments, ask yourself these important questions:

  • What was I experiencing right before I started symbolically eating? (Were you speaking with anyone, thinking about an event, trying to relax, etc. No right or wrong here. Just consider the possibilities.)
  • Was I feeling anything uncomfortable? (Were you stressed, angry, ashamed, frustrated, bored, happy, or lonely?)
  • When I feel these feelings, what do I really need?

Once you start moving the shoulds out of your way, a kind curiosity will allow you to acknowledge your symbols. Taking the symbols for what they are and examining them for what they are worth will bring you closer to your unmet needs. Holding these needs in your hands and close to your heart will allow you to consider your steps to heal. I find clients uncover numerous unmet needs all requiring time and attention. This means I don’t want you to rush through this! Understanding your symbolic eating will be a vital part of your recovery.

Next time you find yourself eating outside of physical hunger or craving to do so, do not run away. Say “welcome!” to the symbolic hunger. Your body is trying to tell you something important. Your job now is to listen.

The #FoodPeaceChallenge gathers people and professionals rejecting diets. We want to make 2015 diet free! If you are new to the challenge, welcome and find the Manifesto here. Find community support using #FoodPeaceChallenge on Twitter or leave a message in comments.