How to Exist Beyond Food and Your Job?

And why looking for meaning in these things is a recipe for anxiety and disappointment.

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Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash
Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash

Earlier this year, Anthony Beck wrote for The Atlantic on workism, defined as “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.”

Workism is particularly prevalent among women. I can validate it.

For the women I coach, their identity and idea of realization and success are intimately tied to how fulfilling their job is and their professional accomplishments.

In women who have a complicated relationship with food and their bodies, workism is intricately linked with foodism and healthism. Most often than not they arise with the same strength.

These women’s identities and self-worth are not only defined by their professional success but also their weight and how healthy they eat.

The sense of achievement in these areas provides safety and certainty. They do satisfy basic human needs, but only in the short-term.

They want to be that woman that everyone recognizes for their professional success, discipline to work out every day, and extreme willpower to eat perfectly healthy.

It’s hard for them to not pursue being that woman. I don’t blame them. We’re told we should.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying one’s job, eating well and wanting to be strong. But when these things are our main sources of self-worth and meaning, we’re in trouble.

They have a changing nature and are often based on comparison with others. Basically, a recipe for anxiety and disappointment.

As poet Danna Faulds wrote, “perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.”

Where to start?

My clients come to me because they want to stop fighting food and their bodies.

They expect meal plans and instructions on portion control.

Soon they discover that their complicated relationship with food is actually an opportunity to reflect on who they are beyond work, beyond a number on the scale, and how clean they ate over the weekend.

Very often — if not always — the answer to making peace with food and weight is in redefining their identity, learning what brings them pleasure and joy, and identifying and living aligned with their values.

So, no. I don’t tell my clients to stop eating sugar or work out every day.

Instead, I ask them…

  • What are your values?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • How often do you do those things?
  • How do you take care of yourself?
  • What activities have you been putting off? Hiking? An art class? A museum?
  • Are you allocating your time in a way that’s aligned with those things you care about?

When they start answering these questions, it’s easier to find purpose.

It’s easier to be and exist beyond the job promotion, perfect eating and a number on the scale.

The inevitable result is that their lives start filling up with things they don’t need to control; things where the outcome is just an outcome and imperfection is acceptable.

And that’s how they start making peace with food.

Written by Lina Salazar.

The information provided in this post is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use.

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