YES to me, NO to labeling!
I love pizza! I also love broccoli and quinoa just as much. I believe that all foods can fit into my life. I have recently taken it upon myself to stop labeling food as well as labeling myself. I have decided that I am not gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, or ANYTHING-free. Actually, the only thing that I am free from is restricting and dieting.
With this freedom, I no longer associate certain types of food with guilt and shame. Nor do I go from the extremes of restricting to binging on food. I will admit that it is not easy to do this, but at the same time it’s AMAZING to finally remove the power that food had over me my entire life.
Not long ago, I was talking with some of my girlfriends about this very subject when one of them said, “This reminds me of a recent Sunday school class I was teaching. I handed out goldfish as a snack and an 8-year-old girl raised her hand and asked if the goldfish were gluten-free because that’s how she ate in her house.” I’m going to say it: an 8-year old girl should not know or care if goldfish are gluten free. She should just be a happy kid sharing a delicious snack with her friends! I would like to note the girl did not have any medical food allergies (my friend checked with her mom after the class).
As someone who is about to give birth to twin girls, I was reminded that how I speak about food and my own body MATTERS. The people around me, especially the younger ones, are always listening.
When I was growing up, all the food in my house was labeled one way or another. In earlier blog posts I’ve written about how my family and I would bond over diets and obsess over our bodies. I couldn’t escape from the concept that food was my enemy or that I would gain weight if I ate too much. Every time I would see a piece of food, my brain would automatically filter it as something I was “allowed” to eat or something that would make me “cheat” on my diet.
Thinking about food was a total obsession. So many of my days were absorbed by this food fixation. I was always thinking about what I was going to eat and buying books while searching for the answers to my happiness in the next diet, or researching what my friends and family swore was THE diet consumed my time. These ways of thinking shouldn’t be normal and it is definitely not healthy.
If we can get our thoughts away from obsessing over food, we can do many more productive things with our time. More importantly, we can focus on all the POSITIVE features of ourselves, our spouses, kids, families, careers, and how we can make the world a better place to live.
A year ago, I stopped dieting and changed the entire nutrition approach at the Jenny Schatzle Program and started working with a nutrition therapist/RD. When she first told me that I should never diet again, instead to listen to my body and what it actually wanted, I thought she was totally full of BS. I was determined to prove her theory wrong. I thought that if I was actually allowed to eat everything, I wouldn’t be healthy. I would just be eating pizza, burgers, bread, and Snickers candy bars all the time.
Nonetheless, I tried what the nutrition therapist suggested. I spent the first month eating sandwiches and pizza. What I found funny was that after a while, I realized my body didn’t really want pizza all the time. For the first time in my life I allowed my body to tell me what it needed rather than my mind telling my body what I thought it wanted.
Listening to my body was totally new to me. Up until that point I didn’t trust myself. I used to say that I was just a really BIG eater, I don’t have a shut off button, and I never seem to get full. I had to change my self-dialogue and learn to honor my gut instinct. Yes, there were definitely days when I would totally crave a cheeseburger. I was shocked to find there were other days when I actually craved green juice or a green salad.
Something happened to me recently that validated all the progress I am making. I was out to eat and had a craving for dessert, so I decided to order cake. It was absolutely DELICIOUS! As I took each bite, I truly enjoyed every aspect of that cake. And a funny thing happened: after just three bites, I was totally satisfied and full. That was all I needed. When the waitress came back, she said to me, “Oh my God, you don’t like the cake!” She assumed that because I didn’t eat the whole thing that I didn’t enjoy it. I looked at her and said, “No, the cake was delicious! The beauty of food is that when you allow yourself to enjoy it, you only need to eat enough until you’re satisfied.”
We all have the mentality that dessert is a gluttonous treat. Now that I’m free to have cake whenever I want, I don’t always feel the need to eat an entire piece. I used to be the type of person who wouldn’t buy certain food at the grocery store because I was afraid that if I had it in the house, I would eat the whole thing in one sitting. Over the course of the time with this new way of listening to my body, a tub of ice cream has been sitting in my freezer, a bag of chips in my cupboard, and a bag of candy in the drawer. For more than a month I felt no desire to devour these treats.
I am not going to lie to you and tell you that I am completely “recovered” and that this process is now natural to me. It’s been a year since I’ve stopped dieting and I still need to check in with myself all the time. What I can tell you is that it does get easier and that I absolutely feel so much better. More importantly, I am learning to be free from my obsession and I am bringing the power back to myself, right where it belongs!
We need to stop giving away our power to food. My goal is to get all of us to a place where we believe and trust in ourselves, to the point where we won’t need to spend so much energy obsessing over food. Instead, we can all make eating enjoyable and part of our self-care.
Today I am making a new promise to my readers and those involved with my movement — the foods I talk about from now on are neither “good” nor “bad.” They are not “healthy” or “unhealthy.” What I mention is simply what they are, the foods and recipes I enjoy!
I have decided to be free of labels and so are my foods. I want cooking to be a new part of my own self-care. I believe eating without guilt and shame is an important part of taking care of ourselves, and so is teaching our children by leading through example.
I am saying YES to “all foods fit” and NO to labeling.
Thank you for continuing to let me tell my story.
Love you all,
Originally published at medium.com