How often do you think about what you’re eating, what you plan to eat or what you ate earlier? Are these thoughts about hunger, taste and satisfaction… or are they filled with numbers, guilt and shame?
Back in my teens, the only thoughts that swirled around my head were the latter. I thought about how the food I ate would affect my body, how many calories I was consuming, how I could avoid eating, what lies I could tell others about what I was eating. Each thought dripping with guilt and shame.
Today those thoughts are very different. They spark from a pure and innocent place. They consider what options are available, asking my body – “what do you want right now?” and also, “what do you need?”.
My thoughts are light and free. There’s no guilt or shame weighing them down. I, basically, eat whatever I want… and it’s glorious.
Choices have become easy. Eating out is a pleasure. My morality doesn’t come into question, I don’t spend hours analysing how a snack will affect my waistline. I simply satisfy my hunger in whichever way I please.
Now, I won’t lie – this lovely guilt-free place took some time to get to (around 15 years to be brutally honest) and it involved professional support to overcome my eating disorder. But, I am here. And I so want other people to join me here, it’s really rather lovely.
So I thought I’d talk a little about how I live in this guilt-free world (and how I definitely get it wrong sometimes) in case anyone else finds it helpful.
I don’t weigh myself
I haven’t weighed myself in years and I don’t intend to. The numbers on those scales controlled my life once upon a time, and I refuse to give them that power again. Weight isn’t a measure of health or a reflection of worth.
If there’s one thing you take away from this, I hope it’s to ditch the scales. My advice would be to throw them away entirely so you aren’t tempted to step on them. Learn to judge how you feel by listening to your body instead.
I don’t restrict or set rules
Some people have diet rules they live by… those people are not my people. Rules and restriction can lead to disordered eating and therefore I don’t pay them any attention. If I’m going out for dinner, this has no effect on what I’ll eat for lunch. I don’t think ‘If I have this, I can’t have that’.
I never tell myself I can’t have something.
You know what happens when you tell yourself you can’t have something? You’ll start to crave it. I see so many articles about willpower and ‘how to crush cravings!’, but guess what? If you allow yourself to eat it, listen to your body and start to eat intuitively… you’ll crave it less. Your body will know it can have it whenever it wants, so there’s less panic and compulsion.
I listen to my body
This is the important bit. Listening to my body is about recognising what I want to eat, what I need to eat and what feels good to me in that moment. And this is the bit I still get very wrong sometimes. Recently, for example, I was feeling incredibly lazy – so instead of cooking myself the tasty salmon, rice and veg dinner I had planned, I ate half a pack of Pringles and dip.
When I went to bed I had a headache and felt pretty crappy because I didn’t feed myself properly. But, recognising these slip-ups and learning from them is what really matters. Next time I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to make myself dinner, I’ll remind myself of how my body reacted last time.
I buy clothes that fit me
Sometimes, when I tell people I don’t weigh myself, they say “Oh, so if your clothes start getting tight you know you need to cut back?” And I respond with, “No, if my clothes get tight, I buy a bigger size.” And then the other person generally looks uncomfortable and changes the subject.
Buying bigger clothes and realising they fit me better and make me feel more confident has been a huge learning point. It started with a pair of jeans and now translates to my whole wardrobe. I throw away clothes that don’t fit and buy clothes I feel good in.
I turn away from triggering content
Just because I approach my eating habits in this way, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Every day I get bombarded with diet culture bullshit, coming from adverts on TV, social media and even conversations. So, I curate my social feeds, change channels when an ad comes on and do my best to be body positive in conversations.
I fill my feeds with body positivity activists, I read publications that support my approach. We have so much more control over what we consume than we realise.
I’m kind to myself
If I have misread my body’s hunger signals and end up writhing in pain from indigestion, I don’t beat myself up about it. Like I said, guilt and shame don’t live here. I think about why my body is responding in this way and learn from it.
If I have a bad body image day, I treat myself with compassion. I investigate the thought process, realise why I feel that way (spoiler, it has nothing to do with your body) and move on.
So there we go. Of course, what works for me won’t work for everyone, but thought it may be helpful to put out there how I approach food in the hopes that it’ll inspire someone to take that first step.
Wherever you are on your body image / eating journey, start by being kind to yourself and increasing self-awareness. It’s a great place to start.
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