To help you feel empowered, let’s begin by talking about mindset and how you relate to food. When trying new things, there is always the concern of self-sabotage or just getting in our way. Self-sabotage and fear all stem from the beliefs you hold, your current perception, how you define yourself, your abilities, and outside influences in your life (in this case, food). Your ability to overcome that fear and step into your power requires merely a shift in perspective. That’s how much power perspective has in our lives.
Any changes we make in our lives can feel like a challenge. We can often feel like those who are successful must have tremendous willpower and drive that we don’t. The truth is that you are just as powerful and equally able- it’s just a matter of perception. You see, there are two ways to view one’s ability. Ability is either fixed or ingrained. In other words, a fixed mindset believes we are born with a certain level of ability, and we cannot change that. A growth mindset believes we can develop our ability through hard work and effort. These two different beliefs lead to different behaviours, and also to different results. Having a growth mindset (the belief that you are in control of your ability and can learn and improve) is the key to success. Yes, hard work, effort, and persistence are all important, but not as important as having that underlying belief that you control your own destiny.
Research shows that it’s the way we think about our ability that counts. How we perceive our ability and just about anything in our life will 100% determine how we respond to those things. A healthy mindset allows you to see something for what it really means instead of what one hopes or fears it to be. Let’s use food as an example. If you see food as fuel, you will most definitely change the way you respond to it. If you see food as something other than what it is, we can get entangled in a pattern of unhealthy behaviours. Your relationship with food may need to change. It’s important to understand that food isn’t the problem. It’s the relationship you have with food, that may be the issue. The good news is that this very relationship is informing you of a deeper issue needing to be addressed that you might not have otherwise seen.
Our relationships reveal so much about ourselves. Quite often we may struggle in our relationship and describe all the problems we now have in our life as a result of it. We may describe our partners’ lack of communication and listening skills. We may reel in anger for the lack of acknowledgement and grieve over the loss of the person they used to be as if the relationship has changed them. However, relationships don’t necessarily change us because the problems that have surfaced were already there.
Our relationships just reveal the problems we bring into them, yet, we become fixated on fixing the relationship rather fixing ourselves. We don’t want (or should I say the ego doesn’t want) the problem to be with ourselves. Why? Because we would have to feel and face things that might be uncomfortable. However, the discomfort you feel day to day with your body, your weight, and your constant diligence to feed that emptiness that never feels full, is much more uncomfortable. This is because that discomfort exists in the present, but what fuels that discomfort has already past.
The thoughts and feelings that prompt your emotional eating behaviours are connected to memories (and memories are of course in the past, which means you can address those feelings and thoughts whatever they may be). Whatever past memories they connect to are now just recordings in your brain. They’re not happening anymore. For that reason, whatever you may need to address will never feel as intense as it did when it was actually happening. It’s just a matter of acknowledging that it did happen and finding meaning in what happened from the position to which you stand today.
It’s not a matter of torturing ourselves with old feelings and memories, rather, making sense and attaching meaning to those memories that resolves them. Otherwise, we may play out a passive aggressive behaviour to vent those feelings, and that passive aggressive behaviour is your battle with food.
Relationships can be tricky because they give us a false sense of control yet, we don’t have control over other people. We only have control over our responses to them. The same goes with food, emotional eating, and how we respond to the cravings and urges that we so often feel powerless over. The fact of the matter is, you have formed an intimate relationship with food. If you’re emotionally eating, then it’s not a healthy relationship with food, but a co-dependent one.
Codependence is managing one’s own feelings by managing another’s. So, food isn’t the problem. Food just reveals the problems as well as the emotional needs that were already there. Getting your power back and overcoming emotional eating begins by re-defining the problem more accurately and addressing the emotional needs that have gone unacknowledged.
However, just to normalize this dysfunctional relationship that you have with food (and that so many others do as well), it’s no wonder that so many people develop an emotional relationship with food to begin with. Food is consistent in our lives when others in the past have abandoned us or let us down. Food acknowledges our feelings. It’s there when we get home after a long day to comfort us. It’s nurturing and always delivers. It’s always there to entertain us when were bored. We can trust food. It will never reject us, it’s dependable, and reliable to the very end.
The problem with the dynamics of this relationship is that food cannot be given that kind of power in our lives, any more than we should give people in our lives that kind of power. People in our lives, regardless of what they think, do, or have done, don’t define us or our capabilities, and neither should food.
We must not confuse food in this way. Food is not just love. You might have associated food with love as a result of memories in the past where food represented love from another but food is also fuel and medicine for our bodies. Viewing food in the right context will help you shift that relationship into a healthier one and this is how we become empowered over food. Your perception determines your actions!
Together, let’s consider four tips to help you begin the process of changing your relationship with food.