So I posted on my Instagram the other day and introduced my story about my previous history with food. And for those of you that don’t know, I was a little bit overweight when I was a kid, you know, as some kids are, aren’t they, they go through chubby phases. But this carried into my teenage years and my preteen years. And even though, looking back, I would now not describe myself as overweight really at all. I was a bit chubby, yes, but I definitely felt like I was worse than I actually was.
But something that was definitely the case was that I had a really poor relationship with food. And this was because of my parents being slightly overweight and my mum doing fad diet after fad diet. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to that as well. And for me, I didn’t have any clear education on what a good “diet”, actually meant or actually looked like and I just kind of bounced around between, you know, different foods and not really understanding where to go and as I grew up and went to university, it was still the same, right.
I started CrossFit, and I learned about the Paleo diet and I learned about eating clean and all those other sorts of ridiculous terms, and this then started this whole idea of “good” versus “bad” foods, and it started this whole mindset. I was either eating “clean”, and I was following paleo or I was eating whatever I wanted, I was eating ice cream, I was eating pizza, I was eating sweets, and I would basically yo-yo between the two, not really getting anywhere, not really understanding why, and just having this really bad relationship with food where I was actually scared to eat out and scared to do certain things if they were off-plan or, you know, they weren’t paleo or they weren’t “clean”.
I really didn’t understand the way out of it which is why I ended up getting certified in nutrition, because I wanted to find the way out. I wanted to help other people find the way out and that leads me to today’s blog. So, to help you overcome a poor relationship with food I came up with seven steps, a framework that we’re going to go through in this blog. So let’s get through to this framework.
Step 1: Get over this “good” versus “bad” mentality.
I know that this is easier said than done, believe me, I’ve been through the journey myself. This is easier said than done. But this is the key. The first step, you need to stop referring to some foods as “good”. You need to stop referring to some foods as “bad”. You need to stop seeing food as healthy or unhealthy. You just need to think of them as food. Okay. I know that sounds really basic, but for a lot of you out there I bet this is hitting a note, how often do you say, “Oh, I was really good today because I did this”, or “I was really bad today because I did this or I ate this”, we need to stop attaching morality to our food choices because otherwise, we will never be free from them. So try to escape from this mentality and just see food as food.
Step 2: Stop thinking and labelling certain meals as cheats.
Okay. Just like your relationship with another human, you wouldn’t cheat on them if you loved them and wanted that relationship to work. So don’t do that with food. If you don’t think that anything is “bad” then this kind of eradicates this already, but whenever you use the word cheat, then it implies something bad and it implies that you’re doing something wrong or off-plan. All foods can and should be inclusive of a healthy, balanced diet, we just need to think about the number of said foods versus other foods, and I’m going to get to that in just a moment.
Step 3: Never use the word treat, when describing food.
Again, I know what you guys mean when you use it, but it’s the same as the word cheat, it implies something wrong. It puts the food one a pedestal if you like. Some people can use this word because it’s the idea of not something you have often, but I’ve also found other people using it and then feeling guilty, or they’re treating themselves because they’ve been good, or they’re treating themselves because they’ve gotten in a workout, or they’re treating themselves because they feel bad and you can kind of get into a bad cycle of treating yourself all the time. It can be a slippery slope, right, so let’s try to avoid using that term in the future.
Step 4: Think of foods on a spectrum from more nutrients to fewer nutrients.
So this is what I want you to replace with the good versus bad mentality, the fact that there are some foods out there that have more nutrients in them and fewer calories per weight of the food, and others that have fewer nutrients, and more calories. So we can think about broccoli versus pizza. There you go. That’s as simple as that. Think of these foods on this spectrum, rather than good versus bad. We want more of the high nutrient-dense foods than of the low nutrient-dense foods. Okay, that’s just basic, but this means that you now have a spectrum to work towards in order to establish your daily and weekly eating patterns, how often are you eating the more nutrient-dense foods versus the fewer nutrient-dense foods, and how can you push this spectrum, more toward the former without completely getting rid of the latter.
Step 5: Give yourself permission to eat whatever the hell you want.
I know that this is quite a scary thing to do because a lot of people will say oh well you know I only need to look at x food, and I’ll gain weight, but you won’t, you really really won’t. It was an interesting experiment that the woman who wrote the joy of half a cookie did. It was an interesting experiment where she basically went to the vending machine and bought everything that she’d ever wanted. And ate it all. And then the next day she allowed herself to do the same thing. And she bought less, and by the third or fourth day, every cookie and sweet thing in there had lost its power over her. She wanted to eat, lean meat and vegetables because she wanted more nutrients and she was sick of the sweet, sugary, fatty tastes of common sweets and cookies. So if you stop seeing these foods as magical or bad, and you give yourself permission to eat what you want, and know that you can eat what you want. It will lose its power over you. And so I’m not saying that the key to being lean for life is just eating whatever you want all the time. There’s obviously got to be some balance towards it. But if you give yourself permission to know that it’s okay. You’re going to find that these foods lose their power over you.
Step 6: Play around with the feelings of true hunger versus cravings
Cravings are things that we often have in response to certain events. So when we’re stressed or we’re sad, we find ourselves craving alcohol potentially or certain foods that we know will pick us up and make us feel better. This can correlate with that whole idea of having a treat. But play around with this idea of only eating when you’ve experienced true hunger and a true desire for certain foods, rather than just craving something because it’s that time of day, a certain routine, or because you feel a certain way. The more that we can really really tune into our inner hunger and understand what our bodies truly need, then the easier we’re going to find it in order to lose weight and keep it off for good.
Step 7: Understand that this takes time.
This isn’t a quick fix. And I’ve gone back and forth with my marketing, let’s say, in terms of around diets and you know helping people lose weight and get it off and then start living their life afterwards. But this whole idea of overcoming a poor relationship with food is beyond weight loss. You can lose weight and still have a shit relationship with food. This kind of stuff takes time and there’s going to be trial and error, you’re going to mess it up, and that’s okay because it doesn’t matter how long this takes as long as you get there at the end. W
hen you first started learning how to ride a bike, you would have fallen over many times, but the fact that you got back up every time allowed you to ride that bike, same thing with the career that you’re now doing or the anything else that you do which is a unique skill that you have. It took a learning curve and this one takes time. I’m still going through it myself, which is why I’m going to document more of that over on Instagram, on my social media as well as through this blog.
So, if you want to overcome a poor relationship with food, you want to lose weight for good and keep it off for life, and find a balance with this whole nutrition thing, so that you can actually live your life without fear of food, then you’re in the right place.
Hope you enjoyed today’s blog guys and girls. If you did, I would love it if you could share this on your stories on social media tagging me in it at jonny_nextstep on Instagram or Next Step Performance on Facebook.