'If you be a good girl, mummy will buy you a treat when we finish shopping.' Have you ever heard this before? Maybe you've said it? Or maybe someone has said it to you. Can this seemingly innocent statement really be that bad?
Our world is plagued with negative relationships with food. Food dependancy, overeating, under eating, guilt, fear - it weights us down, and drags us through life. What we might not realise though, is that these problems don't just wake up with us one morning. They come from years of allowing fear to dictate how we care for our bodies.
I believe we have a choice to live our life in one of two ways. Love, or fear. The choices we make, the words we say and how we show up in the world come back to these two options. It requires consistent work, to grow and re-learn how to live, but let me tell you in the moments when I feel through every cell of my body that I'm truly living from love, it's so damn worth it!
So how does this relate to my statement above? The fears and associations we learn around food often start young, and as much as I hate to say it, they're often passed to us from our mothers. Or the people we are closest to. This is why negative food relationships tend run in families.
Straight up, by offering your child food as a reward for good behaviour, they associate food as a treat. And it's worse if you offer them something like chocolate or lollies. Suddenly an association between being a good human being and eating crappy food develops. And so, the 'I feel like crap today, I deserve to gorge on block of chocolate' begins. Why? Because we are validating ourselves, based on that learned fear that started right back when we were children. Because eating unhealthy food 'means we're a good human'.
This is just one example of a statement that seems so small, can become a lifelong learned behaviour, that causes years of fear based associations with food.
If you're like most people, you get to an age where you realise that you have a negative relationship with food. Whether you consciously understand why or not, and you begin to hate yourself for eating the things you do. You look at your body with eyes of judgement and say nasty things, and so the vicious cycle becomes and nasty routine.
So how do we break the cycle?
1. Realise that you have created a association between fear and food. Using this topic, 'I can see where fear has showed up in my relationship to food' write for 10 minutes. Don't think about it or edit what you write, just let the words pour onto the paper. This will help you realise where your fear is coming from, and what it surrounds. Knowing gives you the chance to choose love.
2. Notice your fear. After doing the first exercise, you will start to notice when you are choosing based on fear. Recognise it, and repeat this affirmation. I will not choose fear. I am not fear, I am love.
3. Don't use food to treat yourself occasionly. Instead, treat yourself daily. You deserve to be treated daily with loving gestures, things that make you feel good, that aren't food. For example, take a bath, catch up with a friends, write in your journal, go for a walk, enjoy an extended meditation session, go to an extra yoga class. Whatever it is that makes you feel amazing, and is good for you (try not to choose food, even if it's healthy) do more of it!
4. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. I can't repeat it enough. Be kind to yourself beautiful! Don't hate on yourself for making mistakes or for choosing fear as your guide. You are here now, be grateful that you have worked this out! Now you can start creating an amazingly better life for yourself.
Sometimes you will slip up, and these are the times you need to be the kindest to yourself. Don't beat yourself up. Look at yourself with loving eyes, and remember, one bad meal (or choice) doesn't dictate the way you live your life, it's about the habits that you build day in and day out. It's all part of the natural process.
5. Learn to love healthy treats. I'm not saying you should never eat chocolate, it's just time to learn to love the healthier version. And I promise you that you will, but only if you want to. The key here is to want it. People always say to me 'I couldn't eat the way you do', and I think to myself 'no you couldn't', not because I think I'm better than them, but because they don't want to. If you want something bad enough, you will learn to make it happen. I wanted to become vegan, and I knew I could. So I did. It's that simple. Give yourself credit, and don't let your ego (or anyone else's ego) tell you can't do it, because you sure as hell can!
4. Choose healthy rewards. Choose not to participate in fear based eating, or food as a reward. This means family, friends, children. We are lucky enough to live a life where food is plentiful. We do not experience scarcity, so there is no need for us to gorge, or go without. Choose to offer rewards by choosing praise, experiences or time as your gift. And my goodness ....
Don't reward your children with food!
Although I don't have children, I am certain there are other ways, and I make the promise to myself and my future babies, that I won't allow myself to participate in a fear based mindset for them. In fact, my own mother used to reward me after behaving well at the supermarket, with a little ride on those motorised rides out the front of supermarkets. Much better than a sweet treat. You know your child, maybe there is something else that they love. Are they affectionate? Do they love going to the park? Choose a healthier option as a 'thank you for being you', and set up a healthier association for them.
Imagine if we rewarded ourselves with a walk, exercise or love, rather than choosing food...
Now I want to hear your take on this. Be brave, do you choose food based on fear? Or are you making a change now? Share your insights in the comments section below, you never know you might be able to offer someone just what they need to hear!