In part one of this two-part blog series on Food and Boundaries, I covered the issues surrounding thinking dichotomously about our food choices and the social tendency to morally label food as either “good” or “bad”. My encouragement was to focus on the true purpose of food while embracing the grey areas of our food choices. If you missed that blog, it is linked here.
Too Much or Not at All
Well, you might ask, how much food is too much food? What exactly is eating in moderation? This is very closely connected to black and white thinking. These questions tend to address behavior with food or around food more than an attitude towards the meal itself. This time, you may find yourself either overeating or under eating – bingeing or restricting. Many times, this can become a cyclical pattern: you overeat, and then feel as if you must compensate by skipping the next meal or not eating the next day. After that, you become excessively hungry and the next time you eat you overeat again because your body isn’t sure when it will eat next. What is happening is your body is sending biological signals to overeat, starting the cycle back at the beginning again.
Even if you don’t fall into the extremes of bingeing and restricting, you may still engage in this to some extent. For example, you may “overeat” by eating two cookies after dinner, knowing full-well that you only left room for one. What happens next is a phenomenon closely related to shame, guilt, and social pressures. You’ve eaten that extra cookie, so you tell yourself that you can’t eat any cookies for the next week to compensate. This may seem healthy, like you are trying to achieve balance, but what you achieve is not balance, but biological uncertainty. It is going back and forth on a seesaw.
- True balance is embracing the grey area in the middle where you eat the amount of food your body tells you it needs.
- True balance is refusing to let whatever meal you had last inform so strictly what your next meal looks like.
- True balance is eating until your body says it’s all good, no more, no less.
Letting It Define You and Rule You
I’ve written a blog about this particular thing before, but to reiterate, you are NOT what you eat. What you eat does not define you and you don’t have to let it be your identity. You don’t have to be “the person who doesn’t eat sweets” or “the person who always eats salad” or “the person who can stop eating sweets (or salad)”. Your dietary choices are just that – choices. You don’t have to put food into categories of good or bad, and you don’t have to starve yourself because you overate yesterday. These are rules that you have written for yourself and you don’t have to live by them. You can rewrite or unwrite that script! Let food be food, not your identity, and not your morality.
When you put food into its proper place in your life, it won’t have so much power over you. You will be able to eat a cookie and realize that it’s just a cookie and you’re still the same person you were before you ate it. Food doesn’t have to control you. It is inanimate. It has exactly as much power as you give it in your mind. Having healthy boundaries with food can actually be easier than having healthy boundaries with people, because relationships with people are a two-way street, but food can’t fight back or disrespect your boundary-setting. So, stop fighting with food, and start appreciating it for what it is: fuel. Fuel that enables you to think, breathe, walk, run, play, and live.
If you are struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food you are certainly not alone. I’d love to talk to you about how to start putting food in its place! Call me at 940-222-8703×705 or email at [email protected], or just schedule an appointment online! I look forward to hearing from you.
Laura Lanier, LPC Intern supervised by Christy Graham, LPCS has had specific experience relating to eating disorders. If you are looking for a therapist for outpatient counseling, Laura typically schedules clients within one week of contact. She has discounts for college students and charges between $50 and $75 per session.