It’s February and I had planned on focusing a lot on love and relationships. Of course it’s the shortest month and somehow I have the most ideas for posts!
Today I want to address relationships with food- specifically comfort or soul foods. It’s taken me a while to really build a strong relationship with food and I’ve discovered how hard that can be. Growing up my parents really did try to feed us healthy foods, but unfortunately I grew up during the height of the low fat foods and diet soda phase. While my parents thought they were feeding us the best of the best, society got it wrong for a while. Don’t get me wrong, my parents fed me fresh fruit and veggies from our garden and I was always that kid with the “brown bread” instead of the fluffy white bread my friends had. The only soda we’d have in the house was diet and we only got to have it on special occasions. To this day, root beer reminds me of a sunny summer day when my sister and I helped my dad with a dump run (if you live where I do, you have to load the truck up and take your own trash to the dump) and when we got home the three of us split a root beer straight out of the can, passing it around in the sunshine.
When I meet with clients I not only ask what foods they currently eat, but also what foods they ate as children. We don’t realize it, but we are constantly making connections with food and those connections help form our lives later on. Here’s the most important thing I want to share with you- sometimes you need to feed your soul and it’s okay to do just that. Let me repeat myself, sometimes you need to feed your soul and it’s okay to do just that. I hate using the word”bad” when it comes to food, because while some foods really aren’t good for you, the word “bad” has such a negative connotation and can take us back to the misuse of the word diet.
So, here is your permission to feed your soul. Ideally we want to find things to feed our soul besides food (sunshine, walks with your dog, hikes, a good book, laughter), but sometimes it is food. Here are the steps you can follow to allow yourself a healthy amount of “soul food”.
- Find out what food truly feeds your soul. I don’t mean just ice cream, I mean mint chocolate chip ice cream on a hot summer day. Be specific. You can’t have everything be your “soul food”. You may have 2-3 specific foods that you crave when you’re feeling down. Identify them and acknowledge them.
- See if you can make those foods any healthier. Can you alter the recipe without altering the feeling the food gives you? Can you cut back on the serving size and still be satisfied?
- Limit those foods. Make them special occasion foods (and not just birthdays, but days where you really need them). Don’t keep them around the house if you are going to turn to them everyday.
- Try something else. Like I mentioned above, it’s good to feed your soul with non-food items. When you are craving that special something, try going for a walk instead. Try calling up an old friend. Try something else.
- When you indulge in the “soul food”, pay attention. Why do you want this thing right now? What happened in your day? Could you deal with things differently? Can you make any changes so you don’t have to indulge in food to “feel better”?
- Relive the memories. Most “soul foods” have a specific memory that make them special to you. When you are enjoying that item, go over the memory (or memories) in you mind. What else makes you feel that way? What else does that memory remind you of? Hold on to those.
- Let yourself know it’s okay. Sometimes you really just need to feel better and the simple way may be to eat a chocolate Costco muffin all by yourself. Remind yourself these feelings are okay and gently think of other ways to deal with these emotions.
We don’t want to build unhealthy relationships with food. Ideally you’ll get to the point where your “soul food” is the traditional family dish made at your favorite holiday. And it brings you joy because you consume it surrounded by love and your favorite holiday. The point is not to beat yourself up along the way. We don’t go from unhealthy relationships to healthy ones in a single day. It takes time. My hope is that some day you are able to look back and say, “I’ve made some amazing, healthy changes in my life and for that I am grateful.”