If you can and have the means, I highly recommend donating to Family Meal, a Portland-based nonprofit designed to help food service and agricultural workers during a medical debt crisis. Your help right now is needed more than ever. Thank you.
Another Thursday, and yet it’s now been a year since the pandemic was announced around the world. Who knew time would fly so quickly? (yet also achingly slow…) Somehow we’ve all not yet gone undone, and I’m happy to say that this is the last Thursday of my winter term! I’m super stoked to be heading into spring break soon, but also knowing what will be on my plate for spring term… I’m going to just get into today’s blog, haha…
So, self-love! We hear about it and the common associations to it are someone saying they love all their whole self, the pseudo-self-care images of treating yourself or doing shallow things in the name of self-improvement. Yes, most of those things are what we should be doing in order to love ourselves, but I’d like to bring in an area that I think needs reiterating: food.
I’ve blogged quite a bit now (two years next week!!) and talked about managing stress, incorporating healthy habits into your life, doing things like intermittent fasting, dissected my struggles with eating, and more. However, I don’t think I’ve ever really touched on how a (huge) form of self-love is in the food choices we make for ourselves.
The thought occurred to me when I began personal training in late November and one of the pillars of the program emphasized feeding yourself with healthy, nutritious food. Of course, you may think of this as pretty obvious – the more you feed yourself healthy foods the more you’d be healthier – and brush off the idea. But for those of us who ate diets that weren’t actually all that healthy when you boiled everything down (pun… intended?), you would be surprised at how different you feel after making the transition.
When I got back to Eugene in January, I got to be back in full control of what I made and ate (versus when I was back at my parents’) and I could see and feel the changes pretty rapidly in how I felt. I was pretty good about eating healthier in fall term leading up to training, but it wasn’t until I started becoming really intentional about all my cooking and eating decisions that some Real Changes began to happen.
But before I even get into that, let me explain.
Why and how is eating a form of self-love?
Self-love as a concept is nothing new. We’ve heard of keeping around the people whose energy is what we want, getting rid of clutter and doing things that we may not enjoy doing (example: chores) for the overall betterment of our daily lives… but I don’t think the emphasis on doing that with our food as much as we should.
Note: Take everything I mention or recommend with a grain of salt, and if you truly want to make some drastic diet changes, I encourage you to seek a nutritionist or dietician beforehand to make sure you’re doing everything safely.
Before I get to that, I’ll go on a slight tangent on what’s promoted online as “eating as self-love.” I’ve seen the fitness influencers/celebs preaching of following a diet of eating more greens and protein, drinking more water, etc. to accomplish #fitnessgoals, and the other end of the spectrum where they encourage intuitive eating (eating when you feel hungry) and not undergoing any diet (read: restrictions) at all. This post isn’t to encourage one or the other, but to offer a concept that I’ve been using in my own life when looking at your overall diet.
Okay, back to the actual topic. So, why don’t we ever think of how we eat as a form of self-love? Like the way we consider the friends, habits and tangible things we keep in our lives, the same can be posed with food: keeping the good stuff, and discarding the bad stuff. We’re literally putting things into our body, and how we feel and are able to do are evidence of the effects (positive and negative) that come from it.
As much as I’d like to say it’s just that simple, with food… it’s not. For one, we can’t escape food no matter how much we try.
Second, sometimes the “worst” things are sometimes our favorites: pizza, French fries, ice cream, pastries (my personal kryptonite) – the list goes on. And some of the “best” (healthiest) are things we dislike, vegetables, fruits, meat and the like. But if you consider weighing the pros and cons of what you eat to how much you’ll love yourself… you’d be surprised at what you find.
YES, I’m serious! Just ask yourself a couple questions before making any food decisions:
- How much will you love yourself after making this food choice?
- How much will your body love you for making this decision?
- How much will your wallet love you after this food choice?
For me, thinking of everything from an emotional, physical and also financial standpoint were crucial into making sure I wasn’t just emotionally eating, over-restricting myself, or choosing convenience for the sake of cramming in meals during busy times. For me, I put the most emphasis on having my food decisions be “yes” to the first two questions, because I’ve been doing much more cooking at home which eliminates the third question.
Whatever priorities you put on those three questions, whether it’s the first to keep emotional eating in check, or the third because your takeout spending is more than your groceries, being able to answer yes when asking yourself those questions is crucial. We want to bring in what makes us feel good, not just emotionally, and do this in a sustainable way (hence the open-ended-ness of the questions).
Consider this scenario:
It’s two nights before a big deadline for a project. You suddenly get hunger pangs, and could definitely order takeout to have it delivered in the next twenty minutes to eat as you continue to work. You could also spend the next half hour putting together some stuff in the fridge, and then eating it, taking an overall break up to an hour, before resuming work.
And to be clear, whatever choice you make is exclusively yours. I’m not here to judge you on if you choose the takeout or if you choose to cook – the point is in thinking of the full scope of your health (and financials, if you’re like me and like takeout a lot) before making a food decision. The most important takeaway from this exercise is that there are many points of consideration that go into making a food decision and being cognizant that sometimes we are heavily motivated in just one area can lead to spiraling into more bad habits. (Trust me, I know this from experience.)
Also, that whatever food decisions you make that you separate valuing yourself on a “earned it” scale and done in the name of doing good for yourself because you love yourself. I’ve definitely gone through phases where I would restrict myself so much and then once I did enough to “earn” a food, would gorge myself on it until I felt sick and guilty for “letting myself go like that.”
When really, (like I mentioned earlier) we can’t escape food, nor should we – we need food to keep us going! But if I learned anything at all, it’s that the relationships we have with food are complicated, that our livelihoods and schedules are constantly changing, and how much we put into our eating habits is often undercut by those changes.
Allow yourself the grace to be okay with eating unhealthily, but also consider what your daily eating habits are. Do you feel guilty with what you eat, thinking about how you should be eating healthier? Do you crave a certain food so much it makes you salivate at the thought, thinking of how much you can’t wait to eat it when you accomplish A, B, or C? I’ve been there – it’s seriously an emotionally draining way to live, and I would hate for you to be so conflicted all the time about something as joyous as food.
So hear me out: try asking yourself these questions before you eat. Fellow college students, I know how you feel when thinking about how stressful it is to be going through the cycle of emotionally eating and then feeling bad, then repeating it in a futile attempt to get better. Maybe you’re telling yourself that you don’t have time or energy to put meals together – but consider how your body feels, all those emotions swirling in your head… I won’t tell you that you have to do anything, but instead recommend you reflect on your answers to make the best choice for you.
So that’s it from me today! This topic has been heavy on my heart for a while after hearing from my friends of their struggles with eating healthy and feeling guilt for what they’re eating. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to realign my thinking to be this way, but I’m just glad to know this now and have a much better relationship with food and eating than I did even just a year ago.
Next week I’ll be doing a double post special in honor of my blog’s second birthday, so keep an eye out for them~ I am so stoked to be sharing more with you as I better tailor my blogs to be what you’re interested and wanting to read.
Like usual, let me know if there are any topics that I should cover in my blog, or if you have questions that you want to ask me! Connect with me over Twitter or Instagram – even leave me a comment below! – because I love to hear from you.
As always, I hope you all are faring okay and staying safe and stay healthy.
Have you eaten yet? If not, don’t forget to!
P.S. If you haven’t seen my latest YouTube video, check it out below!