Finding Your Nutrition Truth
Reprinted from "Eating Disorders" issue of Visions Journal, 2002, No. 16, pp. 24-25
How would you describe your relationship with food? What is your earliest childhood food memory? What is your vision of yourself as an eater later in life?
These are just some of the questions I ask people in my desire to engage in meaningful conversations about food, to uncover the rich meaning food brings to our lives. Beautifully woven into these conversations are our nutrition truths: those statements we make about our eating that are truly our own, that define our unique relationship with food. These nutrition truths are like precious little treasures we need to hold close to our heart if we are to strengthen our relationship with food.
These days, food and our consumption of food can represent many things. We eat fast foods because we are so busy and we have little time to choose and prepare the food ourselves. We eat to slow our hectic lives by taking time for food. We eat for comfort after work, during the evening news while we watch in horrified fascination as our world endures such hardship. We eat alone; we eat with others. We eat over the kitchen sink; we eat in the finest restaurants. We eat to celebrate birthdays, festivals, and seasons. We eat to stay connected to our traditions and our families who may live hundreds of miles away. We eat to express our most intimate feelings. We may even refuse to eat. In the most basic sense, we eat to live and to nourish our physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional selves. Are you someone who would like to change the way you eat? Where do you begin? Can you find your nutrition truth by acquiring more nutrition knowledge? The answer may surprise you.
If you wander into any bookstore, you will find endless sources of nutrition information. Newscasters and advertisers suggest that we eat more soy, drink more water, buy organic, low-fat, high-fibre, emphasize protein, but not too much, and always choose butter over margarine. No, make that margarine over butter. Actually, just use olive oil. It can get to be overwhelming! Consumers may end up being so suspicious and uncertain of food that they don’t want to eat at all! For this reason, I guide you back to the concept of nutrition truth. Scientists, diet gurus, and even our well-intentioned neighbours will eagerly share exciting discoveries about food with us and, at times, those discoveries will contradict each other and perhaps even our nutrition truths. Don’t be discouraged. When you stop and think and feel what foods work best for you, you won’t need to get entangled in the complexity and contradictions of nutrition information. The recipe for a delicious, homemade nutrition truth includes a dash of nutrition knowledge and heaping amounts of trust, permission, and self-acceptance.
To reveal your nutrition truth, ask yourself questions, lots of questions. Be curious, be open, and be prepared to be surprised. What foods give you the most energy? What do you prefer to eat in order to break your overnight fast (breakfast)? When your body signals hunger, for which foods do you have an appetite? How do you know when you are satisfied? How do you know when you are full (beyond satisfied)? What are the internal, physical signals your body has naturally designed to guide you to your nutrition truth?
Writing your nutrition truth memoirs
There is not one best way to do this exercise. Let it inspire new and creative approaches to eating. Remind yourself that regardless of how you do it, you can’t do it wrong!
If you don’t ever feel hungry or satisfied, don’t despair; you can reconnect with those signals. The reconnection process is very similar to rebuilding a broken friendship. It requires patience, devotion, compassion, and tender communication: deep listening, attentiveness, and gentle, loving responses. Strengthening or rebuilding your relationship with food is worth the effort. Use your relational gifts to heal or strengthen one of the most important relationships in your life — your relationship with you.
So maybe you already have a beautiful, strong relationship with yourself, but your eating is still difficult. Stay curious. In a non-judging way, begin to explore y our relationship with food more deeply. Become the writer of your nutrition truth memoirs (see sidebar for suggestions). I’ve invited you to engage in a process of discovering your nutrition truth. Don’t feel that you are on this journey alone. Share your stories with others as a tremendous act of courage and healing. Celebrate your discoveries, perhaps over tea and cookies! Support your friends to eat without guilt or anxiety. Take the focus off of weight loss and put it squarely on health and spirit. Let’s abandon food rules that do not support our nutrition truths. And finally, in the words of the inspirational writer S ark, “Let’s place ourselves squarely in the swirl of life; it will scoop us up and change us somehow. The trick is to come out of hiding, change our routines and allow our actual lives to happen.”