My Relationship with Food

It is no secret that people who are morbidly obese typically have an unhealthy relationship with food.  And as someone who is still morbidly obese, I face the obstacles of my personal relationship with food everyday.  I am constantly faced with choices – with the angel on one shoulder reminding me that I can eat again later and the devil on the other trying to convince me that food makes me happy.

And for years, I let that ugly voice that said “Go on, order the milkshake” win because it was easier than facing my feelings of self-disgust and failure.  And because milkshakes taste good.  As an emotional girl who is coming to terms with myself, it’s easy to see my emotional connection to food, but let’s not forget that I just like it too.  I enjoy the flavor and texture of food, and for years I was under the impression that food made me happy.  Do I look happy drinking that milkshake?  I didn’t think so…

Over 400 pounds and "enjoying a milksake." Really?

The truth is that food tastes good, but it doesn’t make me happy.  The feeling of contentment makes me happy, and for a long time, I’ve confused those feelings with my love of pizza.  I think it’s okay to enjoy food.  I know foodies who are having great success with weight-loss so it’s possible.

I’ll probably always enjoy good Pad Thai, and I might always like cupcakes.  But the big difference between life now and life before is that I realize (even though it’s still hard to recognize at times) that those foods do not have to control me anymore.

Recently, in a video blog, I talked about my need to figure out why I always seem to crave more than I have, and that’s an important thing to figure out.  But it’s not as important (at least at this point) as understanding that I have the power to control those urges.  I’ve been succeeding in this area over the last week and a half or so, and I’m going to remind myself that I can control myself as much as I have to.

Weight-loss, at least for me, is not about giving up every fattening food I enjoy until I die.  Instead, it’s about living my imperfect life and enjoying it while continuing to strive to live comfortably with food.  Food doesn’t love me, but I need it.  And while I don’t need cupcakes ever, I enjoy them.  And I’ll continue to enjoy them from time to time even as my weight decreases.  It worked during the first 100 pounds I lost, and it will work now.

And while I should have known that a cupcake couldn’t provide happiness all along, it’s empowering to own that now.  And that’s what’s most important.  Today is what’s most important.

How do you feel about your relationship with food?  Is it healthy?  Was there ever a time in which it was unhealthy?  What changed? Has anything changed?

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    SassyingSarah
    July 27, 2011 at 1:33 am

    I’ve never been able to have a great relationship with food while I was weight loss dieting. We are all so different though so I’m certainly not saying it is that way for everybody. For the last year or two though, my relationship with food it better than it has ever been. I could literally cry, but won’t because I love both mascara and non puffy eyes:)

    For me, it was not about overcoming cravings or having power over my urges. I wanted those urges gone. Truly and wholly gone. As long as I was thinking about food having control over me, I would always fall into the trap of good food and bad food. Not just food with different nutritional values (regarding chemical make up and calorie wise), or food that was truly nourishing me, in all ways possible.

    I no longer focus on weight loss, calories, portion size or any other outside influence regarding how much or what I eat. It was those ‘rules’ that I thought I needed that were actually impeding my natural relationship with food. Being restrictive has never, ever been a sustainable way for me to be and has always led to long (and I mean years) periods where I am either starving or binging.

    Even though my blog is predominantly a healthy living one I still choose to separate that from losing weight. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t, or won’t continue to adjust body size in the future. What is does mean is that I don’t have a wagon to fall off of so I don’t need to continually put myself back on it again or think I just need to learn from my failures.

    You are doing an awesome job of finding the right way for you to deal with ‘stuff’. (can I say shit:)?!).

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      July 27, 2011 at 2:34 am

      Yep…you can say shit here. 😉 And yeah…it’s so different for all of us. Thank you for sharing your view..

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  • Reply
    Alyssa
    July 27, 2011 at 2:27 am

    I definitely need to work on my relationship with food. Today I had a really stressful experience at work and my first instinct was to find something to nosh on, to take away the angst, to get lost in something crunchy. I didn’t do it. But I wanted to. And it’s going to take a long time to get to the point where I want to do something else – but I’ll get there. So I can relate – and really liked this post 🙂

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      July 27, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      I know what you mean, and being aware of it is the first step…..second is just saying no sometimes so we can get where we really want to be…

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  • Reply
    Cathy
    July 27, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Great post. I was interested in what Sarah said about a “natural relationship” with food. That is really what defines an eating disorder – the inability to have a natural relationship with food. One of the things I like best about Weight Watchers is that there’s nothing off-limits in the program itself. They educate members in what kinds of foods fuel our bodies well, but they realize that there will always be cupcakes out there. If we choose to put a limit on some foods, we can. While the short-term goal is to lose weight, the real goal is health and longevity. Love it!

    So…my relationship with food? Complicated. Certainly not natural, but I’m making progress. Thinking about what I’m putting into my body is a positive step. Not just looking at the calorie count or if something is “low fat”, but how much artificial stuff is in what I eat. If I can’t pronounce half of the ingredients in something, it’s not going to be the best choice for me. Simple is best. That’s a huge change for me!

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  • Reply
    Julie
    July 27, 2011 at 5:49 am

    ahhh, cupcakes… you are absolutely right. i will never actually *need* cupcakes. so hard to admit to myself sometimes. this post was eye-opening for me, kenlie (as so many of your posts are). i was struck by your comment about always seeming to crave more than you have. i struggle with that in many areas of my life, not just food.

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      July 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      I struggle with it too Julie. Looking back, I see that when I began controlling my food cravings, I started shopping more for other things…

      And I don’t *need* cupcakes, but I think it will always be fine to have one once in a while.

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  • Reply
    Jessica S
    July 27, 2011 at 7:08 am

    My husband and I started our journeys together on 12/8/10.. they day he received the diagnosis of TypeII diabetes.. We are doing this together for both of our health and the best example for our 3 children. We both come from less them ideal health/food backgrounds. My in-laws are VERY unhealthy, VERY overweight and have very scattered relationships with food. Since we started I have lost 50lbs.. my husband 85. His focus is getting the weight off, getting his health back under control and getting off meds. At times I worry about him b/c I fear that he will burn out b/c his self control RIGHT NOW is so strong.. I am not so *controlled* and I am that way for a reason.
    I know that changes I make need to be forever changes. I cannot and will not deprive myself of ice cream/frozen treats just to save a few calories.. I WILL learn to listen to my body and only have such treats occasionally and not eat it because it is THERE.. especially when my body is sending me full messages. Messages I have not listened to in the past.. Messages I ignored b/c the food/treats I enjoyed so much were sitting right there and obviously needed to be eaten!
    My goal is to be making wiser choices, healthier swaps, cooking healthier portions.. OH portion control….That is the biggest battle of all. Never being taught what a real portion size is.. Never seeing appropriate portions at restaurants. Eating all that is in front of you… WHY WHY WHY?? I have never been in a situation where I was without food, where I was deprived, where I was concerned where the next meal would come from… WHY do we feel that we need to hoard all the food in our presence and eat it all now??
    I am seeing how foods affect my body. THAT is eye-opening and intriguing… Having avoided red meat for weeks at a time.. when I made meatloaf last week.. with low fat sirloin.. I was ill.. like a brick on my gut…The food was heavy the portion felt way too big… I could feel a difference in my body in that one meal.. and I did not like it…
    I am trying to not deprive myself but find healthier and wiser substitutions.
    I love buffalo wings.. Not because I enjoy digging tiny bits of meat off deep fried wings.. but because I love the flavor of the sauce.. So I grill some chicken breasts and I dip my bites in homemade buffalo sauce.. skip the creamy dressing! I am satisfied with the flavors and my body is nourished.

    My goal and focus is healthier, nourishing foods. I recently read the Hungry-Girl cook book and was NOT impressed.. I do not feel that subbing lots of chemically based food alternatives for whole foods to make the calories lower is the answer. Filling my body with fake flavors and fillers just to say I HAD a coffee-house like smoothie defeats the point. Trying to trick my body into thinking it has a great thing is making me crave those fake sweeteners and flavors even more. I try to make the foods I want as healthful and beneficial as possible. Our kids are young ( 9/6/6) and know we are losing weight, we also told them why- they need to know their history. But they are not deprived. In fact they probably get more then many kids around here.. I love to bake! In my freezer there is zucchini blueberry bread, low fat banana nut bread, fruit smoothies etc. I made fat free chocolate muffins with only cake mix and canned pumpkin- all 12 gone in less then a day! They just learned what goes into their fave brownies the other day- brownie mix and black bean puree! They get the treat and fiber!
    I am long winded.. my point is I have spent the last 6+ months re-teaching my mind and body to only eat what I need, only eat when it needs to be fed, how to add exercise to my life, I am learning it IS ok to push food away, it is ok for it to be wasted, for me to leave am unclean plate. I am learning to make the foods I do eat be the best for my body.. I still have snacks, chips, a regular full fat/calorie cookie etc.. but those are getting to be rare treats and not regular day to day occurring foods…

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  • Reply
    Gail @ Shrinking Sisters
    July 27, 2011 at 9:29 am

    “The truth is that food tastes good, but it doesn’t make me happy. ”

    Ooh, I must steal this line and tattoo it on my forehead.

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      July 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      tattoos on our foreheads…me too…

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  • Reply
    Momma Hunt
    July 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

    This is a great question. I have been trying to redefine my relationship with food. I used it to comfort me or distract me from my feelings. Now I am trying to look at it for what it is nutrition and something I eat. It isn’t a friend, is shouldn’t bring me comfort, it should just be something that I enjoy from time to time and that sustains me. I am also trying to establish what food is and what food we should eat to my kids ages 1.5 and 4 so it is an interesting journey for us

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      July 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      I’m sure it is……defining it for yourself AND your kids is an added challenge…it’s so awesome that you’re facing it head on!

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  • Reply
    DubyaWife
    July 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    As I’m writing this I’m munching down on some leftover Pretzel M&Ms that I had leftover in my purse from last night’s movie theater.

    I’m eating them one by one and i KNOW its calories I don’t need. I KNOW that I’m not hungry. I KNOW that it will make me gain weight if I’m not careful.

    There’s this part of me that wants to feel guilty about it, but there’s another part that says, you ran 5K two days in a row. You eat salads and fruits for lunches most of the time.

    How often do I have sweets? Rarely.

    I think the relationship with food isn’t necessarily that we have to NOT like those things, but that we have to have the restraint or just awareness to not have them ALL THE time.

    Weight gain is cumulative and so if weight loss. So I don’t sweat the milkshake or M&Ms if I have them rarely. But I need to be able to recognize when I have them too often and then adjust accordingly.

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      July 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      Oops! The post directly under this one is for you…=0)

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  • Reply
    Kenlie
    July 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    “I think the relationship with food isn’t necessarily that we have to NOT like those things, but that we have to have the restraint or just awareness to not have them ALL THE time.” Agree. Agree. Agree.

    You are a running rock star, by the way!

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  • Reply
    Duveen
    July 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    My relationship with food is something I have been working on sorting out too. I lost a bunch of weight about 4 years ago, and then allowed food to once again become my frenemy as I faced a major life challenge. Now I’m working on this again. It’s been a huge struggle, to be honest … and I’ve been the classic yo-yo for months. I’ve got a couple of good weeks under my belt now, and a more positive attitude, but as I wrote this morning: “Over and over again, I have followed this pattern: despair about my weight — last ditch effort to restrict eating and be “perfect” — lose enough weight to notice that my clothes are fitting better — boom! binge! — repeat. I am accutely aware of this self-defeating behavior and working to shift my focus from ‘restricting and perfecting’ to ‘persistence and achieving (very) short-term goals.'”

    Btw, I’ve enjoyed browsing through lots of blogs that Kenlie follows and each one that I’ve had time to explore is inspiring. So thank you all for that! Most of you seem to be young and I really REALLY commend you for tackling this issue now. Awesome job! Just out of curiosity though: are there any peeps out there in my age demographic (early-mid 50s)?

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  • Reply
    Bella
    July 27, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I really like what you said about enjoying the food, but realizing it’s the contentment that makes you happy, not the food itself. That was a lightbulb moment as I read those words. It’s so true.

    I’m trying to get to a healthier relationship with food, little by little. I have always been overweight, but when I was growing up and until the age of 24 or so, I was still under (or just slightly over) 200 lbs. It wasn’t until a traumatic breakup (he called off our engagement/all my life plans up to that point) that I really started to pack on the pounds. The same food that I used to celebrate life on social occasions became my solo focus/outlet/release. I never became a hermit, but I did let food replace a lot of other things in my life. And I’ve had a hell of a time letting go of that notion. But slowly, little by little, I’m stepping away from food and finding other things to do with myself during my down time.

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      July 27, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      I love light bulb moments, don’t you? Ha…

      And yeah, replacing eating with other things during down time is a good habit…one that I’ve tried to change for myself too…

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  • Reply
    Lisa
    July 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    The new fad lately seems to be “intuitive eating.” As someone who was obese and lost the weight, intuitive eating didn’t work for me. Intuitively I want to overeat because I don’t have a good relationship with food or listening to my body. It takes hard work every single day to make good choices.

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      July 27, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      Yeah, I had the same thought…I’m not sure if it’s right for me either because I still don’t always listen to my body…

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  • Reply
    Roxie-Girl
    July 28, 2011 at 7:39 am

    I have the same relationship with food as you do, and although I’m 165 pounds, I struggle every day with food.

    My weakness is potato chips. I feel I’m at my happiest place on earth when I have a bag in front of my face and proceed to eat them til they’re gone. At one of my recent sessions with my trainer, she said something profound to me that I’ll now share with you. She said that the chips don’t define who I am. Family and friends, and even my children, don’t define me by a bag of chips. If I didn’t have chips in my hand, no-one would look at me and wonder “who is this person”? I’m still me without them. I’m a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a sister, an aunt, and a granddaughter.

    The chips are just that….chips! I don’t need to define myself by a stupid bag of chips. I sat back and thought about this for awhile. To me, it’s sounds quite ridiculous, that I allow myself to be completely defined by potato chips!! DUMB!!! JUST DUMB!!!

    I’m happy to report, that as of today, I’m 17 days sober from chips!!!

    You can do it too girlie, I know you can!! You are not defined by cupcakes and milkshakes. The people that care about you most, don’t see you as the cupcake eating obese person, that can’t be happy unless she’s eating one. They define you as a great friend, daughter, sister, etc…

    I believe in you and don’t even know you. 🙂

    xoxo
    Roxie-Girl

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  • Reply
    Jodi
    July 29, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I remember at 3 sneaking food and not knowing why I was doing it. I am not sure if something inside me is just BROKEN or why I have this urget to eat for no reason. I have always heard that for the morbid obesity is a combination of genetics and environment. I am not entirely sure if that is correct. My parents were both fit and here I was complusively eating at 3. I fight it everyday even at 163 lbs vs. 450. I probably always will.

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  • Reply
    SeattleRunnerGirl
    July 30, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I think understanding why we misuse food is really important. But you made a great point in your post- while understanding why you always feel like you need more than you have is critical, KNOWING that you feel that way is the biggest thing. Because that awareness is what will allow you to change your behavior even as your feelings remain the same or are more slow to evolve.

    My relationship with food was very similar to yours – I used it for comfort and pleasure. I didn’t understand that I didn’t really “love” food; I definitely didn’t get that it didn’t “love” me back! Slowly I’ve learned that, and while I still enjoy food (don’t know if I qualify as a foodie but I think I might!), I do it more responsibly 90% of the time. The 10% is something I’ll probably be working on for a long time. 🙂

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  • Reply
    tiffany p
    August 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I just tweeted your giveaway!

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