You have food problems because you have body image problems.
I’m sorry, but I have to say it.
In fact, this is a waaaay overdue message from me to you.
You know how you can’t control yourself around Nutella?
Or mac and cheese?
Or tortilla chips?
Or peanut butter?
It’s because, on some level, you feel deeply convinced that your body must look a certain way.
I mean, think about it. If you didn’t need your body to look a certain way…
If it was utterly unimportant to you exactly what you weighed, or exactly what size jeans you fit into…
If you felt totally and completely confident that regardless of what shape your body happened to be, you would be loved and cherished, admired and valued, that you would be successful in work and school, make great friendships and have fantastic romantic relationships….
Would it particularly matter what you ate?
I mean, of course it would still matter what you ate. You would still get hungry, and when that happened, you would feed yourself food that made you feel good (in all senses of the word). You might sometimes even (gasp!) eat when you weren’t hungry, because we are sensual beings who enjoy food.
But as long as you felt pretty good in your body, you probably wouldn’t worry about it too much.
And if you stopped feeling good in your body? If you ate nothing but Cheetos and donuts for dinner one day? Well, then the next day you’d probably eat lightly and move your body so that you…oh, I don’t know, FELT BETTER.
Of course, you may be objecting: it’s not that I want to be thin, Katie. I just want to be healthy!
To which I would respond:
Of course, health does matter. But we can be healthy at a far wider range of weights than most of us “want” to be. And though health and weight are related, you can significantly improve your health without losing any weight.
Yes, it is true that at some weights your risk of certain diseases may increase. But you are not de facto unhealthy because you are at a certain weight. For example, some research suggests that health is determined more by activity level than by weight, even for obese people.
Let me say it again: You can be within a relatively wide range of weights and still be healthy.
You know what I think? I think that “I’m afraid of gaining weight/I want to lose weight so I can be healthy” is smoke and mirrors, for many of us.
It’s a way of having a reasonable justification for our obsession with “not getting fat.”
Look, I’m not going to say that I don’t get why you do it.
In fact, I do it too.
I mean, everything we see or hear or read or click on implies that beauty and success and force of character and happiness means being thin. I’m not going to say that there isn’t discrimination against heavier people.
Everything we consume tells us that everything we could possibly want in life would be put in jeopardy if we were fat. And we believe it.
But the sad, horrible, terrible, ironic, thing about this is that in our attempt not to gain weight….we end up gaining weight.
We ignore our hunger signals and eat too little. We lose weight.
Then we eat way too much. And gain the weight back. And then some.
So let me be clear: I’m not trying to encourage you to be "overweight" or “fat” or unhealthy. Far from it.
What I want is for you to look closely at your deeper motives.
You might think that the problem is your eating. And it’s true — if you are reading this blog, you probably have some sort of eating “problem.” I spend a lot of time on this blog offering you solutions for how to “fix” your eating problem — by learning how to listen to your body’s signals and eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full and respect its cravings.
But you want to know the deep, dark, ugly truth?
As long as you are not okay with your body, you will probably have a food problem.
So what do we do about that? Well, that is a BIG question. Stay tuned. I'll be posting a lot about this in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments. Do you struggle with being afraid of “getting fat”? Do you feel obsessed with being a certain weight? What would your eating look like if you could let go of those fears?