To Lose Weight: Change Your Mind About Food


For many years, I used food as a way to punish or reward myself. If I indulged in desserts or overate, I felt guilty and hatched plans to restrict my diet, thinking things like, Now Jessie, you didn't need to eat the whole bag of chips. Really. Okay, today, you're only allowed to eat salad and vegetables. Whereas if I ate healthfully and moderately, I'd congratulate myself for doing a swell job. My inner-voice sounded something like, Look at you, killing it! You didn't snack at all last night, and your tummy is extra flat! You are dominating at life!

This is what we do: use food to make ourselves feel guilt, or as an indicator of our self-worth. We are worthy and good enough when we are disciplined (or even deny ourselves) and when we are thin enough. We punish our bodies, pinching at our giggly bits and professing our disdain for every imperfection. Even positive thoughts about how well we're doing on our diet can be defeating, because if we congratulate ourself when we eat broccoli, we subscribe to an ideology in which we must castigate ourself when we eat chocolate covered rice krispie treats.

So what do we do instead? The key to maintaining a healthy weight is to disengage altogether from this way of thinking about food, and instead, choose new thoughts. Here are the thoughts we can choose that would serve our physical bodies, not to mention our emotional and spiritual bodies.

1.Your body knows what it wants. Listen to it. Most people follow an ever-changing thought system about what is healthy, according to the latest diet trends. We read books about different diets, all of which have distinct guidelines: paleo, raw vegan, AIP, vegetarian, etc. These diet plans have a one-size fits all mentality. If we read a book about the paleo diet, we're told that we should be eating eggs, nuts, and meat, while if we follow a raw vegan diet, we're told that we should be eating sprouted vegetables and fruit. None of these diets work. Why? Our bodies are different-hormonally, our metabolisms, digestive systems, muscle mass, etc.-and require different types of food, combined in various ways, and in different amounts. 

For example, here are some things about my body that affect how I eat:

-I have a very fast metabolism.

-I was diagnosed with PCOS, which affects my hormone levels (when hormone levels are off, digesting things like dairy, cruciferous vegetables, beans, or other food staples, can be very difficult).

-After doing an elimination diet, I discovered that I have many food sensitivities; for example, my body doesn't digest seeds easily.

-PCOS affects my glucose level, and so if I don't eat every few hours, I can experience dizziness.

So, while the world might suggest that a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard is healthy, I know that mustard seed can give me an upset stomach. I know that I can eat bread, but if I eat too much, I feel bloated. I eat according to what my body wants, even if it's counterintuitive to what the world might suggest is healthy. I know that my metabolism can handle eating lots of dates, bananas, or other foodstuffs that are high in fructose or sugar, but give me a bowl of black bean soup, and my body won't do so well. I choose foods that don't inflame my body, rather than choosing foods based on what the latest fitness trends suggest.

2.Love your body all the time.

Love your body when you're 30 pounds over weight. Love your body when you're toned and muscular. Love your body when you're too skinny. Too fat. Too lumpy. Too jiggly. Love your body all the time! Notice when a negative thought comes into your mind: I'm so chubby. Look at my mid-section. Look at my thighs. Look at my tush! Interrupt yourself and tell yourself and tell yourself that you are beautiful and perfect (even if you don't believe it). You will lose weight when you love your body; if you are in a cycle of guilt, shame, and punishment, weight loss will be a game you play, and it will be temporary at best.

3.Think of food as fuel.

Food is not a reward. I had a long dat at work. I deserve a slice of cake. Food is not something to reach for as a salve for our negative emotions. My partner is an idiot. How could he say that? I'm going to eat a bowl of pasta and then I'll feel better. Eating food is not a way to pass time. I'm bored. I think I'll eat a cheesecake. Food is fuel. Food sustains our bodies and affords us the energy to go out and live our beautiful lives. Yes, we can and should enjoy food, and yes, food can be a great way to connect with people and even express our love, but we should always do so mindfully. Food should not be used in connection with our emotions (which are often unconscious). We should let ourselves eat when we're hungry, without guilt, and we should stop when we're full. We should eat foods our bodies want (which, oftentimes, are not processed store-bought products with a list of 20 ingredients). We can take a moment when deciding what to eat to ask our body: What do you really want, body? And how much? 

Some people call themselves "naturally thin." All this means is that they have a correct perception of food. They don't have a hate-love relationship with it, alternating between self-denial and binging. Food is not a tool to measure their self-worth; instead, it's just fuel to live. It can be something we enjoy and get excited about, but we should always approach what and how we eat with love, not fear, because that is how we will achieve lasting results. A diet plan or new regime to try pilates or spin is a quick fix that, usually, is temporary, whereas a change in our mindsets will positively affect our bodies and health long-term.

Jessica Leon