Do you have a food habit you wish you could change?
Maybe it’s over eating or “binging”on foods you wish you wouldn’t.
Maybe it’s changing the way you eat because you’re worried about some long-term health issues.
Or maybe you beat yourself up because you bought a lot of “healthy foods,” but didn’t have the energy to prepare them before they spoiled.
Most people I speak with say they know what the “should” be doing when it comes to food and nutrition. They just aren’t able to do it.
They want to be in control of these food habits when the brain injury or chronic illness seems to make everything else in life unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Is control over your food something you want?
If so, I hear that.
I’d like to offer you another possibility that just might be more compassionate.
My name is Krystal Merrells I’m a registered dietitian and a concussion warrior in Ontario, Canada.
I’ve had multiple concussions and I’ve seen how food can become this big stressful thing after a brain injury. I am here to help you move towards feeling good with food.
This is Food Love. A 14-day mini-series exploring your relationship with food.
Today is day 2: Tell your food story
Right now if you think of common advice given to people looking to change their food habits, What comes to mind?
Take for example over eating or emotional eating.
People might be told:
“You just need more willpower, tips and tricks.”
“Just don’t allow those foods in your home.”
“Count calories and measure your portions.”
“Use distractions and drink more water.”
I mean, maybe there could be a time in place for these… Except for saying you just need more willpower… That’s just shameful bogus nonsense.
But just like with your TBI or other chronic illness, tips and tricks don’t get to the root of the problem.
And most often, when you feel like you’ve had enough of this recovery, all you truly want is to be heard and understood.
I know for me it was a huge game changer the day I met another person who had lived through a long concussion recovery. I have a hard time even putting into words what that meant to me.
And for me, when others who maybe didn’t have my experience took time to listen and really tried to understand what prolonged concussion symptoms have been like for me, that’s when I truly felt cared for.
Having my story heard and understood helped me move forward to try and make the changes I needed to make.
So what can that look like with food?
Well this is listening to and understanding your food story.
Your food story is your history with food. After all, you and food go waaaaaaay back!
Do you remember what food was like for you as a young kid?
Did you have access to enough food?
Were you forced to “finish your plate” at dinner time?
Did you have to take responsibility for your own food at a young age?
Do you have memories of family traditions celebrated with food?
Do you remember a family member being strict about certain foods?
Did you or anyone close to you ever manipulate food to try and change their body?
Were you taught how to cook?
Did you learn to cook alongside others?
With all my clients I offer to explore their own unique food story.
Because the greatest predictor of current and future habits is our past habits.
Because food means so much more to us than just nutrients.
Because deep down we might still be trying to satisfy and soothe a younger version of ourselves that live inside of us.
I have often met adults who now have issues with over eating and emotional eating, who also have histories where food was restricted as a child due to financial hardships or dieting in the family.
That younger version of themselves may never have truly felt safe with food. So as an adult, the moment there is any feeling that food might become scarce or restricted, that inner child is frightened and wants to overeat to compensate.
I’ve met others who were bullied or harassed at a younger age. They used food to either make themselves bigger to be seen as less of a target, or make themselves smaller in hopes to go unnoticed.
And I’ve met others who’s cultural food traditions taught them how to cook as well as how to show gratitude and love with nourishing food <3
This may be a part of your food story.
It may not.
Regardless, giving breath to your food story, showing that you are listening to it and understanding it, can be one way to further grow your relationship with food.
Reflecting on your food story can also bring up a lot of feels. And if it does, then please do reach out to your community of support of family or friends or mental health resources or psychotherapists…
Otherwise, I will invite you to have a bit of fun with your food story today — writing it out using a 3-line story format I learnt doing improv theatre 🙂
When you break down any story, it can be summarized in three basic parts:
1) Once there was a…
2) Until one day…
3) And ever since then…
Now gather round as I take the story from Disney’s Frozen for example:
1) Once there was a girl named Elsa who had magical freezing powers that she hid locked away in a castle.
2) Until one day, the townspeople learned of Elsa’s snow and ice powers, which led Elsa to explore and develop her powers further.
3) And ever since then, Elsa is a part of her community and uses her freezing powers for the benefit of all, and the town rejoices with acceptance.
Compelling stories often end with a change in status quo.
For example, the story of Elsa would be less interesting if at the end she returned to hiding in the castle.
Nothing would have changed. Nothing would have been learned.
The “until one day” is a turning point. Ain’t no going back kind of moment.
And you, and I, and everyone else listening to this has experienced one in their life too.
I think there is a lot of power in stories.
And I think there is something healing about writing our own.
So what is your food story?
What is your “and ever since then?”
Or has it yet to be written?
A chapter in your food story free of control, just waiting to be explored and given breath to 🙂
Taking time to reflect on your food story is the reflection question today. Feel free to use the 3-line story format.
And feel free to share your stories with me and others on social media! I will share mine there too 🙂 My Instagram handle is at @brain.mind.nutrition. Feel free to tag me!
And we will continue the story tomorrow.
Best in brain health,