Is your “healthy eating” connected to your body shape and size?
When you hear the term “healthy eating,” you might also think of body weight.
You might think of social media posts, advertisements, or wellness programs that talk about healthy eating in the context of weight loss.
Maybe you’ve even been told to or have tried to change the way you eat to change your shape or size.
At this time, our society is swimming in weight loss messages. Even in our healthcare systems.
How people feel about their body might be tied to how they feel about their food and eating habits too.
And this isn’t always a loving feeling.
For you, do you think having a good relationship with food might also mean having a good relationship with your body?
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 10: Shape and size
I want to say right away that this instalment of the series will NOT encourage dieting for weight loss.
I want to make that clear off the top in order to make this space as safe as possible for you to explore this topic.
I know many people have been harmed by health and wellness practitioners who pressed upon them goals of losing weight when this was not appropriate for their health care.
I know for many people talking about body weight, shape, or size can be triggering. And if it is, even with my efforts to make the space safe, you may feel that this instalment won’t be a good one for you. Feel free to leave it here.
Your relationship with your body might be as complex as your relationship with food. And although I don’t feel fully equipped to help you nurture your connection with your body, this conversation is an important one to address.
One time on social media I made a post stating the following:
If you hate your bike, you won’t repair it.
If you hate your apartment, you won’t clean it.
If you hate your job, you won’t commit to it.
So what happens if you hate your body?
I do think this post and these words did connect with some people.
It can be hard to take care of something you dislike, have no interest in, or even feel betrayed by.
And so, when popular wellness messages essentially say to us that being fat is “bad,” it’s likely going to be hard to have some love and compassion for that body.
However, a couple of hours after I made that post, I realized just how much more complex a persons relationship with their own body might be.
Post TBI, concussion, chronic illness, it’s likely the body will change.
The stress of the health issues, the decrease in activity, the challenges surrounding eating, the medications that might be needed, hormonal changes that may have ensued… These are all things that can contribute to a shift in weight, shape, or size.
And when everything else with the injury or illness may seem invisible to others on the outside, body changes are visible and tend not to be met with the same empathy, which can be really upsetting.
I want to recognize that a person has the right to not feel good in their body.
A person may be born into a body that doesn’t match their gender identity.
A person may feel betrayed by their body losing certain functions due to injury, illness or age.
A person may not like their body because of constant external pressures to make it fit a norm.
And on the other hand, a person may love their body, but not be able to take care of it as much as they’d like to because of other uncontrollable factors that get in the way such as disability, discrimination, financial hardships, etc.
I’m not here to say that you absolutely have to love your body if that doesn’t resonate with your experience.
I am simply here to open that conversation.
Because often, when people have a difficult relationship with their body, they may turn to food as a means to manipulate the shape or size of their body OR to focus on something they feel they can control, during uncontrollable circumstances. And truthfully, regardless of the reason, this usually doesn’t bode well for overall wellbeing.
Talking about this kind of makes me think of when people say “you have to love yourself before you can have a good relationship and love another person.”
I don’t know if that’s true.
I don’t know if it’s good advice or if it’s just saying happiness needs to be manifested…
And so, today’s reflection is one you have to be comfortable with not having a clear cut answer to.
Does how I feel about my body affect how I feel about food?
Is it OK if it does?
Does it have to?
Would working on my relationship with food helped my relationship with my body, and vice versa?
I honestly don’t have the answers for you.
There’s no right or wrong here.
It’s a complicated topic.
So allow yourself to reflect without needing to come to a concrete conclusion.
That is after all where the juicy stuff is.
Best in food, brain and body health,