There are these two guys. I LOVE THEM. They never ask me to bring them a beer or steal the remote control. They make me feel good and comfort me when I’m having a bad day. They are both totally cool with each other; in fact they’re even in business together. I guess some people might say that I’m “in a relationship” with the dudes – and at times it’s pretty serious – like NOTHING can separate us. We’re like the 3 Musketeers – “All for one and one for all.” Let me introduce you to my two favorite men – Ben & Jerry…
Let’s face it, we’ve all got a relationship with food. Whether it be Little Debbie, Chef Boyardee, Uncle Ben, Ronald McDonald or that sexy jar of almond butter sitting in the fridge; you’ve got a story and that story will continue as long as your heart is beating. It’s also probably a safe bet to say that everyone’s food relationship is a little bit different – some healthy, some unhealthy, some downright dysfunctional. Unfortunately, when a food relationship goes bad there’s no easy split. You can’t just leave or divorce food forever – I mean, eating is something we do every day and abstaining from food for any great period of time is not going to end well.
Back in the days of clubs and square wheels our ancestors ate when they had food and hunted when they didn’t. Hungry meant hunt and eat. It was simple. But somewhere along the evolutionary chain things started getting funny. Food was more easily obtained and our relationships with food started getting complicated.
For many of us when we reach a certain age we not only consume food, but our lives slowly start being consumed by food. Our relationship with food goes from one of –I’m hungry so I’m going to eat (like little kids do) to one that is partly to mostly dysfunctional. Food (and maybe exercise too) starts taking over our thoughts and affecting other areas of our lives. Right now some of you might be thinking; “No way, that is so not me – I’m just healthy.” I’m here to tell you that there is a VERY fine line between what’s healthy and what’s obsession.
If you wake up every morning, pee on a keto stick and calculate your 30 gram of carbohydrate meal plan or if you’re ‘that guy’ that brings a Tupperware container with food to restaurants and parties because the meat won’t be grass fed and the vegetables aren’t organic; then you may have crossed the line. Sure, you say that you were miserable and unhealthy before you decided to ‘take action’ and ‘change your life’ – but, (and answer this honestly) is being ‘healthy’ really making you any less miserable? How’s your social life (I’m talking about the one OUTSIDE of the gym or internet forum/group)? Do you truly enjoy your food? (Again, be honest.) Are you so chained to ‘the rules’ that food and/or exercise are all that you think about, talk about, read about or really care about?
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to completely go off the rails and succumb to the powers of fast food and soda – BUT this eating thing – it should NOT be your religion. There aren’t Ten Food Commandments and if you, OMG – eat something that’s not compliant with your current eating protocol of choice (paleo, vegan, low-carb, Whole 30, etc.) you are not destined spend eternity in Food Hell. In fact, the life you’re living now may be Food Hell. Spending day in and day out thinking about food, exercise, how you look, a number on the scale – that’s Hell. Life is short and damn it, ice cream tastes good.
There are stories of how eating paleo, getting into body building, going vegan, etc. has freed people of their food obsessions – well hold on to your britches folks – that might not be the reality. The focus or obsession has just changed/shifted and now these miraculously healed folks have got a way to justify the restriction. It often starts with innocent and good intentions; you just want to be healthy, lose a few pounds or be a beast in the gym– but before you know it you’ve been sucked into a world that revolves around food and/or exercise. Eating ‘your food’ and working out dominates your life and relationships. The only people that are ‘safe’ are the ones that share your obsession. If this hits home slow down for second. It might be time to evaluate whether your relationship with food and/or exercise is getting you anything or anywhere. What good are 6-pack abs and the perfect body if you’re miserable?
I know, I know! What you eat does have a HUGE impact on how you feel and your health – and again, I’m not saying that you throw everything out the window BUT if things are getting out of hand – get help. A life caught up in the quest for 6-pack abs or a ‘thigh gap’ is not a life. Not going out with friends or family because of the food situation or because it will interfere with your workout is not healthy. If you’re trading time with your kids, spouse, family and/or friends because of your food or training ‘routine’ – step back and take a hard look at your priorities. In 10, 20 or 30 years are you still going to be glad you did what you did or are you going to be lonely with only your grass fed beef, organic spinach and barbell or tri-bike to keep you company?
I know all of this might make some of you very angry – and by all means tell me how wrong I am. If nothing else I hope this makes you think and if it helps one person break free of the obsession – it was worth it. If you’re out there and you feel like you’re stuck in this place, know that you’re not alone and that you can break free. There’s more to life than the food that is or isn’t on your plate, the perfect body or a workout plan. I have yet to read an obituary that makes note of the deceased’s carb intake, workout schedule, or ability to resist ice cream and French fries…