After a great weekend of skipping around New York City with my handsome boyfriend — meeting up with friends for drinks, trying a couple of new restaurants and having a slice or two of late-night pizza — I was miserable.
I felt guilty and was beating myself up big time. I was in a bad place with myself and part of it was because of my relationship with food. What’s weird was how quickly I got to this point.
Up until I was 22, I’d never even thought about dieting or counting calories — all I knew was that I loved to eat. I loved pizza and beer like any red-blooded American college student and consumed both with abandon.
And sure, my weight fluctuated through different phases and semesters abroad, but I was never overweight so it wasn’t something I paid much attention to.
Then I began my career at the Holy Grail of fashion magazines. I felt like I ended up there by accident with my H&M wardrobe, imperfect body and couldn’t-care-less-about-kissing-ass attitude.
Not having much extra cash to order food every night, I started teaching myself to cook. I would get a lot of recipes from the women’s health magazines I found myself surrounded by at work, and before long I started regularly restricting my calories.
On the weekends all I wanted to do was relax and blow off steam. I would ditch all the rules I placed on myself throughout the week and eat all the “bad” foods I wouldn’t let myself touch Monday-Thursday.
Then Sunday night would roll around and the blues would hit me hard. Poor Fabian wouldn’t know what happened, we’d be having a great time and then: BAM. There I was all red-faced, snotty and ugly crying about things I couldn’t even articulate.
I had no way of filtering out what was mentally unhealthy for me at that time. I was working in an industry based on promoting the stick-thin ideal. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life while working in a job I knew wasn’t for me. I was reading too many women’s “health” magazines. I was constantly labeling foods “good” and “bad”. And I continually felt like I was on the brink of failure.
Thinking about this time makes my heart ache.
And while I learned a lot of incredibly useful and rewarding habits during this time, it took me a long time to untangle myself from the mess of food-related guilt I had set up for myself.
You may think that you’re totally in control when you’re restricting calories and judging yourself on what you did and didn’t eat, but that’s where it gets twisted. When you give food power over you and the way you feel, you’re not the one in control anymore.
Getting over this cycle of feeling shitty was about taking back my power to make healthy choices based on how good they make me feel AND making not-so-healthy choices because I want to.
The biggest lesson I had to learn for my own mental and physical well-being is that healthy eating is all about balance and enjoyment.
We all need room for play and eating is part of that for a lot of us. Make the decision to have fun and really enjoy yourself. Life is short.
Pizza, as I have always known, is a beautiful thing. So if you’re going to eat it, you should appreciate it.
Set yourself up to savor every bite by:
- Sitting down with someone you love. Preferably at an adorable, dimly-lit restaurant.
- Listening to your cravings. Does spicy salami sound amazing to you right now? Order it.
- Ordering a big ol’ glass of red to have along side it.
- Talking about good things over dinner.
- Focusing on your food, chewing slowly and thinking about how great it tastes.
Remember: you’re the one in charge of your decisions and how they make you feel. Do what makes you feel good and fills your heart up.
To me, this means enjoying meals with my husband and friends as often as possible, taking pleasure in what I eat — and feeling good about it later because it’s something I really wanted to do.
Have you ever felt like food had control over you? Did you find a way to get past it? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments or in an email.