Allow me to set aside Nutrition-Student Haley for a second.
I didn't know if I wanted to write this, and if I did, I didn't know how to. But those verses practically jumped off the page at me this morning as if to say " YO I got the words you need." So, read them one or two more times, let them sink into your mind, and we'll come back to them later on.
Many of the questions coming into my email inbox have been asking how I came to Intuitive Eating/how I found a way to... well, set aside Nutrition-Student Haley when muffins and cupcakes and nachos and pizza are on the menu. Also let me point out that I'm not a Registered Dietitian, nor do I intend to become one, but I share this because I can relate to many of the questions regarding creating a healthy relationship with food. And I don't think I need to be an RD to be able to help others create their own healthy relationship with food, too.
I used to see food as nothing more than just a lump of calories - protein, fat, and carbohydrates - blind to the idea that food can bring actual enjoyment. Now, I sometimes see the nutrition facts, but most of my view and thoughts surrounding food are based on what my body craves in that moment. This change didn't take place overnight, but rather over the course of about a year. Timing is different for everyone, as God has a different layout for your life and my life and the next person's life. So, be patient. Be faithful. Trust. Persevere. Challenge yourself.
Here are the steps I took in implementing this change:
1. DELETE THE APP: I'm talking about the calorie-counting app. Not everyone uses it, I know, but if you're reading this because you struggle with viewing food as more than calories, then chances are you've used or are still using a calorie-counting app. You are not alone, though! I used mine on and off for almost four years. Ugh. Somehow, knowing my calorie- and macronutrient-intake at the end of each day brought me a sense of comfort (but only if I didn't exceed my limits, of course). That small sense of comfort was nothing compared to the amount of stress that overwhelmed me as I frantically searched for menu items at restaurants that fit into my requirements, or when I saw that I ate "too much" fat or sugar one day, or if I didn't meet my protein requirements, etc. I couldn't take it anymore. I deleted it and had to consciously make an effort for a while to push numbers out of my mind before each meal, because using the app habitually for so many years made me a fantastic calorie-counting machine. So, step one: get rid of the damn app.
2. EAT "RESTRICTED" FOODS: Mhm - that's right. This could also be called "facing your fears". You've heard that one before, huh? And I'll bet you've faced and conquered some of your biggest fears already - this one is no different. "Restricted" foods in my diet were fried foods, foods with refined grains and/or refined sugar, fatty meats (before I went vegan), and the list goes on. Last summer, I landed a job at this super cool donut shop - d o n u t shop - and was, for six months, constantly breathing in the luring aroma of fresh fried and glazed and hot and... tempting donuts. Sure, I was vegan at the time, but there were shelves with vegan donuts, too (still fried and made with refined flour and sugar). Our boss rewarded us hard-working employees with unlimited donuts each shift. The first few were certainly a challenge, but I wanted to prove to myself more than anything/anyone that I could eat a donut, enjoy it, and happily move on with my day. After just one donut, I didn't feel the need for anything more because I finally felt satisfied in not just the taste of the donut (which is amazing, by the way), but in allowing myself to freely enjoy something I once restricted.
Now that I'm no longer vegan, I'm going through a similar process all over again. I'm craving cheesy pizza, juicy burgers, rich ice cream, and cakes and donuts and so many other foods I always wanted but never trusted myself enough to just eat. I forced myself to honestly admit that I feared these foods because I thought that eating them would make me gain weight. Overcoming this was a combination of accepting that my body needed to gain weight in order to truly be healthy (i.e. regain my period, strengthen my bones, etc.) + believing that these foods have no power over me. Food is not worth fearing - doing so pulls our minds away from trusting and fearing God.
3. HAVE F U N: This process can be scary - changing the mindset, accepting a potential physical change, eating foods that (used to) evoke fear and maybe even anxiety. It sure did freak me out when I asked God for courage to begin. So, I promised myself I'd have fun with it. I'd bake cookies (butter, sugar, flour, eggs - all the good ol' real ingredients Grandma uses) and reminisce on childhood memories of Mom pulling a hot baking sheet out of the oven with warm, gooey cookies ready to be dipped in milk and devoured. I'd go out with friends and drool over nachos and pizzas and sometimes split/sometimes eat a whole ice cream cookie sandwich. I'd laugh. I'd dance. I'd talk about how GOOD whatever I'm eating tastes. After some time doing this, I noticed my friends notice my smiles and they pointed that out to me. Some of you guys even did that, too! "You seem so much happier, so much more free and... fun!" - something along the lines of what I've commonly heard. My tummy and my mind are ecstatic eating these foods I forgot I loved so much, and my heart is relishing in the freedom and joy with which these moments explode. Food doesn't have to be scary or controlling. Food SHOULD be fun and connecting and joyful.
Man oh man, does it feel good to write this - almost as good as nachos and buttery chocolate chip cookies feel... almost. Maybe I'm letting go of Nutrition-Student Haley more than I thought, and stepping into the most genuine, exciting version of Hungry Haley.
I hope these tips have been helpful and I hope that, if you're feeling called, you find strength in God to take the steps necessary in accepting and embracing the body He's given you, looking beyond food's nutrition facts 24/7, and actually enjoying what you eat.