What’s Your Story? Healing Our Relationship with Food
Alice Baker, MS, RD, CEDRD, LDN
Every food behavior has a beautiful story to tell us, and there can be deep healing in entering that story. We know disordered eating is not about the food but is about the underlying wounds one self-protects from by focusing on food and weight. However, looking specifically at our internal dialogue about food, gives us profound insight into those wounds.
A way to do this is to keep a journal. Not a food diary in which you write down everything you eat, calculate calories and carbs, and exacerbate your shame, but a thought journal that examines, without judgement, your internal narrative with food. For example, when eating a cookie, what goes through your mind? “Yum, this is delicious, and I want to savor each bite”, “I shouldn’t be eating this, I am doing something bad”, or “Once I finish this, I must exercise it off”. When eating a salad, what goes through your mind? “This tastes fresh and scrumptious and is exactly what I want”, “I would much rather have the burger, but I mustn’t eat too much”, or “I need to eat this, so they don’t think I eat too much”.
Once you have named your narrative, ask yourself the question “Is this narrative similar to my style of relating to the world?” Do you savor pleasure, despise pleasure, or do you feel ambivalent about it? Do you feel guilty when not following rules? Does control make you feel safe? Must you work extra-long hours to have permission to take a vacation or do you embrace the rest regardless? Do you feel you must do for your friends to earn the status of being a good friend, or do you expect the bond of friendship will naturally evolve mutually as you enjoy each other? You may be surprised at what you find. Often what is going on in the realm of our food beliefs and choices, is also going on in our life.
As you discover ways you relate to the world, you can then ask, “What does my style of relating tell me about my story?” For example, if you discovered you despise pleasure, was there a time in your life pleasure brought you harm? How did your parents respond to your joy, or how comfortable did they feel with their own pleasure? If you realize you can not give yourself rest without earning it, when do you first remember learning this rule?
I wish I could be right there with you and hear your story. I am curious right now if you might be hesitant to go further? If so you might be encouraged by psychologist Dan Allender’s words:
“Stories don’t give answers, but they do offer perspective. They provide a window through which we can look for patterns. Peering through the window then leads to more compelling stories and finally deeper wisdom. Wisdom ultimately isn’t a formula or a conclusion but a way of being in the world that leads to a more truthful and more beautiful good. Stories lure us because we sense this good hidden within them."
There is something truly empowering as we name our narratives, styles of relating, and stories in which they developed. We are then free to allow fresh new perspectives into our stories. I am reminded of a friend of mine who avoided desserts like the plague. As she named her internal narrative, she realized pleasure felt too luxurious and thus bad. Her parents grew up in the depression, luxury was considered dangerous, and they raised her with this unspoken message. Thus, the diet culture of ‘eat only the bare minimum’ fit lock and key to her internal narrative and story. Once she realized this, she was able to see how her life now is very different from her parents, and that luxury is no longer dangerous. As she engaged her story, she found a deeper wisdom that offered her freedom to eat dessert and the true goodness and delight of eating birthday cake with her daughter. There is healing power in engaging your story.
Dan Allender: To Be Told
Alice Baker, MS, RD, CEDRD, LDN has 20 years’ experience in the field of Eating Disorders. Due to her own recovery and the freedom she found, she was passionate about eating disorders from the beginning; therefore, did her field work in eating disorders and presented her case study on Anorexia Nervosa. Alice has served clients with eating disorders through the full spectrum of care from inpatient to outpatient. Throughout, her passion grew into creating structure for her clients to heal. This includes creating nutrition protocols for multiple eating disorder programs. Alice currently sees clients in private practice in Orlando, Florida, facilitates support groups, presents regularly on Eating Disorder topics, and supervises new dietitians in this rewarding field. In 2016, Alice obtained her Master’s in Counseling to empower her to also come alongside individuals therapeutically as they courageously look at their stories and walk the healing path. Visit her website.