So this is the second part of my blog post on food, control and uncertainty. If you read my first post, you will know that I fully intended it to only be one post, but I guess I have a lot to say on the topic. It might be because it is super topical right now, but it likely is because I have so much experience trying to control my food experiences, at all times, let alone during times as uncertain as these. I truly hope that these posts will speak to someone during these times and help normalize these feelings. And only if a person is truly ready, not because they feel they should because they heard that this is the time to improve or make changes in their lives, perhaps inspire them to work towards changing this narrative. Because at the end of the day, if this pandemic has taught us anything, life is too short to let our relationships with food be so impacted by external forces that it causes us distress and negative effect on our wellness. So, without further ado, let me begin.
Today I want to talk about the other side of what I talked about in my last blog post. Unlike using food to comfort us to seek control during uncertain times or feeling out of control around food because we are unable to deal with our lack of control of a situation, the polar opposite approach to seeking control is uncertain times is heavily rooted in diet culture. Seeing as I spent 10 years on diets and recovering from an eating disorder that started after my first diet, this topic can bring me to a place that I never want to go again. I truly understand the feeling though. There is a part of me that still loves routine, being told what to do and being perfect. The thing is that I know now that there is no way that our lives are always routine, I can’t have someone always tell me what to do and perfection is just not possible. Now, if you are wondering how this relates to food and control, stick with me.
When we feel like we can’t control things in our lives, we seek ways to balance that out. Strictly following diets in an effort to control our circumstances can often put us into a place where we feel in control of something. This is why diets can be so attractive. The start of a diet, when we feel super in control and killing it feel amazing. We are proud of ourselves. We notice changes in our bodies and think that this equates to wellness. And maybe a part of it is if we had been completely out of control with our wellness before. But remember this isn’t the full picture of wellness. Trying to strictly control anything in our lives only causes a power balance between what we think we can control and what is actually possible (often somewhere in the grey middle area). I often call this middle area the sweet spot. Where we can have some expectations about what things can look like but can also be happy when they don’t turn out this way. And like it or not, most restrictive diets don’t allow for that sweet spot.
The other issue that can also put us far outside this sweet spot is when we look to seek control in reaction to using food to comfort us. As we are at the complete opposite end of the spectrum in this situation, any attempt to swing to one of extreme restriction will only cause our inner rebel to come out and at the first sign of inability to follow the rules, will abandon them outright in all or nothing fashion only further damaging wellness more than staying at the other end.
So, Jen, what exactly does this all mean? Well, if you have stuck with me so far and have read my previous stuff, you know that love is our guiding lamppost. We need to recognize that none of these attempts is inherently “bad” and are really quite normal. Almost everyone has attempted a variation of these methods and lived to tell the tale. Right now though, there is so much uncertainty and feelings of looking for control in some way or another are bound to bring up feelings. Sitting with these feelings is a great start. Honouring these feelings, that that are normal and that it’s ok to feel them is important. Working through them is great if you can get there. Talking to someone, journalling or engaging in supreme acts of self care can help to unpack some of this and make us feel better. At the end of the day, being kind to ourselves and loving ourselves through whatever choices we make with compassion is really the cure to it all. And really, today could use a bit more of this.
Until next time. Xoxo Jen
Note: while I am anti diet, I recognize that some people can successfully diet in ways that are not restrictive or in ways that does not affect their overall wellness in the ways I have described. As always, you know yourself and no judgement if you have something that truly works. I just caution as research on eating disorder causation is heavily linked to dieting. Anyways, just wanted to put that out there for those of you who might want to know my stance on this. I plan to discuss this further at a later date. I’m about love, not judgement 😘