A New Way to Celebrate Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day was always a very special occasion when I was young.

For dinner, my mom would make a heart-shaped meatloaf and individual heart-shaped strawberry Jell-O molds.

Afterwards, my dad would give each kid a shiny-red heart-shaped box of chocolates. He still sends us a box every year. I cherish this ritual.

I also love the idea of introducing a new Valentine’s Day ritual—one that doesn’t involve a bouquet of flowers, fancy restaurant meal or expensive sparkly jewelry. It doesn’t even involve another person.

In celebration of cupid’s day, I propose you take a moment to rest your hands on your heart and send your body some major love, adoration and appreciation.

After all, the relationship you have with your body is the longest relationship you will ever have. 

Love it up.

I Really Did This… (How Dieting Made Me Crazy)

When I was obsessed with losing weight, I was hyperconscious about every single morsel that entered my mouth. 

One of my go-to snacks was sea-salt soy crisps. I would carefully count out one serving, putting 21 crisps into a bowl. This portion equated to an allowable 120 calories.

I would snap at my boyfriend if he innocently grabbed a handful from my bowl to munch on. It left me unsure about how many crisps I could still eat, which caused me great anxiety.

One day, after months of eating these soy crisps, I happened to glance at the nutrition facts label on the back of the package. To my horror, the serving size had changed from 21 crisps to 17, yet the calories remained the same. I had no idea how long ago the change had been made.

I was so incensed, I fired an angry email off to the company’s customer service department. I complained about how incredibly misled I felt. I had been deceived and demanded an explanation.

I don’t remember what the company’s written response was, but they did mail me some coupons.

When I recalled this event years later, I felt deeply embarrassed and ashamed. I still can’t imagine what the person who received my email must have thought about me (hello, crazy lady!).

Dieting’s Dark Side
While I still feel a tad bit embarrassed, I now see this experience as a powerful example of the negative impact dieting can have on not only your physical health, but also your mental health.

Along with making you do crazy things, dieting can:

  • Intensify food and body preoccupation

  • Trigger cravings and binges

  • Reduce your ability to recognize and honor your hunger and fullness signals

  • Provoke feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, hopelessness and more

  • Erode self-trust, self-esteem and confidence

  • Lead to harmful food rules, disordered eating and eating disorders

  • Slow your metabolism

  • Increase your risk of gaining more weight (up to two-thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lost)

  • Raise your cortisol level (dieting is inherently stressful)

  • Become all-consuming, while other parts of your life suffer, like your relationships, social life, career and hobbies

These are just some of the harmful effects of dieting, but hopefully, it’s enough to help you consider whether or not it’s worth it.  

Ditching Diets Can Be Scary
It can be scary to let go of dieting, especially when it seems like everyone around you is on some type of diet.

If you’re ready to liberate yourself, you can learn how to trust your body wisdom again and return to the intuitive eater you came into this world as. I don’t have any magical powers. If I can do it, so can you.

 

 

 

Do You Experience A Lot of Food Guilt?

Does your eating often make you feel guilty?

Whenever you experience guilt from eating, it’s often a sign you have a “food rule” you need to let go of.

A food rule is a thought or belief regarding what is or isn’t allowed when it comes to your eating. Here are some common ones:

  • No eating after 7 p.m.
  • I can only eat a specific number of carbs, calories or points a day.
  • No snacking between meals.
  • High-carb foods are off limits (e.g., greens are good; bread and pasta are bad).
  • Every meal must contain a certain number of protein grams.
  • I’m allowed one cheat day a week.
  • Foods made with white flour, added sugars, etc. are forbidden.
  • Gluten is a no-no (even though I don’t have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance).
  • No sweets.
  • No seconds.

Although often well-intentioned, there are many problems with food rules. For example, they…

  • Disregard your body’s wisdom and needs, including its internal cues of hunger and fullness.
  • Dictate your food choices regardless of how your body feels.
  • Dismiss your food preferences and desires.
  • Generate feelings of deprivation, which often results in intense cravings, overeating and binge eating.
  • Provoke a make-up mentality (e.g., I must compensate for eating dessert by skipping breakfast or exercising longer tomorrow).
  • Cultivate a mistrustful relationship with yourself, your body and food.
  • Inject misplaced morality into your relationship with food (e.g., I'm good if I eat this, bad if I eat that).
  • Create an eating environment that breeds feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, frustration, disappointment, anger, confusion and helplessness.
  • Lead to social anxiety and isolation.
  • Consume headspace, time and energy that could be devoted to more fulfilling, meaningful, productive and pleasurable thoughts and actions.
  • Decrease self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Cause A LOT of unnecessary suffering.

Challenge Your Rules
As you can see, it’s well worth challenging your food rules and examining how they are impacting you.

With a curious, nonjudgmental mind, ask yourself: Where did this rule come from? Is it true? Is it really serving me? Is it based on my own direct experience or an external “authority?” Is it truly honoring, respecting and being kind to my body? Is it reasonable, sustainable, pleasurable and satisfying? Is it flexible enough for my life?

Some of your rules may be top of mind and others may be buried deeper, like lingering rules from past diets or your childhood home you aren’t aware you’re still adhering to.

If you’re unsure if you have food rules, pay attention to emotions like guilt or shame or “should” or “shouldn’t” thoughts that arise from eating. They will point you toward your rules.

If you have trouble identifying or releasing your food rules, yet know you would benefit from doing so, I encourage you to seek support.

Keep in mind, there is no need for food rules—or cause for guilt—when you let your body’s natural wisdom guide you.