Why our relationships to food affect our whole lives (plus free tool)
Does your relationship to food get in the way of you living your best life?
If your answer is yes, please know it is really common in our culture to get distracted by the latest diets and fitness obsessions, and then led down into a rabbit hole of life-sucking behaviors that certainly don’t help us live into our values. They actually do the opposite, and take us away from what is really important in life.
That’s why, today, I want to talk life values – the reasons why we feel like our lives are worth living. It’s what lights us up and helps us to get up in the morning. It’s something I reflect on and check myself on frequently. Whenever I start to feel weird or off in my life, I ask myself, “Am I living in alignment with my values?” and I think about what my values are – connection, challenge, intimacy, adventure, authenticity and self-care – and most of the time, my answer is, “Nope, I fell off for a bit,” and then I do the work around my thoughts and behaviors to get back on. Life happens, it’s messy and it is unrealistic to think just because you have values that you will always live in alignment with them. Resilience and pulling yourself back in line with your values is key.
So, What does this have to do with food?
It’s also always one of the first questions I ask my clients after we’ve started working together: What are your highest life values?
Why though, would I do that in nutrition counseling? Because 10 times out of 10, disordered thoughts and behaviors around food keep people from living values-aligned lives – being the people they want to be and living purposeful, fulfilling lives. And once they have identified what is really significant in their lives and visualize who they want to be in this world, that becomes an incredibly powerful WHY for healing relationships to food.
By far, the most commonly shared, most coveted value named in my counseling work is human connection. It also happens to be mine. I mean, really, why else are we alive than to connect with each other?
So, I’ll use human connection as one example value to explain how unhealthy relationships to food can keep us from living into a value, as well as how truly healthy relationships to food can help support us living into one:
If someone is participating in behaviors like following rigid dieting rules, counting calories, or going out of his/her way to avoid certain foods/ingredients, it can interfere with living out the value of human connection by:
➢ Keeping him/her isolated at home because he/she cannot eat out.
➢ Preventing him/her from being fully engaged and present with people at meals because he/she is worried and thinking about the food.
➢ Stopping him/her from engaging in cultural food traditions with others while traveling (or stopping him/her from traveling altogether).
➢ Blocking him/her from participating in celebratory meal occasions and food traditions.
➢ Stopping him/her from sharing fun and spontaneous eating experiences with others.
If someone has a nourishing and balanced relationship to food, it can support him/her in living out his/her value of human connection by (hint: it’s the opposite of everything listed above!):
➢ Allowing him/her to enjoy meals out with loved ones, and to try new restaurants.
➢ Supporting him/her in showing up to meals fully, engaged in conversation, enjoying both the food and company without distraction.
➢ Allowing him/her to explore other cultures and cuisines with freedom, and to enjoy traveling.
➢ Letting him/her freely enjoy celebratory meal experiences and food traditions with others.
➢ Supporting him/her in being spontaneous with eating and enjoying fun food experiences with other people.
Here are some examples of life values. I encourage you to look through them and decide on your top five to six values. Define each one for yourself – what does it mean for your unique self?
And I’ll leave you with a journal prompt I give many of my clients to help them build awareness around how their behaviors and thoughts around food help them to live into or prevent them from living into their highest life values: Values Alignment .
Remember, values-alignment is a practice to help you show up in your life the way you want to and the way that feels best for you, and the goal is never perfection.
If you wish to delve deeper into healing your relationship to food, please visit my Nutrition Counseling page to learn about my services. If you are looking for a group setting, please visit my Retreatspage to learn about an upcoming Spring retreat.
In true health,