40-Somethings - How do you develop a casual relationship with food?

01-09-2012, 08:44 PM
I'm an emotional eater. When things are going well I don't have a problem maintaining my weight, as soon as there is a problem -- bam! Time to buy new jeans!

A series of major problems hit all at once a few years ago and I gained a lot of weight. Now I have been in therapy with an eating disorder specialist for over a year, and am developing a new lifestyle.

One issue I'm dealing with is developing a more casual relationship with food. I would rather spend my time thinking about and doing the things I love to do, and just eat to keep my body going, instead of constantly obsessing about what I'm going to eat next. I'm doing well with this, however, it's sort of difficult to have a casual attitude toward food when I'm constantly having to count calories or keep track of whatever diet I'm on.

Does anyone else have this issue?

01-09-2012, 09:23 PM
I read Dr. Judith Beck's books and they helped me tremendously. I feel like I've beaten down the demons of emotional and binge eating, but I know that I have to be super vigilant or they will come back. I've reached goal (beyond, actually), but I still continue to journal everything I eat, count calories, and exercise 4-6 times a week. I enjoy my new lifestyle and I'm so happy that I have a healthy relationship with food, new-found appreciation for my body and all it can do, and don't have to worry about all the health issues associated with obesity.

You can overcome this! Wishing you strength, determination, and success on your weight loss journey.

01-09-2012, 09:41 PM
I suppose some folks actually can develop a casual attitude toward food, but I tend to think that doing so is very difficult for those of us who have dieting much of our adult life. Our diet-obsessed and image-obsessed culture has been the impetus for people people to develop disordered eating and/or ways of thinking about food. I know that if I were to not plan my food (somewhat) and think about what I'm going to eat, I would probably start regaining my weight. I've come to terms with these facts:

1) I have an abnormal attitude toward food due to all the years of dieting. It would take an immense amount of effort to try to change that, and based on past experiments (e.g., intuitive eating), I do not believe I would ultimately be successful.

2) I am not a good estimator and need external tools (e.g., calorie counting, food scales, etc.) to help me eat an appropriate amount. Maybe one day, I'll be able to wing it, but until then, I'll count calories, weigh my food, etc.

3) I love food and always will love food. As such, I do not want to regulate it to just "fuel" for my body. I also like to eat it for pleasure.

These are some realities I've learned to accept. Everyone has limitations. Some people cannot budget their finances and have to pay an accountant or use spreadsheet software to help them. Similarly, my limitations involve food, and I'll use the tools I must.

01-09-2012, 09:49 PM
I've read that a lot of successful maintainers (which are few and far between) do not have a casual relationship with food. In order to keep within their maintenance range they must always watch what they eat and how much of it.

I know that personally I can't really ever have a casual relationship with food. I must always pay attention to what I eat and how much because it's very easy to go overboard when I don't track my calories.

If you look at people who seem to have a casual relationship with food, especially those who seemingly can eat whatever they want and stay thin, you'll see that they do portion control, just without thinking about it.

3) I love food and always will love food. As such, I do not want to regulate it to just "fuel" for my body. I also like to eat it for pleasure.

I love this. I've done the same thing because food is fun and awesome and I want to enjoy it :)

I've read so many fitness blogs that tell people food is just fuel and we should think of our bodies as machines...I disagree. Food is social, fun and pleasurable. We can learn to mix the fuel and fun and stay healthy at the same time.

01-09-2012, 09:54 PM
Yeah, I don't think food and I are going to be casually dating or just friends with benefits anytime soon. If I want to keep my weight in a healthy range it requires constant vigilance.

Maybe the issue could be how to have a mindful relationship with food that's not upsetting.

01-09-2012, 10:57 PM
I tried casual when I got to 185. I'm 219 now...

The question that works for me is, "Why would I put this in my body?"

01-10-2012, 12:24 AM
I'm not saying that I will ever have a truly casual relationship with food, but I feel I'm in a much better place than I was last year at this time in regards to food. What I can say is it doesn't happen overnight, it takes a lot of practice with trial/error {did I mention the error part? :dizzy:}, and it does take some work.

What I keep reminding myself when it comes to portion size is 'I can always have more or something else later...", the food equivalent of 'start with this'.

01-10-2012, 10:04 AM
I eat 6 times a day. I figure out what I'm going to eat the night before and get it ready. It takes me about 20 minutes. There is, unfortunately, nothing casual about that. I expect that I will never be casual about food again. My biggest problem, like weebleswobble alluded to, is that my relationship with food has always been casual and this has led me to eat whatever, whenever I wanted. The result of this is that I'm more than 60 pounds heavier than I want to be and I'm at dangerous levels of visceral fat.

I can no longer afford to have a casual relationship, however, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy what I eat. I just have to find things I like that also fit within my lifestyle. I also can afford to eat things, occasionally, that aren't. But what I can't do is eat constantly the things that are not good for me.

And looky there. Time to eat...

01-10-2012, 02:20 PM
I was just talking about this with my son and boyfriend on our little morning carpool today. Specifically, I was wondering what it is that makes some people feel that there isn't going to be enough. You know, that why even bother? feeling some of us get when we see people eat a couple of chips or a square of chocolate and then walk away. Or the "OMG is there going to be enough for [me] everyone?" panic.

Here's my story, quickly: My mother was terrified that I would get fat, and seriously restricted my diet when I was a kid, and I was always hungry (and not fat!). At 2 years old, I ended up in the hospital for "failure to thrive," which doesn't just happen. I think my mother was both deeply depressed and eating disordered. So, I started dieting and obsessing on food very very young.

So, I can see the origins of my own disordered eating. I tried very consciously not to foist this not-casual approach to eating off on my own child by not depriving him and not getting neurotic about what he wants to eat. But, it didn't work. He has somehow picked up my neurosis and has gained a lot of weight, which he is extremely self-conscious about. I suppose just telling him that the world is not going to run out of pizza isn't going to cut it if I act like we're stocking up for the great pizza famine.

I would love to have a carefree, joyful, healthy relationship to food. I am quite sure that my metabolism (the result of a childhood spent hungry, eating disorder, and now being over 40 and perimenopausal) won't allow it. I'll always have to be mindful of what I eat, but maybe that doesn't mean being obsessed. Like PixelChick, I would love to spend my mental energy on other things.

I have been reading/researching/writing about addiction and OCD lately, and I have learned that the brain is very capable of changing its patterns, though it takes commitment. So, I'm going to start putting what I'm learning into practice in this area of my life. If you're interested in this, let me recommend a fantastic book by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz called You Are Not Your Brain. It's brilliant. I'm about halfway in right now, so if anyone's interested in picking it up and doing a little book-club thingy, I'm down for that.

01-10-2012, 02:52 PM
something has changed for me this time though. I am still cooking for people.

When I was "on my diet" before, I would literally not step foot into the kitchen, except for to grab my specifically allowed items for myself. I would not do food prep for my family. food prep fell to my husband (he liked to cook) and 9/10 dinner was a big south beach salad anyway.

Now I'm cooking. Last night was cheese and onion enchilada, rice and beans, a tray of celery and carrots, with greek yogurt and pom arils for dessert.

My husband was all "nom nom nom"

But that was what I wanted to eat. I had one enchilada (whole wheat tortilla, very little cheese, no oil, lots of veg's in the homemade sauce, with black beans and soy crumbles), a small bit of rice (basmati with some tomatoes) and beans (the rest of the black beans smooshed with a tiny bit of cheese). And I munched on carrots and celery with chipotle greek yogurt dip.

And for dessert, greek yogurt with pom arils. :) YUM. :) But, the funny thing was, I got done eating dinner, and said, "I'll eat the dessert later."

01-10-2012, 04:17 PM
Food is social, fun and pleasurable. We can learn to mix the fuel and fun and stay healthy at the same time.

AMEN sistah! :D

For ME- it's all about having a nice BALANCE!
I eat healthy foods 80% of the time & 20% of the time I let my hair down & eat whatever I want. By doing so, it certainly makes MY maintenance far far easier. My first 2 years of maintenance I was anal about eating perfectly & that just sent me into binge mode. :( But once I incorporated the "so called forbidden foods" back into my life - LIFE is so much SWEETER for me- literally! :T
Perfection smerfection was NOT something I could do for life. :dizzy: However- 80/20 is totally sustainable for ME! :)
SO yeah, I mix my fuel & still have my fun (by having my cake & eating it too). I'm a social butterfly going out socializing & entertaining often & running 2 businesses, & by working out daily- I continue to stay fit & healthy!

Yuppers- I'm going on 5 years of maintenance! :carrot: I prefer living my LIFE & I refuse to let food be on my mind 24/7, I have far more important things to do and see & accomplish yet in this lifetime. Yeah I know I am a rare bread around here & many peeps will be :o. But that's my story & I'm sticking to it! :D

Pixelchick- Being your an emotional eater- try & sit with any emotion you are feeling & literally FEEL the emotion, instead of reaching for food to numb out the feelings. I know it's hard sometimes & that is what the majority of people do, but I think it truly is mind over matter mindset. Wish you the best today and always. ~ Wendalyn