Three Steps to Make Peace With Food

By Erin O'Brien

Many of my stories about food and my body date back ten or fifteen years. I will briefly catch you up if you haven’t read any of my stories. I struggled with disordered eating. To break free and heal, I came up with many different tools and resources. Ultimately, my lessons taught me to love and accept myself. During my many years of healing, I also learned a lot about nutrition, mindfulness, yoga, relationships, growing food, teaching, and learning methods. I became fascinated with how people break habits and make lasting changes. Many incredible people came into my life and offered support. And I, in turn, supported others. With new tools and a growing community of friends and family, I learned to love and accept myself. With self-love, acceptance and awareness, I discovered a strong capacity to make positive changes in my life. As I grew happier, I became more loving and ultimately less judgmental of other people.

My personal mission statement is to inspire joy and peace. I believe this joy and peace begins within myself and, from there, extends out into the world. My mission can feel ironic at times, because so many of my stories are full of pain and struggle. I shared these stories initially, because I found so much softening in myself when other people were open and vulnerable with me. I literally felt like other people’s vulnerability melted me. I would get all warm and fuzzy and soft inside when I came across authors and people who shared their life stories and struggles. These people helped me to realize self-compassion and vulnerability was possible for me too. Because it felt so good, I wanted to provide that for others. I wanted to share in a way that others would feel that same inspiration and acceptance.

The challenge I face now is that many of the stories and sentiments I have shared in the past do not match my current state of being. This is actually hard to say after years of defining my healing process by being open and vulnerable about my struggles and pain. These days I feel light and healthy and happy, most of the time. Of course, I went through all of my pain and suffering to get here. And, I still go through my pain and suffering each day to arrive in a place of contentment. Everything I have done in my life has led to this moment. That said, I am curious to know what is happening now that is inspiring this lightness, this joyfulness? Perhaps my current state of affairs will be even more useful to share.

During this morning’s conversation with my husband before work, I realized that my goal with my writing is to enter the present and talk about what is happening now. I am sure there will be plenty of opportunities for openness and vulnerability in my life right now. And something inside of me thinks this journey will be far more juicy. After all, it’s easy to be vulnerable about the past and far more difficult to be open about what is happening right now.

I will start with the joy I am feeling this morning. My question is this: What inspires joyful relationships with food and the body? 

ONE: COOKING AND FOOD PREP

This morning I peeled and diced a butternut squash grown in the garden. I turned the oven to 375*, heated up a cast iron pan, added some butter, and threw in the orange cubes of squash. Prepping food helps me to choose whole foods instead of packaged snack foods when I am hungry. Today’s food prep supports my go-to Fall breakfast, which is roasted butternut squash, topped with sauteed greens and a fried or poached egg. This meal tastes delicious and provides my body with protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals, not to mention the ingredients are seasonal, local and nutritious. This meal is good for me and good for the planet. Win-win.

TWO: GROWING FOOD

Harvesting food from my own garden reminds me of life’s capacity for miracles. Growing food, from seed to roots to stem to leaf to flower to fruit and back to seed teaches me about the cycle of life. When I am in my garden, or working with food from the garden, I am reminded that there is so much beauty in the world. Something about fresh, homegrown produce makes me feel like so much of this world is alive and wonderful and miraculous. This is an essential reminder when we are living among a disturbing political environment and taking in uncomfortable news on a daily basis.

THREE: FOCUSING ON THE PARTS OF LIFE THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH FOOD.

When I make time on a daily basis to be with people I love and do the work and activities I love, my relationship with food becomes more joyful. I love walking on the beach or the trails by the ocean. When I am walking, floating, swimming, running, cycling, or paddling through pristine nature surrounded by people I love, I am joyful and peaceful. This joy translates into the mealtime experience as well.

When I am already feeling whole and my emotional hungers are well fed, the hunger I experience for food is purely physical. During these moments, I am far less picky and also more grateful for the food that I get to eat during mealtimes. I eat what I want when I am hungry and I stop when I have had enough. I know the parts of life that have nothing to do with food are, ironically, the most important part of my personal joy around food. And so, I prioritize the parts of my life that make me feel whole, joyful and loving. This is not selfish. When I feel joyful, I am more generous and loving with others. Win-win.

Enough about me. What about you? If you feel inspired, please share how you make peace with food and life in the comments below. I would love to learn from you.