Sunday, April 15, 2012

Would you Kick an Old Lady's Cane?

Last week a dietician came to my class to discuss food issues and how at a very young age food evolves into deep emotional issues. Did you know that at merely 4 years old children start to associate food with social occasions and emotions? Children are sponges; they watch what you eat and they associate emotions with food just like you do although they may not realize it.

I was dumbstruck at how many children (I'm talking elementary school age) clients she councils for eating disorders and body image issues. I was and still am alarmed that the amount of children under counseling is drastically increasing! I'd guess that the majority of you reading this aren't children but you were a child once. Thus, you must have created your own emotions towards food (both good and bad). Thinking back, when did food become emotional for you? What events made this relationship with food ignite?

She also brought up the point that if you keep talking about "dieting" your child is most likely picking up on that. Since I don't have kids, I am wondering what you parents think of that. Has your child ever mentioned "going on a diet"?

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Someone may know all the correct things, and in fact many people do or think they do at least. Veggies = good Soda = bad... right? You could give someone all of the advice and direction in the world but unless they make the decision themselves, there will be no permanent, lasting changes.

The RD gave us the analogy of an old lady walking with her cane. Just as the old woman is dependent on that cane to get by in life, many (many, MANY!) people are dependent on an emotional connection to food to get through life. You wouldn't kick her cane would you? You cannot rip away people's "canes" to get them to eat better.

She kept emphasizing the importance of balance. We cannot escape the fact that society has placed food on a pedestal for rewards, special occasions, and for being an emotional crutch. Think birthday cakes, Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas cookies, etc. The RD continued to say that sharing in these events is an important part of development. Guilt, obsession, stress, frustration, anxiety, depression, I could go on and on... cause us to beat ourselves up over eating a cookie. Deprivation is not good and can lead us to do extreme things like eating an entire batch of cookies instead of just one. Then, we enter that same emotionally dependent, "beat ourselves up" cycle and we just feel like our world has ended. Eating one cookie is not the reason you are overweight. More clearly stated: a dietician was telling me that eating a cookie will not kill me. I REPEAT: EATING A SMALL COOKIE WILL NOT KILL ME.

Yes, I can accept that eating a cookie may not help move me toward my fat loss goals. 
No, I will not feel guilty about having a cookie. Actually, I refuse to because my relationship with food needs to be healthy.
I need to focus on my relationship with food and not on the cookie itself.

Truth is we all have different goals. We all have unique bodies that respond to various foods and exercises in different ways. If you're aiming to look like a fitness model I wouldn't head straight to the dessert table but not everyone is aiming to be a fitness model.
At the end of the day, the most important lesson to learn is not carb cycling or saturated fats vs. unsaturated fats. Its how to have a healthy relationship with food.
Let's end this cycle.

Today you may have an emotional crutch with food and I'm here to tell you that you are not alone. Thousands of women and men feel the exact same way you do. The answer isn't to kick the cane, the answer is to look deep into yourself and figure out how that cane got there. From there, you and only you, can put down the cane when you are ready.

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