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Food Shaming Is Just Not For Me

It’s Not The What…It’s The How

In the last month since I’ve decided to screw the scale and calorie-counting, I’ve learned a lot about my relationship with food. Mainly that it wasn’t/isn’t what I’m eating that is my greatest health hurdle…it’s how I’m eating it.

It’s not my love of chicken tenders, or baking. It’s not Krispy Kreme donuts or potato chips. I never feel guilty when I use a pizza delivery app when I don’t want to cook dinner. None of the unhealthy things that I love are what has given me nutritional concerns. It’s my relationship with food in general.

I’ve always said that I don’t keep junk around the house, but when I have a binge night? I’ll eat 3 bowls of granola. Or 4 peanut-butter sandwiches. In the big picture of health, what do you think is worse: A girl who binge-eats 4 peanut-butter bagels before bed, or the girl who has a decadent dessert with dinner one or two nights a week? The bagel girl, because she has an unhealthy relationship with food. I AM THE BAGEL GIRL.

The Easiest Nutritional Change Ever: STOP BEING STUPID

In the last month I’ve just eaten smart, but I’ve not deprived myself as long as I was still being smart. I was in Chattanooga last week and spent four days eating all of the yummy and interesting foods I wanted to try. We went to my favorite restaurant (Big River Brewery) and Donnie and I split the meatloaf and the fish-n-chips. Two of the richest things on the menu. We went out later for beer and banana pudding pie. We ate real and all natural hot dogs (SO GOOD). We drank fun sodas (APPLE PIE SODA!) and ate at a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlor. And you know the biggest sign that my relationship with food has changed?

I didn’t feel guilty about ONE bite.

Okay. Maybe I felt guilty about “accidentally” ordering Wes the wrong ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s and then eating it. But other than that? NO GUILT.

Here’s there thing: I LOVE FOOD. And I’ve decide that is OKAY. I just have to be smart. We only eat out about once a week here and we eat smart at home. Traveling to a new city where we walked several miles every day doing touristy stuff? I wasn’t going to then deprive myself of the chance to do the thing I love: EAT and DRINK and BE MERRY. I never binged. I never even ate when I wasn’t hungry. (Two things I’m VERY guilty of doing often.) I just enjoyed the mealtimes in a new city with yummy chances to try interesting foods.

And I came home and started expanding my Whole Food nutritional regiment. And this week I’ve eaten really smart. I’ve fueled my body excellently for my distance running and boot camp regiments, I’ve gotten good sleep, I’ve only had one beer and NO binging or eating out of stress/boredom. That 4 days of loving food in Chattanooga? Did me NO HARM whatsoever on the scale of Kim’s Healthy Living.

EVERYTHING Tastes Better Than Skinny Feels – Because FOOD IS AWESOME.

This is what I’ve decided during my new approach…that food shaming sucks. My healthy/fitness/diet problems have never EVER been about what I’m eating. Why does everyone blame the food? Because for ME? That’s NEVER been the problem. Maybe it’s JUST me, but I doubt it.

You know my least favorite “motivational” saying out there for people trying to lose weight? “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” There’s a more tolerable variation, “Nothing tastes as good as being fit feels.” But you know? I don’t like either of them. Why? BECAUSE FOOD IS AMAZING. Maybe for people who have a healthy relationship with food, but make the wrong choices? Maybe that saying is okay for THOSE people…but for me? It doesn’t work.

For me? It’s always been more about how I’m eating it the food: To make me happy when I’m sad/stressed/tired/bored. I’ll buy a box of diet snacks and eat them all in one sitting because I have nothing better to do. I’ll eat leftovers (of a healthy dinner!) at 9pm just because I’m anxious. I’ll eat a bowl of (healthy!) cereal because I’m down. So, in my world? That saying doesn’t do shit for me. Everything tastes better than skinny feels. Because, in that moment, I just want to BE EATING ALL OF THE FOODS to cure my anxiety/stress/exhaustion/boredom.

Food is NOT the evil thing for some of us. It’s the role food is filling in our lives.

In other words? I’m not going to blame food anymore. I’m not shaming food. I walked 2 miles…TWICE last weekend for Gourmet chocolate Covered bacon. Did I feel guilty eating it? HELL NO. 1) Because it was amazing and I’m totally trying to recreate it. 2) Because I had walked 3 miles trying to get to it (It was one mile away and not open the first time we tried, so we had to come back later) and there’s nothing wrong with the periodic yummy candy-coated pork experience after a long walk.

No More Food Shaming For Me

I’m not going feel guilty when periodically I make a decadent dessert for family dinner. I’m going to keep enjoying my favourite french fries at my favourite local restaurant! We keep finding new and exiting restaurants to try out with the Dandy Kat website! I’m not going to drink lite beer. I’m not going to buy sugar-free jelly. I’m just going to keep doing what suddenly feels like the smartest decision I’ve ever made: JUST EATING SMART. Do I bake the decadent desserts on a Tuesday night? No. But I’m baking two cakes for Sunday Family Dinner because I want to try them and can’t decide which one to bake! And you know what? THAT’S OKAY. I’ve already run 17 miles this week…why would I work that hard and then only eat almonds and fruit? I love food too much to live like that. If I can teach myself not to binge because I’m stressed then the periodic piece of cake does me no harm whatsoever because I’m eating smart the rest of the meals.

I’ve Been Her Before. I Like Me Now Better.

Those cakes will both taste better than skinny feels because skinny feels really shitty if you’re constantly feeling guilty and depriving yourself of good foods. I’ve been skinny in that mindset before, and as Sarah and I discussed recently: Cheesecake tastes better. I never allowed myself to have anything good. I also never exercised. Yes. I weight 108 pounds. But was she happier and healthier than me now? NO. Because she didn’t get to try chocolate covered bacon!

I think food shaming way back when I was trying to get skinny for my wedding is honestly the start of my unhealthy relationship with food. I deprived myself to wear that tiny dress, to be small for my dream day, and then years later I’m binging when I’m sad because I made food something I COULDN’T HAVE so therefore HAVING IT MUST MAKE ME HAPPY. Which – you know – is a really unhealthy outlook on food.

I remember on our Familymoon (after my wedding where I weighed the 108 pounds) I felt guilty that I kept trying key lime pie everywhere. Key Lime Pie is my favorite…and I was on my honeymoon! Why did I feel so guilty? But today. Almost 10 years later I still remember that feeling. I didn’t even enjoy it because I felt SO SHITTY eating it. But yesterday, when Hank Green tweeted about Key Lime Pie on a STICK? I thought: GET IN MAH BELLY. And I promise, when/if I ever find a place to enjoy something that wonderful? I’m not going to feel bad about it. Skinny or not.

I know this should not be relevant but I do want to show that this new mindset has helped on the scale too. In one month I’m down 4 pounds. The easiest 4 pounds I ever lost.

38 thoughts on “Food Shaming Is Just Not For Me”

  1. I’ve been reading you for a long time (years?) and so rarely comment but I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed these posts lately about eating and exercise. They’ve really motivated me to rethink my own relationship with food and exercise. So a great big THANK YOU! for sharing your experience. I look forward to reading more.
    AND–As a person who has started and stopped running many times, you are such an inspiration to me that someday I will be able to run more than I do now.

  2. Thanks, Cathy. When I started writing about my relationship with food SO MANY were like, “ME TOO!” so I thought I’d keep talking about it as I work through my own issues. I’m glad people don’t just think I’m insane 😉

  3. I love this SO MUCH. My success with weight loss and health efforts before has ALWAYS come from depriving myself of all my favorite foods entirely, and mostly without any exercising. Which is exactly why I never stayed successful, because I missed cake so much I’d eat the whole thing! Now I indulge sometimes, exercise all the time, and feel better than ever. The weight is coming off more slowly, but I’m visibly trimmer and stronger, so SCREW THE WEIGHT!

    You rock. Again.

  4. I love this post. There were so many moments where I was just “HELL YES” and you’re freaking RIGHT!

    How many times have I had my last piece of carrot cake? A LOT.
    Would I need the carrot cake if I just let myself have it when I wanted it? Prob not.

    You’re brilliant.

  5. And have you noticed that guilt totally ruins food? When you eat it sans voices telling you YOU SHOULDN’T BE EATING THIS…it tastes 10 times better! 😉

  6. YES. And with me I’ve done the whole, “Well…TOMORROW I’ll deprive myself of carrot cake so TODAY I will eat ALL OF IT.” Which, you know, is so dumb. I could have had one small piece today and maybe even another small piece tomorrow! If I wanted. Which I might not have because it wasn’t such temptation. 2 normal pieces over two days v/s half a cake in the 2 hour eating frenzy before bed one night “before I start my diet”? Yeah. I’ll take the first option.

  7. This may very well be my most favorite blog post of yours EVER! You have said so many of the things I’ve wanted to articulate for so long! I HATE that affirmation too (Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels)…I allways want to shout “well you obviously aren’t eating what I am!” and guess what skinney is not all that attractive. I have friends who deny themselves everything good. They survive on bean burgers and plain chicken and they may be skinny, but they really look like shit. Your clavicles and hip bones sticking out are not pretty. Its called an eating disorder. Their skin looks bad and their hair is a mess. Ive been there did that as well. Lost 30 lbs doing Atkins about 15 years ago. Was the thinnest I was in a long time but I was soooo miserable! I felt bad. I had bad breath. I was unhealthy. But damn it I was skinny. Fat is not good either and I firmly believe that any food in moderation is good. I won’t let my husband buy my favorite potato chips because I will sit and eat the entire bag in one sitting. But once in awhile I will buy the snack size to have with a sandwich.

    Food to me is so much more than just survival…its family, its love, its celebration! I grew up in a big Italian family and every gathering started around my grandmothers dining room table, covered with food and everyone laughing and hugging and just loving each other. We didn’t worry about diets or calories, it was just family. My brother became an Italian chef and all my cousins and I love to cook and have family over to eat and be together. Our gatherings could feed a neighborhood. People who live by that mantra are missing out on so much. Not too long ago some relatives who live far away came to visit so a bunch of us went out to dinner to a really great restaurant known for its home made food. We all ordered different things and spent a few hours eating and tasting each others dishes and having some drinks and just having a great time. Except for that cousin obsessed with her weigh. She sat at the end of the table with her plain bowl of lettuce, no dressing and glass of water. She looked so miserable. But she’s skinny, guess thats all that matters.

    I do need to lose weight. And I KNOW that I need to exercise. I am 45 now, weight doesnt come off as easy as it used to. I don’t want a miracle, I plan to do this over time and not deprive myself. I will make smart choices and cook healtheir, but I won’t pass up our traditional Sunday pasta dinner or a cold beer after working in the yard. Smaller portions…but I’ll still enjoy it.

    You are really an inspiration Kim! Thank you for writing this…you made me feel good today!

  8. I haven’t commented in forever, but I wanted to tell you that your posts the past few weeks have really been resonating with me — more than usual. I find myself saying, “Exactly, exactly.”

    I’ve struggled with an eating disorder since I was eight years old, and at 34 I’m so happy to read “EVERYTHING Tastes Better Than Skinny Feels – Because FOOD IS AWESOME.” and laugh, out loud, because yes, YES, food IS awesome.

  9. This is so, so great! I think you’ve had a breakthrough, Zoot! I don’t do much food shaming – probably because I’ve never counted calories or points or whatever. I so, so agree with you about those stupid sayings. I am just loving this post!

  10. I LOVE these posts lately. I also have such a weird relationship with food. The dumbest thing I do is sneaking food around. I generally eat pretty healthy (vegetarian, mostly whole-foods focus), but I eat A LOT when I think no one is looking, even when I’m not hungry… I’m pretty sure no one else cares what I eat and it’s not like I’m fooling myself! I really need to remind myself to quit sneaking around, because just because no one sees me eat all those extra calories doesn’t mean I didn’t eat them.

    Also, I was wondering if you might post sometime soon about running in the heat. I’m having a hard time here in DC (in the past, I’ve been a treadmill runner during the summer months, but I’m trying to run outdoors more), but I know you must have it harder where you are!

  11. You know what I’ve done before? Gone to Publix for groceries, bought a 6-pack of Krispy Kremes, and eat them IN MY CAR and then THROW AWAY THE BOX before I leave to go home so no one in my family knows.

    (And yes! I need to post about running in the heat. This is my first summer as a runner and I’ve learned a LOT.)

  12. Sarah Lena – Huntsville, AL – Sarah Lena has been writing online since the internet was born, or at least since it was cruising around living room furniture and drooling on everything. Her personal blog, The Anvil Tree, is where she basically moans and kvetches on a regular basis. Sarah Lena's deep love of pop culture knows no bounds, and there is no reality show she won't touch, no child-star she won't coax into rehab, and no Gosselin she won't awkwardly try and defend a little.
    Sarah Lena says:

    I was high fiving you so hard through this post that I pulled a muscle.

    World: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

    Sarah & Kim: “Wait, so you haven’t had cheesecake? You HAVE to try cheesecake. And BACON. Oh, God, bacon SO tastes better than skinny feels. And fruit! Fruit is AWESOME. So.. really, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN EATING? EVERYTHING tastes better!”

  13. Oh yes – been there, done that MANY times. It’s embarrassing how many times around Easter that I made a random stop at the CVS and pick up a package of Cadbury Creme Eggs, eat them all in the garage when I get home, and throw the empty package away in the apartment’s garbage bin (rather than bring it upstairs to my own) so my husband wouldn’t know.

  14. oh and the key lime pie thing? I haven’t yet met a key lime pie I didn’t want to marry. When we were in Myrtle Beach I had frozen chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. HEAVEN!

  15. Yes, yes, yes. I think I’m really lucky. I grew up in a house with a really healthy attitude towards food. My parents were both great cooks, and made almost everything from scratch. We had our own garden. But there were never “bad” foods. No one was ever on a “diet.” My parents were not very thin or very fit, but were reasonably healthy and active. We always had dinner together. I grew up seeing people enjoy food in a really balanced way. We always had salad and veggies and fresh fruit. But we also always had chips and cookies and ice cream in the house, and we enjoyed those too. It isn’t WHAT you eat – it’s HOW you eat it. All in balance.

  16. Since you mentioned Key Lime pie, I will just tell you in Key West they have Key Lime pie dipped in chocolate on a stick! It is one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. And when I ate it I did not feel one bit of guilt.

  17. That looks EXACTLY like what that guy was eating in the picture he posted on Twitter. I’m telling you – I will find a way to eat this wonderful treat AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It sounds/looks AMAZING.

  18. It’s not completely the same, but similar for me. I find that if I’m craving something or want to eat junk food, I need to just eat it b/c I’ll eat a couple hundred calories of junk and feel satisfied or I’ll spend way more calories trying to fill the void with something “healthy”. So clearly I could save time/energy and calories by just having a little bit of what I want (and enjoying it) rather than trying to trick my body into settling for something else. And by not making things “bad” or off limits, I find that I binge way less.

    And I totally agree… that mantra “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is a crock.

  19. last year i bought a treadmill and went on a diet, i stuck with it for about 3 1/2 months and lost 15 lbs, by the end of 2011 I had gained those same 15 lbs back…This new year I decided I really hate the treadmill and that I know how moody I get on a strict diet so I needed a new approach, on Jan 16th I started Zumba 3x weekly and filled in some light toning at home on some of my off days, I am down 25lbs and while the weight loss has been slow, because I am not depriving myself of the occasional treat, I can see this becoming a lifestyle choice…. I still have a minimum of 25lbs to lose, but I am not miserable doing it, and sometimes THAT IS THE POINT. I too am an emotional eater, and used to sneak food…. so I know where you are coming from, now I am trying to make smarter choices and forgiving myself for the rest.

  20. That’s the key: LIFESTYLE CHOICE. It’s not a diet or a short-term goal excercise plan. It’s a decision to just do things DIFFERENTLY. From now on. And yeah – the weightloss is slower, but the change is more permanent!

  21. I swear I think we’re sisters…from another mother…or father…or soul sisters…or blog sisters…or whatever. Maybe you’re just a mind-reader…or have ESP…GET OUTTA MAH HEAD! LOL

    Seriously, I’ve been feeling the same way as you w/regards to food and even w/parenting (terrible 8.5 months vs. terrible 2s). Main difference? You’re running 100 miles a month where I am just (still) trying to finish my Couch to 5k / run 30 miles a month.

  22. I think the lightbulb moment for me was when I realized I can keep trying things so that exercise doesn’t have to suck….. I don’t dread my Zumba classes like I dreaded the treadmill, and when I go on walks in my neighborhood (I have mapped out several routes so i know how many miles each route is)…. I really enjoy the time to myself and it is completely different walking outside versus a treadmill… I actually LOVE IT… I walked 6 miles the other weekend because it was making me so happy… what in the world!! LOL When we went camping I walked the hills of the campground every day and thoroughly enjoyed a S’more around the campfire at night and came home down two pounds…. that right there spoke VOLUMES! I will never be the kind of person who becomes a “gym rat” and likes it…but there are ways to change that don’t make you miserable!

  23. that should have said 6 miles in one day… which isn’t a huge achievement for most people but for me… and the fact that I did so happily… HUGE

  24. YES. That’s like when I learned how much nicer running was with people I can talk to. I was like, “OH! I could run forever with these people!” You just have to find what works though, and not be afraid to try new things b/c I used to thing running groups were WEIRD. Who runs with other people? And why?

  25. BE PROUD OF THE SIX MILES! A year ago I just ran my first 10K and I’m STILL proud of those 6 miles 😉

  26. HA! Last year at this time I wasn’t running ANY miles per week, so you’re doing great!!! 😉

  27. Thank you so much for this. Last week I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app because I want to lose 20 lbs. I’m not quite overweight, but I’m toward the higher end of the healthy range, and my knees are absolutely killing me right now (I have a congenital knee deformity). I know dropping some weight would help the situation. I do go to the gym 3-4 times per week, but high impact exercise hurts my knees. So anyway, I’m 35 and this is my first attempt at calorie counting or dieting in my life, and I’m having the hardest time not becoming obsessed with measuring and recording every little bite of food that I eat. I’m losing weight, yes. I’m also having nightmares about going 50 calories over my daily limit, and I can’t enjoy food now. This is insanity. I love eating. I don’t want to dream about calorie guilt; I want to dream about Paul Bettany. I think I’m going to forget about My Fitness Pal, eat what I like in smaller portions and do a better job controlling my snack food grazing.

  28. YES!! Up until a few years ago, I had no problem eating anything I wanted and keeping my weight down. I have NEVER liked to exercise, not even a little. I inherited my dad’s small-frame genes, to a point. But it has really started catching up with me in the last few years and I realized something had to change. I eat a lot better than I used to, but much like your revelation here, I love food. I am never completely giving up all the delicious things I enjoy….so, exercise it is.

    I’ve been skinny too, and I can absolutely say that many, many things taste better than skinny feels!

  29. Yes! I love food, too. And I love to make food. YUMMY food. Meaning: butter and cream and sugar and bacon. Not every single meal, but often. I don’t want to eat food I don’t enjoy. I don’t want to force my family to eat food they don’t enjoy. I do also make vegetables and we do like simple food, too, like grilled fish or veggie kabobs. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t also enjoy smores cookies (OMG!). There was a piece in the NYTimes (I think?) about foodies and chefs and how even the most gourmet person has SOMETHING they love that is not fancy. Cheez-Its or American Cheese or whatever, Spam. One of the quotes was “I would rather not be pious about things.” I loved this. To me that basically means shaming OTHERS about food. (Oh, here it is. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/dining/top-chefs-say-that-sometimes-only-supermarket-brands-will-do.html?_r=1&smid=fb-share)

  30. After I posted it I looked at the prices and nearly passed out! Maybe you can find them locally at a fair or festival…

  31. Kim, The very first time I ever read the phrase ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ it was hand written on a notecard and pinned to the wall of one of my dear friends. She was in the beginning stages of her long and painful struggle with anorexia and it was in that moment as I was ripping that awful mantra off of her wall that it occurred to me how sick my sweet friend was. It’s a terrible, shitty, horrible phrase and I’ll always see it as ana-propoganda. Thank you for being a shining example of what true beauty looks like and how insanely awesome it is to have a strong, healthy body and a positive relationship with food. Thank you for your attention to these issues.

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