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New Year’s Resolution 2011: Get on the right track with food and eating

Danielle B. (Klotzkin) Grossman
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE – For those who struggle with food and eating, the New Year often brings the resolution to do better this time around. Lose weight, get fit, eat more healthfully.

You might tell yourself you must be more disciplined, you just need to take control. That you’ve got to ‘just do it’.

But isn’t that what you said last year, and the year before, and the year before? Maybe somewhere inside your self you know, after all of these months and years of hope and defeat with your body goals, it’s not that simple for you. So, how may you help yourself treat your body well?

Resolve to give up your control war and commit to a healthy relationship with food.

• When you try to ‘control’ food, you are fighting a losing battle. You end up exhausted and stuck in a cycle of feeling like you are finally getting somewhere, and then wind up further than ever from your health goals. It is a continually escalating war and ultimately leaves you weak and frustrated.

• Giving up on the control war does not mean giving up on your health goals. Actually, it is the opposite – giving up on trying to control food gives you the chance to take the path to stable and sustainable health and well being through a healthy relationship with food.

• A healthy relationship with food is like any other healthy relationship. It is built on honesty and respect. When we look honestly at food, we see it is powerful, tricky and confusing.

• Food soothes, it nourishes, it calms, it excites, it creates safe bubble space, it helps us to sleep, it is intensely pleasurable, it lets us rebel and say “I do what I want,” it keeps our minds occupied, it numbs us from pain, it gets us from one moment to the next when we feel like we can’t go on, it protects us from loneliness.

• Food seems like a great best friend. At least at first. It is always there when we need it. It keeps our secrets. It satisfies our needs quickly. It feels like a safe relationship.

But it has power to disappoint and harm us as well – it only works temporarily, it can make us feel ill, change our shape and set us spinning in vicious circles of hunger, sickness, pain, depression, anxiety, self-loathing, and isolation. Food is also complex beyond our understanding – the more we learn about diet and weight and brains and bodies, the more we see how little we know.

Be honest about what food can, and cannot, provide for you. Be appreciative of its pleasures. Be clear about its trickster nature, and how it can hypnotize you into ignoring future consequences. Respect the power of food. Do not imagine you can simply use your will to control it.

Engage with food with a willingness to continually learn more about it, and to understand how it affects you, for better and for worse.

Develop other sources of meeting your needs. When food is our only option for taking care of our selves, we give it way too much power. We are at the mercy of its fickle and stubborn nature. We lose the power to say no to its temptations. Beyond using food, we need ways to calm down, ways to feel excited about life, ways to feel safe and ways to feel connected and valuable. We need activities and rituals and other relationships to satisfy our needs.

Finding these other avenues for self-care can be a challenge. Nothing and no one is going to be as good or fast to fulfill our needs as food. We may have turned to food to take care of our selves after painful or traumatic experiences left us feeling unsafe or untrusting with others or life in general. In that case, the path to a healthy relationship with food will require a commitment to start working through those issues. Going forward, we will need to keep reminding ourselves that our longterm health depends on having a variety of other (even highly imperfect) ways to take care of our selves.

Are you ready to try a new path toward healthy eating? Have you crossed your threshold of frustration and rage about this issue one too many times?

Whenever you are ready, there is help. The world is filled with people who want to sell you on the idea that food and eating success is about control. Fortunately, there are also many people who understand sustainable health comes from ending the control wars and embarking on a path toward healthy relationships with food and self. There are a wide range of books, clinicians and support groups that can help you on this path.

Transforming your ‘control’ war into a healthy relationship with food is not a simple or easy process. It can be scary and confusing. The work you put into it, however, with proper support, will pay off. You will finally be on the right track with food and eating.

– Danielle B. (Klotzkin) Grossman, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, provides psychotherapy for California clients looking for a way to move forward through relationship issues, problems with alcohol, drugs, or managing money, eating and body issues, trauma, grief and loss, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. She consults by phone for mental health professionals nationally. Contact her at 530-470-2233 or truckeecounseling.com.


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