In March, as the pandemic brought uncertainty, closed gyms, and depleted grocery store shelves to the U.S., I noticed a trend on social media that worried me, though it didn’t surprise me.
There were memes everywhere about the “quarantine 15.” Influencers were squatting like their entire lives depended on it.
Everyone was eating a lot of pasta and feeling really, really bad about it. I started recognizing signs of body image issues everywhere I turned, and it makes complete sense to me. We responded to our lack of control by trying to control our bodies.
Through studying eating disorders, I learned that restricting food is often rooted in a feeling of powerlessness. Think about it: if your emotions, thoughts, or circumstances feel out of control, it makes perfect sense that you would focus on what does feel in control. We’re told that we have complete power over our body composition if we can simply find enough “willpower.”
In reality, weight is influenced by a lot of different factors, many of which are not our personal choices, and so we have far less control than we are led to believe.
Focusing on your weight actually takes away from other areas of your life that you do have power over.
For example, the time you spend pursuing your personal goals, cultivating healthy relationships, and working to dismantle systems of oppression. Ironically, letting go of trying to control your body actually gives you more power — at least, that’s been my experience.
Food has been a source of anxiety for me for most of my life.
I started gaining weight in the first grade. This was when I first started to view my body as a problem I needed to solve.
Even growing up middle class with abundant access to food, I worried about my next meal. Food was the primary source of comfort from the shame raging inside me that I didn’t understand. My father became increasingly more controlling about my food intake and I started sneaking food at night so that he wouldn’t see. My relationship with food spiraled into a toxic one that entangled guilt and pleasure.
In hindsight, my heart breaks for my younger self. I was only a child. I should have been able to play and learn and grow without carrying so much shame. Unfortunately, it would take me many years to put down this burden.
Concerns about being judged for my weight constantly held me back from living my life.
I tried diet after diet, and all it did was make me more and more obsessed with food.
Over time, I started to accept that maybe a diet wasn’t going to work.
It would have to be a “lifestyle change” (a.k.a. a diet with better PR). Meal prep seemed to be the obvious solution. If I could be diligent about meal prep, I could eat a perfect diet all the time and I would naturally lose weight. That’s the mindset I was in when I first followed Workweek Lunch.
My first thought was “this sounds like a great way to lose weight,” without all of the deep-rooted shame that held me back from living a full life. Of course, as I read through the principles of intuitive eating, I realized that this was fundamentally contrary to the aim of the approach, but it still took time for me to accept that.
That was something that immediately felt right as I started making peace with food. There was room for me to take the time I needed. I didn’t need to eat “perfectly.” I didn’t need to do a bunch of math to figure out if I could afford to eat a cookie that day. I couldn’t fail. It seemed almost too simple: I just had to listen to my own body.
Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that, living in our culture.
I started to notice that it wasn’t just me that struggled with food obsession and body image.
In fact, it was everywhere — in conversations with coworkers and friends, in my favorite TV shows, in ads for everything from diet pills to living room furniture (yes, I have seen body shaming in an ad for a couch). Developing my yoga practice, reading, following anti-diet dietitians and people of diverse body sizes on social media, and speaking more kindly to myself helped. Still, I often felt like I was alone on this journey.
Everything truly clicked once the WWL Meal Prep Program was launched. From the very first week, I felt a shift. I had a safe space. I had access to prep-friendly recipes without sifting through body shaming and suspect nutrition advice. There was a great community of like-minded people where we could talk about the joy of cooking and food without guilt or shame.
The amount of time I spent worrying about food plummeted.
Instead, I was able to feel pride about developing my cooking skills and focus on developing a healthier, more compassionate relationship with myself.
I have now been consistently meal prepping for two years. It’s a fundamental part of my weekly self-care routine that I can’t imagine living without. I love setting aside time every Sunday to cook, listen to podcasts, and do something for my future self.
Throughout the week, having my meals ready to go means that I don’t spend much energy deciding what I am going to eat. I can focus on what really matters to me, rather than my body composition. I haven’t known my weight for years because this number no longer dictates my self-worth.
All that said, I haven’t been immune to the desire for control in these uncertain times. Old coping mechanisms still come out, the difference now is that I can recognize it and have more compassion for myself in response.
It’s not an issue of willpower. It doesn’t mean I am regressing if my eating patterns and food choices fluctuate. I continue to move forward, knowing that now that I know the freedom I am capable of.
I have a level of control over my own life that I never had before now after making peace with food.
If you’re looking for where to start on your own journey towards making peace with food, check out these intuitive eating resources. After that, I recommend following some accounts that focus on body positivity and escaping the diet mentality; some I have found help are @thenutritiontea, @foodheaven, and @tiffanyima.
Finally, I can’t recommend the WWL Meal Prep Program enough for a rewarding tool to help heal your relationship with food. Get started with a 7-day free trial today.