“Stress is the gap between our expectations and reality”
I love this quote because I think it explains many of the stresses I face in my own life as well as the food stresses I see when working with our members. Many of our food stresses come from two things:
- what we expect from our body, and
- what we expect from our food.
We expect a lot from our bodies.
We expect our body to function and run smoothly all of the time. We expect our body to be trimmer or tighter or lighter. We expect it not to have any lumps or bumps, dimples or dots. We expect our body to feel energised, to never feel fatigued. We expect our body to digest its food silently without emissions. We expect some parts of our body to be longer and other shorter. Some parts bigger and some parts smaller.
We ALSO expect a lot from our food.
We expect our food to heal our gut. We expect food to prevent or even cure cancer. We expect lemon in water to speed up our metabolism. We expect eating sugar to cause brain fog and gluten to cause our guts to leak. We expect turmeric to solve inflammatory disorders and apple cider vinegar to make us well.
You might be thinking: ‘I don’t expect THAT much’.
But I would argue that every time we find ourselves down about how we look or frustrated about what we’re eating, we are in fact expecting our bodies and our food to be different from the reality of what they are.
And that’s what causes us to feel stressed. We are focusing on what our body or our food is not, rather than what it is.
If we could accept our bodies and our food for what they are, the stress disappears. Or at least reduces.
I know this sounds a bit woo-woo and it’s definitely easier said than done, however, it is possible to change our relationship with our bodies and with food by changing our expectations and appreciating what is.
Focus on function, rather than form
In our hast to identify all the ways our body isn’t perfect, it’s easy to skip over the good things that are happening.
For instance, I find it easy to focus the fact that I have dimples and red spots all over my arms and I often forget that my arms are doing some pretty amazing things. My arms:
- Carry nerves from my brain to my fingers so that I can type this article.
- Push me up out of bed in the morning
- Allow me to carry 3 bags and a laptop from my car to the office each day
- Hug my friends and family to show that I care about them (whenever COVID restrictions ease)
- Support my running momentum
- Hang out my washing and fold up my clothes
When I stop to think about all the things my arms DO, I am far less stressed about the way that they look. I feel much more like saying ‘THANKS ARMS!!’
You can do this with ANY body part or organ, particularly if you don’t know what it does. Jump online and get a bit nerdy about how your body functions:
Spleen: The job of my spleen is to filter my blood. It checks all my red blood cells and removed the ones that aren’t working. It then recycles the parts of the broken blood cells to make new ones. It’s my very own blood recycling centre. That’s pretty cool. Thanks spleen.
Eyelids: My eyelids protect my eyes ALL DAY LONG, without me even noticing. The spread fluid from my tears around the eyeball to keep my cornea moist (great word) and this protects it from dust that could irritate my eye and infections.
Nostrils: My nostrils allow oxygen to get into my lungs, the very source of life. While yes, my mouth can also do that job, my nostrils do it quietly and efficiently, particularly when I’m eating. They are also filled with hairs that catch dust and debris from the air as it moves past and keeps the air in our respiratory system moist.
Pancreas: Without me paying any attention, my pancreas is single handedly:
- Creating enzymes to bread down protein and carbohydrates from my food.
- Sending out insulin to stop my blood sugar levels getting too high
- Sending our glycogen to stop my blood sugar levels getting too low
- Creating hormones that tell my stomach to produce acid
The list goes on…
Focusing on these abilities of your body is not to say that being able bodied or without health issues is superior, but rather that within EVERY body there are amazing things happening, which are often unnoticed and under-appreciated. The key is that we are focusing on what all our different body parts do and how they serve us and support us, rather than what they look like.
Accepting and appreciating our body’s function rather than its form will hopefully do 2 things:
- Reduce the sense of stress that comes from expecting your body to be something is isn’t.
- Create space to build a positive relationship with your body over time.
The same can be said for food….
Food is just a bunch of chemicals. And when we look at chemicals we get from our food and what they do in our body, we can start to appreciate the nuances of healthy eating, rather than seeing it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For instance, within an apple we get:
Fructose (sugar) – Your body breaks this down and uses it as fuel for your muscles, your brain and just about everything else.
Fibre: We can’t breathe this part of our food down to it goes all the way to our large intestine, where it feeds our good bacteria and helps you to have comfortable poo.
Protein: Believe it or not, there’s protein in your apple. Your body will break down the protein and use it for energy, just like sugar, or it will use it to rebuild and repair your body.
Vitamin C: is a tiny chemical which is used by your body for a range of functions like healing the skin from cuts, repairing your muscle, cartilage and teeth, helping you to absorb iron and blocking the damage of ‘free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells in your body).
Potassium: Potassium is a mineral that’s used in SO MANY functions in your body. It’s used to help your muscles contract, particularly to keep your heart beating, to help move nutrients into your cells and to control the amount of water in your body.
I realise that we might be tipping into very nerdy territory. But if you’re already letting worry about food and your body take over your day-to-day thinking, we may as well get informed about all the HELPFUL things that they are doing. Don’t let the negative pattern of thinking run away with you (again) .
If you catch yourself feeling stressed about your body, or about food, try taking 5 -10 minutes to check in with your expectation and focus on what is actually happening.
- What am I saying to myself?
- What am I expecting from my body or my food?
- Is that a realistic expectation? (If you’re not sure, try looking up the function of that body part or food)
- What are the good things that this part of my body is doing?
- What are the helpful nutrients in this food?
If you would like some help with improving your overall diet quality and getting rid of the ‘food stress’, then please get in touch with our team. Our Signature Program will help you build long term healthy eating habits and ditch the stress for good!