Practicing a Non-Judgemental Stance Towards Food in Recovery from Disordered Eating
Whether you are at the beginning of your journey towards food freedom, have been addressing your relationship with food and your body for a while now, or this is the first time you may be hearing terms such as “diet culture”, “disordered eating”, and “non judgemental stance”, learning to adjust our views and opinions on food as “good or bad” and “healthy or unhealthy” can be liberating. While not everyone may struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating, we all have been exposed to diet culture and food judgements.
Exploring our relationship with food
Our exposure to food judgements starts early on in childhood. As we are exploring and learning about the world, relationships, and food, we are also simultaneously being exposed to messages about food and certain types of food. Many of us may have been taught to view certain foods as good and bad, healthy or unhealthy, or many other words that imply criticism of certain foods and food groups. Before we proceed any further, let’s take some time to acknowledge that these terms are often applying moral value to the foods themselves. The food did not do anything to achieve moral value, yet somehow carries quite a bit of it for many of us!
When food is associated with a judgment, it can increase the likelihood of disordered thoughts and behaviors. Disordered eating and food judgements can lead to loss of connection with other people and ourselves, higher risk of developing an eating disorder, increasing the volume of your own inner critic, and shame spirals. So, what do we do to begin addressing food judgements? It starts with compassion for our current self, past self, future self, and those around us, as well.
We can also begin by practicing food neutrality. This may begin by simply viewing food overall as neutral and a source of nutrition for both our bodies and brains. As we begin to flex the muscle of neutrality, we can also introduce bits of compassion and kindness for ourselves and the food. If this feels difficult, it may be helpful to explore some of the other things that you value in your life. For example, if a core value of mine is mental wellbeing, connecting how a non-judgemental stance towards food and bodies can contribute to increased inner peace, lower and decreased frequency of shame spirals, and much more, ultimately connecting me back to a core value.
What is food?
You may be wondering, if food is not “good” or “bad”, then what is it?
So many things! 1) Food is connection with other people, culture and ethnicity, religion, creativity, and more. 2) Food is healing in so many different ways, both physically and emotionally. It can provide us with nutrition and energy to feel present and connected in our life, while also creating a sense of peace within you and around you, even if your world was once, or may still be, consumed by a constant tug-of-war with food. 3) Food can be really fun! When we introduce new foods to children (and adults, too!) it can be really exciting to learn more about ourselves, what do we like and how does exploring new foods help us to connect to a true, authentic version of ourselves.
When you notice that you may be judging a food or group of foods, it can be helpful to ask yourself “is this a judgment? If so, how can I reframe this in a more neutral or compassionate way”. If this feels difficult to connect to for now, that’s okay! Begin with “im noticing” or “the story I’m telling myself right now is…..” and mindfully name the judgment. Mindful awareness is a huge first step to addressing food judgements in our daily lives.
In my practice with clients, I draw from a variety of lenses to help in a person’s journey towards food freedom. Intuitive Eating is a great framework to start with if you are looking to start making peace with food, your body, and deconstructing myths diet culture has taught us about food and bodies.
Hope for a better future
My hope for each of us as we navigate the world, including the food judgements and criticisms that are in it, is that we can approach our work from a place of kindness and compassion, patience not perfection, and maybe a little humor along the way. Wherever you fall in your journey with food and diet culture, remember to take your time and that food isn’t intended to be the enemy. However, if you are in a place where it does, start by reminding yourself that you are doing the best you can, we all are.
If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, reach out to our team of qualified professionals here.