food as fuel

Redefine Your Relationship with Food

Making the changes to lose weight is obvious–it’s something everyone can see as we shrink in size. But making the changes inwardly to make sure that this isn’t a yo-yo experience is much harder to do.

I think one of the hardest things about losing weight for some people is addressing their relationship with the food they eat. In this day and age we’re kind of disconnected from the whole process–myself included. As a former vegetarian, I try not to think too much about what that piece of chicken used to be. But is that the healthy mindset to have? Probably not. We don’t grow our own food, we buy it at a store. Our food comes in boxes, frozen and mysterious looking with unrecognizable ingredients.

For so long, food was the enemy for me. It was what I was addicted to, it was the thing I couldn’t resist and couldn’t stop when I started a binge. Food was the source of all of my problems, or so I thought.

The key to losing weight and keeping it off is changing your relationship and attitude towards the food you eat. It took me a LONG time to figure this out. While I was losing 100 pounds I still saw food as the enemy. It was something I had to restrict, to measure, to count, for convenience. It was something I had to deny myself.

Once I’d kept the weight off for a few years, I started to evaluate my relationship with the food I ate.

Do I eat because it’s mealtime, even if I am not hungry?

Do I overeat even though my body is telling me it’s full?

Do I eat to feel better when upset?

Do I vow to “never eat ____ ever again” and then do it again?

Do I punish myself by severely restricting my calories after I overeat?

Do I eat snacks from the bag in front of the TV without counting out a serving size?

Do I eat in secret?

Do I enjoy the food I eat, savor and taste it, or do I shovel it in my mouth?

Can I recognize REAL HUNGER?

My answers to those questions were revealing. Yes, I was an emotional eater. No, I couldn’t recognize real hunger. For too long I’d been eating all the time. It was a learning process.

Change Our Mindset and Our Vocabulary

Food is not the enemy. I have to remind myself of this periodically, even to this  day. And most importantly: I shouldn’t punish myself for what I do eat!

Food is fuel. It’s the gas that makes the car drive from one place to another, without it we’re stuck on the side of the road not going forward. Once I made the connection that food was fuel my body needed, I started to think about what KIND of fuel I was putting into my body. Was it healthy? Was it “premium” or the cheap stuff just to get by? Does my body feel good when I eat this food? Is my performance improved on the bike or running when I eat certain foods?

Food is not “good” or “bad”. Eat in moderation. Follow the 90/10 Rule. Remind myself to eat what I want in portion sizes and not beat myself up about slip ups. I’m not on a diet.

Do Something About It

Grow your own food, cook your own food. I feel so much better after I started phasing out the processed foods. They aren’t completely gone from my diet but eating a lot of veggies and good proteins makes me feel so much better!

Keep a food journal. Recognize when you eat, why you eat, what you eat. Is it for the right reason or for emotional reasons?

I don’t know that there is one answer to this question. It definitely takes time. Like I’ve said before, the longer I maintain my weight the less I think about it. It’s just second nature to workout, count my calories, and live healthy. It may not always be easy, there are definitely bumps in the road, but with practice and time I have improved my relationship with food.

QUESTION: Have you redefined your relationship with food? How did you do it?


Recently I was chatting with Laura about weight loss, the 90/10 Rule and food and she asked me a really great question. I realized that I never wrote about the topic before. Her question was “Did you ever feel deprived when you were trying to lose weight?”

I paused when I read that and thought, Did I feel deprived? When you are so far from where you started it’s often easy to “forget” how it was in the beginning. I’m assuming a lot of my readers are in the first stages of weight loss. Let me say this: please do not get discouraged. The first few weeks are going to be hard, but so worth it.

So here goes.

I felt “deprived” twice in my journey to lose weight. The first time was obviously when I first started. I went from eating and drinking at least 5,000 calories a day (and that’s a low estimate) to trying to eat 2,000 calories a day. There is definitely going to be a rumble in the tummy with that drastic of change.

The first few weeks that I was staying under 2,000 calories a day was hard. It was a minute-to-minute struggle. Food was always on my mind. When could I eat again? How many calories can I have for my snack? Oh my god, I’m wasting away, I am so hungry! Yes. Dramatic. But that’s how I felt. My stomach felt hollow and I was not satisfied after eating my meals.

Not only was I eating more than half of what I was used to, I also started swimming. Swimming created a hunger like no other activity and I would be in a frenzy during the drive home to eat something. I quickly learned eating a 100 calorie protein bar right after swimming helped.

I got used to the 2,000 calories and stopped feeling deprived. It was the norm. I was also steadily losing weight so that was encouraging me. In those first few weeks I drank a ton of water and a lot of diet soda (not the best idea) to curb the hunger.

The second time in my journey that I felt deprived was after I reached my goal weight. It was kind of a perfect storm for me. I was at goal weight + I started running + I stopped counting my calories. I didn’t think I needed to. I had it down! I could “eye-ball” everything and keep a tally in my head! Totally!

Hm, not so much. The running program made me really hungry and I justified eating a lot more than usual “because I was running so much” and I felt deprived. I told myself I had to have “fuel” for my running. I also wasn’t being very accountable to myself. I committed the worst infraction a maintainer can do: I stopped doing what worked to lose the weight. 

Gaining weight snapped me out of my fog of deprivation and I went back to what worked: counting all my calories and recording them every day.

Currently, I do not feel deprived. I stay within my calorie range almost every day, I eat healthy most of the time, and have a treat (or two)  every day. This works for me. I don’t feel like I’m denying myself anything. I think about food less and less. I feel like I’ve created a much healthier balance with myself and food.

QUESTION: Do you feel deprived? How do you combat that?