They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have it:

Hi, I’m Ashley and I’m an Emotional Eater. 

I crave “enemy” foods, feel guilty if I indulge in them, and don’t know how to ditch the I’m-sad-so-a-green-juice-just-won’t-cut-it-today feeling. 

Step one: complete. 

But now what? How do I move on from here -- how do I ditch the cravings and the guilt and the I’m-sad-so-a-green-juice-just-won’t-cut-it-today feeling? I want to love me and the food I eat and not beat myself up every time I feel a little blue and go for my favorite snack food instead of some kale.

So what’s a girl to do? Create my own Emotional Eaters Anonymous club? If only! Instead, maybe I just need to step back and look at the root of my problem: did I actually call food the “enemy”? 

Aha, my own war on food -- the You-can’t-have-that-because-it’s-cancer-causing-free-radical-stimulating-liver-destroying-and-it’s-got-dairy mentality. Replace the words with whatever you’d like but we’ve been long and hard at work creating an Absolutely-not-that’s-forbidden! dieting culture. Milk is bad; gluten is bad; meat is bad; cheese is bad; honey nut cheerios, chocolate ice cream, high sugar fruits, and those shady potatoes (literally, the nightshade vegetables) cannot grace your plate (or your bowl). No, no, no. Do NOT put that in your mouth. That food is bad. 

And, to be fair, I’ve kind of bought into that whole idea. As a health coach, I don’t go around suggesting that my friends, family, and clients seek out cheese or pasta or chocolate ice cream. In fact, when I come home and find my dad bar-b-queing hamburgers and my mom serving up noodles or vegetables doused in cheese, I roll my eyes and tell them that cancer’s right around the corner if they keep eating like that. Yes, I lose my cool once in a while and forget to treat my family and their food choices with love -- I just want them to be oh so healthy! But maybe that’s the problem. When we judge food, grade (and degrade) it, and call some of it the enemy, we forget what it means to eat with love. In other words, we forget that eating is, at heart, an act of love. The food we put in our bodies feeds us and loves us and gives us energy and strength. It allows us to run and dance and do our jobs and swim at the beach in the summertime. It allows us to enjoy each other’s presence in health and happiness. 

We can only have cravings and guilt when we forbid certain foods with an undying severity. Never ever ever will I eat cheese again! And then, when I do, I regret it. I get angry at myself, beat myself up, and wonder why I must always sabotage my good eating. So, today, I refuse to make a proclamation -- a renunciation -- of food (of any food, even chocolate ice cream!) because no food is my enemy -- it never was and never will be. It’s time to accept all food and to love it no matter what it is. This doesn’t mean I have to feed myself with anything and everything, but it means I have to stop selecting certain foods as the enemy, as the forbidden-I-must-not-let-anyone-know-I-ate-this food because I have the power to love myself with whatever I choose to put in my body.

What I need to realize, finally, is that accepting all food and feeding myself are two different things. I may not choose to eat cheese today or tomorrow or for as long as that works for me, but this doesn’t mean that cheese is not food, that it is impossible to feed and love myself with it. No, you cannot love or stop loving yourself because you have fed yourself with the “enemy”-- food is not and cannot be your enemy. The key to feeding yourself is to never feel ashamed of food, to never judge it and degrade it and hide it from yourself or anyone else. All food exists along with you and we choose to eat this thing here or that thing there--but all food is with us when we eat. Even if we choose not to put it on our plate--to chew it and taste it--it surrounds us; it exists in the aisles of the grocery store and in the fields. Do not deny its presence; do not try to shun it or separate it from yourself. Accept it. The best thing we can do is recognize its existence, nod to it, and just let it be there--as part of ourselves or not.

Hi, I’m Ashley, and I love myself no matter what food I eat.

The only step that really matters: complete.

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