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EPISODE 045 – Healing Your Relationship with Food

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In today’s episode, Tracey shares: 

  • How to treat yourself with more compassion and understand diets aren’t the answer 
  • 5 Tips to heal your relationship with food and your body 
  • How to live more intuitively
  • And so much more…

It takes work to leave diet culture behind and Tracey shares today how we can take a non-diet approach to a lifestyle that focuses on balance and is sustainable for the long run. By listening intuitively to our bodies and honouring our journey, we can accomplish whatever we want to. She reminds us also that this will not be a linear journey but it will be our journey.

Tap the podcast player above to listen now, or continue reading for the full transcription!

Healing Your Relationship With Food

Hello, and welcome to the podcast. My name is Tracey Harper. And I’m going to be talking to you today about healing your relationship with food. And more specifically, I’ll be giving you five tips to healing your relationship with food. So thanks for coming. And I want to give you a little bit of a background on myself, so you can understand where I’m coming from and why I’m providing you with this information. I am a registered holistic nutritionist, as well as a certified group fitness instructor. Earlier on in my career, I was a human resources professional and then changed it up a bit. And I’ve been teaching fitness classes for over 15 years, as well as more recently, coaching young athletes in their off-ice training. So specifically figure skaters. And then even more recently, I went back to school to become a registered holistic nutritionist, which means I’m not just looking at the nutrition piece, I’m also looking at helping people work on healing their mind and their body and their spirit. So my focus in my practice, Harper Health and Wellness is the name of my business is to help women specifically to heal their relationship with food and with their bodies, and to live life feeling better in their skin and without food guilt and without restriction. So I’m very passionate about this subject. And I’ll explain why in a minute, I am going to give you a little bit of a background on myself and how I used to be and then how I am now, which will then give you some insight into why this means so much to me and this is my focus in my business. 

So I call myself past Tracey, a normal person in diet culture. So what I looked like in that past role was that I hated my body. I exercised to change my body. I loved to move, and I loved to exercise and I specifically love group group fitness classes, but my why many years ago was to maintain a certain weight or to even lose weight. So my why was to change my body, not because I love my body, not because I was moving it for all of those wonderful reasons you, you should do exercise, I had a different view. And that was that I needed to look different. So I worked out no matter how exhausted I was, I would drag myself out of bed. Even if my body was screaming for a break. In terms of food, I would restrict certain foods during the week. And then what would happen is I would overeat the foods that I’d restricted. And I’d feel guilt and shame afterwards. So I also tried many different diets. And I usually gave up on them. They didn’t last very long, few days, few weeks, maybe. But you name it. I tried so many different ones. I convinced everyone that what I was doing was healthy. At some point, I started to get, you know, some questions and some concern over my behaviors, but somehow convinced my loved ones that my behavior was normal and that I was just healthy. And I definitely thought my body was the problem. I thought it needed to be changed, I thought I’d be accepted. If I looked a certain way. I thought I needed to stay small to be more attractive. We know that’s not true. We know we live in a very fat phobic society. And this is not true at all. So I hid parts of my body for years. And I also, when I came to try and have children a number of years ago, because now I have two teenage sons, I struggled with my fertility, so I had to get assistance to become pregnant. And a couple of times it was suggested to me that I gain weight, and that this might help with becoming pregnant. And I was furious. I remember. And I didn’t want to tell my husband because I thought he would think, Oh yes, that’s probably a good idea. And maybe these behaviors aren’t healthy. So if you really think about that, I think that it is extremely sad that I, you know, had this mentality where I wanted nothing more than to have children. Yet I was so scared to have to gain weight to have the children. So I think that’s a fairly powerful point. Fortunately, I was able to get pregnant twice, and had two beautiful healthy boys. So it was a success story in the end, but the way I got there wasn’t so healthy.

So fast forward to Tracey now and how I’ve healed my relationship with food and my body. So I’m definitely much more intuitive with my food choices and my food as well as movement, so in terms of the food, you know, I do allow all foods into my diet now, I don’t restrict certain foods like I used to. And I’m also much more intuitive with my movement. So instead of dragging myself out of bed, if I have those mornings or those days where a workout is just not going to happen, and that’s okay, I’m fine with that. I may take a rest day, I may take a walk, a gentle walk, I may do yoga, I don’t feel the need anymore to do an intense workout. That’s not the only thing that counts. I used to think that was the only thing that counted, but movement is movement and everything counts. I’m much more intuitive in those areas with food and with movement. I’ve ditched diet culture. And I’ll talk a little bit later about what I view as diet culture, I respect and accept my changing body. So I understand that as I age, my weight changes, right, or different seasons of life, my weight might change. And I now trust my body that it knows what it’s doing. And it knows what’s best. I also enjoy, and I’m using air quotes here, “bad foods” when I want them. And I do not let them control me. So I don’t believe that there are good and bad foods, and I’ll talk about that as well later. But I don’t restrict food, restrict food or food groups anymore. So one that I’m sorry that I let you go for so long was ice cream. Hello, I missed you. Yes, I love ice cream. And I restricted it for a long time. So I don’t do that anymore. And I don’t feel like it has any sort of control over me anymore. I don’t exercise to compensate for my food choices. So if I have ice cream, I don’t feel like the next day I have to exercise longer or harder. I do not make excuses as to why can’t eat certain foods, I used to do this I used to, I guess lie to people and say Oh, I can’t eat that because it bothers my stomach when I’m fortunate I don’t have any intolerances or allergies, but I would make them up so that people wouldn’t ask me why I wasn’t eating something. So that’s definitely not healthy. I no longer feel like I have to start over on a Monday, I always had that, you know, cheat on the weekend, I’ll be better on Monday mentality. And I don’t think that, you know, if I want, I want to slice the cake on a Monday I’ll have it on a Monday doesn’t have to be a weekend. And I don’t have to feel guilty for what I did on a weekend. And I eat nutrient dense foods, because they make me feel good. Not because I think I have to. So if I want to have a salad, I’ll have a salad. But if I want to have a salad with fries, I’ll have a salad with fries. So I eat what makes me feel good now, not what someone else is telling me to eat.

So that gives you a little bit of my background. And hopefully that helps as you start your journey to healing your relationship with food and that I show you that it’s possible you can get there. So please join me in the next little while as we talk about five tips to healing your relationship with food. I want you to settle in, get comfortable, try to turn off any other distractions as you listen to this podcast, you can take some time for yourself, everyone will survive without you for a little while. I want you to most importantly, leave any guilt or shame at the door before we begin. And I also want you to become very curious about your feelings. So I don’t want you to judge them things might come up as I’m talking through my points. So I want you to become curious with what’s coming up for you. And I want you to be honest with yourself. 

Okay, so let’s get started with the first tip. And you might say, Oh my goodness, this is the hardest tip. But I believe it’s the most important thing to lead with self compassion. So if you have tried all kinds of diets, only to lose weight and then gain it back again. And again. It’s time to stop that cycle. It’s time to realize that you deserve better. Why do you keep doing this to yourself? So I want to use the example of a friend or a loved one who continuously diets, loses weight, gains it back, maybe gains back more, or a friend who continues to put themselves down and be very critical of their shape or their body? What would you say to them? I can almost guarantee you would try to convince them they needed to find another way to deal with how they’re feeling in their body. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t suggest they go on another diet, or I’m sure you wouldn’t suggest that they continue to criticize themselves. So the first step in healing your relationship with food is to be kind to yourself. And always choose self compassion. Treat yourself as you would your child or your best friend. Please know this journey will not happen overnight. So it’s really important that you treat yourself with kindness as you start to heal. And as you begin this journey So don’t forget, number one, lead with self compassion. Think of yourself or talk to yourself as if you’re speaking to a loved one. 

Okay, the next one, I want you to think about foods you love and foods you restrict. I’m pretty sure that those foods might be very similar. So back to my example, about not eating ice cream for so long, so I love ice cream. I mean, who doesn’t love ice cream? But I restricted it for a long time. So often the foods that we love, we restrict because we feel like we’re bad for eating these so called bad foods. Well, I want you to think about this for a second. How does food have morality? It doesn’t, right food is just food. It’s not bad, it’s not good. Obviously, there are more nutrient dense foods. Like I’m not trying to tell you that an Oreo is more nutrient dense than a kale salad. But you’re no worse off for eating that Oreo doesn’t make you any less of a person for eating an Oreo than for eating a kale salad. So please remember that you’re not a bad person for eating something that you think is unhealthy. Okay, foods are not good or bad, simply food. So let’s remove the morality associated with food. And then when we do that, it’ll take me to point two, which is to allow all the foods and I know this sounds really scary. If you’ve been on a yo-yo diet or restrictor for years, but it’s really vital to improving your relationship with food, you need to allow all the foods you feared and you deemed quote unquote bad for so long. As I said before, food is neither good nor bad. It’s just simply food. So as we change your mind, as you change your mindset around food and recognize it simply food, it will start to lose some power over us. So if you make peace with food, I want you to remember this doesn’t mean you’re going to eat cookies and cake and Oreos all day. What will happen at some point is your body will be asking for other foods right, it will become kind of bored with those Oreos or that cake. So I want you to start slowly allowing foods you’ve restricted. I’m not expecting you to allow all of them, but allow foods you’ve restricted and you’ll see at some point, they start to lose the power over you. So point number two, allow all the foods. 

Okay, my next point. Tip number three in healing your relationship with food is to ditch the diet culture. So if you’re wondering what diet culture is, it is, you know, a system of beliefs that sort of thinks thinness and health are better than anything, right? it assigns. it assigns value to how you look. And that being thin is more ideal in society. And I mentioned before that we live in a very fat phobic society. So there’s lots of pressure to not look a certain way or to look a certain way. So diet culture are these beliefs that idealize that you need to be thin to be successful or to be attractive. Diet culture also promotes weight loss as a means of, you know, attaining a higher status. And then people spend lots of money and time and energy trying to make their bodies smaller. Even though research shows that intentional weight loss is not able to be sustained for more than a few years. Okay. So I want you to think about diet culture and ditching diet culture. So that’s point three. So even if you’re not on a diet right now, I want you to think about ditching things that you listen to that you read that you watch, like social media, like articles, like the news that make you feel that you need to change yourself, that make you feel that you are not good enough, okay? Diet culture tells you this. It’s very pervasive, it’s very sneaky, it’s everywhere. The reach that diet culture has is immense. And it’s really critical that you recognize this and you start to eliminate it from your life. So I want you to ask yourself before you engage in any content or information, if this information is helping you live a better life, so if you answer No, if you read something and you realize, Oh, I don’t feel good about myself, or you know what, I want to look like her or you know what, I’m going to follow that diet, so I can look like her. Probably not the content that you should be engaging with. So I really want you to think about that. And all of the things that you are reading and listening to it should make you feel good and make you feel like you can live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Okay, so point three, ditch that diet culture. 

The next thing I asked women that I work with to think about when they’re trying to heal their relationship with food is comparison and to stop comparing. So point number four is stop comparing. So what I mean by this is tuning into yourself, right, it’s time to become curious. We talked about this at the beginning, curious and listening to your internal cues, not what anyone else is doing. You want to find a lifestyle that’s healthy and sustainable on your terms. So it’s time to block out the noise. become curious with your feelings around food, not anyone else’s feelings, not what anyone else is doing. I don’t want you to judge those feelings. I know this is very difficult. I want you to accept them. Listen to them and sit with them. They might be very uncomfortable feelings, or very uncomfortable emotions, but you need to sit with them. Don’t judge them. Just sit with them. Okay, you’ll likely figure out when you do this, that your food issues have nothing to do with food. So please listen to me when I tell you it’s time to honor your health and your body, not someone else’s. So really stop that comparison game, right? You want to look at whether or not you’re living a lifestyle that’s sustainable, that will compromise your mental sanity, right? Like thinking about diets, they often compromise our mental sanity. Someone tells me to take carbs or ice cream out of my diet, I am not going to be the same person I am with those foods in my diet, I might not be very nice to be around. And I also want you to think about whether or not it will improve your health in the long run. So don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Think about yourself and stop that comparison game. 

And this brings me to my last point in healing your relationship with food, which is looking at the bigger picture, I want you to ask yourself if the lifestyle you’re leading is healthy and sustainable for the long term. So will it fulfill you not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally? Okay? If what you do consistently or sorry, not if what you do consistently over time is what matters. So if you have a day where you think I didn’t eat, as well as I could have, or I haven’t exercised in days or weeks, I want you to think about the progress that you’re trying to make. It’s not perfection, right? It’s not perfection with food that counts. You don’t have to create, you don’t have to create perfection with food to be healthy. Okay, it’s letting go of that perfection. And this is such a key in developing a better relationship with food and also becoming more intuitive with your food choices. So think about this for a second, finding peace with food in your body is a journey, not always an easy journey, but fulfilling and worthwhile. And I want you to trust me when I tell you that. I know you don’t know me. But I really want you to trust me, you heard a little bit about who I used to be who I am now. And believe me when I tell you that this journey is so worth it, you can get to the place where food doesn’t take up all of your brain space or your brain power. It leaves you with so much more time to think about things that are important in your life to spend time with people that are important in your life, and to give your energy to things in your life that really matter. 

So please, when you’re starting this journey, be kind to yourself. Remember to look at the bigger picture. Remember, to allow foods Remember to ditch diet culture. Remember to stop comparing, okay? So we’ve only touched on a few points in healing your relationship with food and trying to find food freedom, there’s so so much more. But these are good starting points. And I hope that you enjoyed them. I would love to chat more with you about this. I’m very passionate about this. I believe wholeheartedly that we all deserve to live a peaceful or not to live but to have a peaceful relationship with food and with our bodies. And I would love to talk to you about it or help you with it. You can find me at harperhealthandwellness.com where you can sign up for my newsletter and I share lots of great tips on Instagram or Facebook. So I hope you join me and work on yourself. And thank you so much for listening to this talk!

Would you like to connect with Tracey online? You can find her at www.harperhealthandwellness.com and over on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/harperhealthandwellness or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/harperhealthandwellness

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In gratitude,

The Great Canadian Woman inc.™ Team

Tracey Harper

Tracey Harper

Tracey Harper is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Fitness Coach with a passion for food, movement and all things wellness! Tracey became passionate about fitness and food in her late 20’s. She fell in love with group exercise classes and developed a love for cooking and making recipes healthier. Tracey now works with women to stop dieting, make peace with food, and find a sustainable way to care for their body and improve their health!

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