I'm taking a break from recipes today to talk about body image and practical ways to eat intentionally. I recently talked with Chloe Langr on her podcast, Letters to Women, about the struggles that so many people (but women especially) face when dealing with how they view their bodies specifically when it comes to food, nutrition, and exercise.
If you haven't already, I highly encourage you to listen to the podcast episode. Chloe and I had such a beautiful conversation that I'm not even going to attempt to write about with words on this blog.
You can find the podcast here.
What I am going to do with this blog post is build off of the podcast and give you some practical ways to eat intentionally. Before we get there, though, I want to connect this with the idea of body image.
I can't think of anyone I know that doesn't think often about their body. Maybe it's in the form of exercise and achieving a certain body type, maybe it's about food, nutrition, and weight-loss, maybe it's about fashion and clothing choice, or maybe it's just a general bodily awareness.
This is normal. Everyone thinks about their bodies.
In fact, thinking about your body is more than normal. It is good. It means that you care about yourself, your well-being, your health, your presentation.
Where many of us get into trouble, though, is when we start comparing ourselves to others and trying to meet unrealistic standards. Yes, it is good to desire health. But it isn't healthy to work out for hours on end or starve yourself or squeeze yourself into clothes that don't fit.
You are your own person. You aren't like anyone else. Which means that your body will be different from any other person on this planet. And that is beautiful. Because you get to be you.
Often we think that if we look a certain way, other people will like us more. Or they will want to hang out with us. Or we will be happy.
Lies that will lead to hurt and disappointment. You might achieve a specific body type or lose a certain number of pounds. And, yes, to an extent, this could make you feel better if you become healthier throughout the process.
But I can tell you that making your body look a certain way won't make people like you any more. And it won't make you any happier.
You will not magically become fulfilled or self-actualized when you become a size 0 or deadlift 200 pounds.
Your worth is not found in your appearance. It is found in who you are, the way you treat other people, the way you love, the things you do when no one is watching.
You will not fix your mental state by changing your appearance, but being intentional about how you eat can help you create healthy habits that foster a proper attitude towards your body.
The times that I find myself reaching for something unhealthy are the times when I don’t have my meals planned out. Sit down for 10 minutes every week before you go to the grocery store and plan out what you’re going to eat for the week.
Think about how much time you have that week to cook, how many meals you will be making, and how large of portions you would like to make. Let this planning guide your grocery list.
Don't forget to think about snacks. It is super easy to plan healthy meals but if you get hungry between meals, it's always helpful to have some healthy options on hand to snack on, instead of grabbing something that won't make you feel good.
If you don't know where to begin, I have a free, downloadable grocery list to get you started. Find it here.
Assuming that you've followed the first tip, this step should be easy. If your meals are all planned out, there is no need to buy anything that isn't on your grocery list.
Don't make the mistake of going to the grocery store hungry. When you're hungry it's almost impossible to resist all the ready-to-eat foods that you could munch on on the drive home. But if you are well-fed when you go shopping, you won't be tempted to buy anything that isn't on your list.
Plus, when you have a grocery list and stick to it, your shopping trips can become much more efficient. No need to spend time at the store thinking through whether or not you should buy something. If it's on the list, get it, if not, don't. Simple.
This also goes along with the first of my practical ways to eat intentionally. If you also plan healthy snack options, you will be well prepared when you're hungry at 3pm.
But this tip goes a step further than simply buying yourself snacks. I'm talking about actually preparing snacks.
Say you decide that you're going to snack on some raw veggies. When you get home from the grocery store, take 20 minutes and chop up that head of broccoli, slice the bell pepper into strips, and rinse off the baby carrots.
If you plan to snack on-the-go, portion the snacks into containers that you can easily grab in the morning when you're heading out. When you do this, you don't have to think about what you're eating, you can just eat.
The first three tips were focused on preparation. This step transitions to when you are actually eating.
I know that we are all busy, so it's virtually impossible to eat each meal mindfully, but if you can, try to eat a meal or two each week with no distractions.
Start by praying before your meal.
Chew each bite thoroughly, taste the food in your mouth, savor each flavor. This can help you tune into your and recognize how food actually makes you feel.
As you begin to understand how each food reacts with your body, you can make better choices in the future that can help you feed your body what it needs.
Of all the practical ways to eat intentionally, this one is probably the most important.
Why? Well, we all know that we're going to be drawn to super processed foods. Many foods are chemically altered to make us crave them. And sometimes it's nice to relax and let yourself enjoy some of these foods.
Healthy eating isn't about being 'perfect'. It's about eating what makes you feel good. The key word here is good.
For the majority of the time, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds will make you feel good. But sometimes celebrating a birthday with a piece of cake will make you feel good. Or (responsibly) drinking a glass of good bourbon (or your alcohol of choice) with your friends will bring you joy. Or eating a muffin after running a marathon is actually the best thing you could do.
This is okay. Actually, it's more than okay. It is beautiful.
And that's what we need to remember. It is beautiful to have the self-awareness to know when you want to indulge in something for the sake of treating yourself and enjoying your life.
God gave us this life so that we can love ourselves and others. Not so we would spend time worrying about what food we're eating.
I pray that we can always remember that.
If you haven't yet listened to my conversation with Chloe from Letters to Women, I highly encourage you to do so! Listen here.
P.S. If you're looking for some healthy ways to indulge, you should definitely check out some of my favorite dessert recipes:
a daughter of the Lord who eats lots of plants. I’m glad you’re here! On The Plant-Based Catholic I bring you nutritious, plant-based (vegan) recipes, explore the relationship between food and faith, and share my unique lifestyle.
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