Guest Blog Post by Ginger Vieira: What’s Your Relationship With Food!

What’s your relationship with food?

By Ginger Vieira

Ginger has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease for over 11 years. She holds 14 national, drug-tested powerlifting records and the female bench press record for Vermont State. Ginger currently her own diabetes, exercise and weight-loss blog at www.living-in-progress.com.  She has a background in personal training and yoga. Today, Ginger is a cognitive-based health & chronic illness life coach. For more information see www.living-in-progress.com.

A fellow diabetic recently said to me, “I want to have a better relationship with food…but then again, I wonder if I should even have any kind of relationship with food in the first place?”

My immediate feeling is, “Yes! It’s inevitable that we have a relationship with food!”

Whether or not a person has diabetes, whether or not that relationship is positive or negative, I think everyone has some kind of relationship with food. I know I do! Maybe that relationship is easy: you don’t have to think about it, like the way you don’t have to think twice about paying attention to your relationship with your very best friend. It’s just always there. It always works. It always makes you feel good.

Or maybe, on the total other side of a very complicated spectrum, that relationship is much more challenging. It takes a lot of work to keep your relationship balanced, and sometimes your relationship with food leaves you feeling guilty, upset, angry, sad, lonely—whatever it may be, it doesn’t feel good.

You see, I believe that whether we like it or not, we do have a relationship with food…but what kind of relationship do you want it to be? When you throw diabetes into the mix, it makes food three hundred times more important.

When you have diabetes, it’s not just food anymore.

Instead, it can be the stuff that makes your blood go sugar crazy. The stuff that means you need more injections. The stuff that saves your life when your blood sugar is 35 mg/dL but hurts your life when you’re up at 300 mg/dL

When you live with diabetes, food can feel like both the enemy and the hero all at the same time. It is painfully confusing contradiction, and it’s completely complicated.

Diabetes puts such an obsessive focus on food, because food is the primary thing that changes our blood sugar levels, but how can we control that obsessive focus so it doesn’t hurt us? So it doesn’t interfere with how we treat ourselves? So it doesn’t make us resent food or use food to subconsciously rebel against our disease? So that we don’t use food as a way of expressing our frustrations with being diabetic?

What do you want your relationship with food to be like?

I want mine to feel realistic. When my food is “medicine,” to treat a low blood sugar, then I think of it as low blood sugar tools. When my food is helping me recover from my powerlifting workouts, then my food is fuel. When my food is a legitimate treat, I look at the bowl of ice cream or chocolate as a treat I’m letting myself have that day. And since I’m letting myself have it, it’s not going to leave me feeling guilty or ashamed. We all deserve treats. No one should be expected to live their whole life eating only vegetables, bananas and chicken!

But what about when those times when you’re upset, you’re furious, you’re sad, you’re overwhelmed and stressed? And food feels like an outlet? Food feels like a comforting relationship? Is it really comforting if you feel guilty afterwards?

Spending time with my best friend, Tara, is always comforting when I’m upset, but spending time with her never leaves me feeling guilty afterwards.

That was a habit I was determined to break when I was in college. Using food as an emotional comfort. I didn’t like the feeling. It didn’t really comfort me—it distracted me. That was a relationship I had with food that I did not enjoy. It didn’t feel good. It felt like a bad boyfriend I just didn’t know how to breakup with.

In the end though, the first step to breaking off that relationship with food was to admit that it wasn’t a good one and figuring out what I wanted that relationship to really be like instead: Using food as a comfort when I’m upset doesn’t make me feel good. I want food to be only a useful part of my life. Period.

I believe relationships with food evolve and change just like our relationships with people. If you can put your effort into improving your relationship with your mom, your friends, or your brother, you can do the same thing with food.

Yes, I believe we all have a relationship with food. Especially as people with diabetes, this can’t be ignored. In fact, it’s really important. But it can be a helpful relationship or a harmful relationship. The first step to improving that relationship is the hardest part: acknowledging that it might be hurting you, and deciding that’s not the kind of relationship you want in your life.

If you’re interested in creating changes in your life and the way you view yourself and your health, contact Ginger for a FREE, confidential, 30-minute consult by calling 303-947-7212 or emailing ginger@living-in-progress.com.