Food and control are two things that may seem to be unrelated on the surface, but for many of the clients I work with, control ends up actually being one of the core themes we talk about. Why would we talk about control? Well, when other things in life feel out of control, food can often be something that we turn to in order to gain a sense of control back in our lives. I tend to notice this in myself when I’m stressed out about something, particularly if it is something I don’t feel like I can do much to resolve my anxiety around at that time. (The situation is less in my control).
For example, when I was about a month out from finishing graduate school I noticed I was having a lot more thoughts about wanting to diet and food being good vs. bad. There is a lot about a big life change like that which is uncertain. Following a diet however, is not a very uncertain process when you think about it. A diet has “rules” that you follow, typically well-defined ones. Also, tracking our food whether we are caring about calories, points, or macros, adds a layer of feeling like we are “in control” when we stick to our food plan. This is even embedded in the common diet vernacular with people describing themselves and their eating. They use statements like “I was so good, I was in control today and stuck to my plan”, or “I’m just out of control” when the diet is not going so well.
Dieting can very easily become a way of feeling like we are in control during time when other aspects of our life are difficult. “My job may be hard but my diets going great, my mom or dad are having health issues but I’m eating well and exercising”. There are lots of ways this can show up in our lives. More importantly, when we give up dieting, we give up this easy go to source of control in our lives and are left to really deal with the stress, uncertainly, etc. that is present rather than being able to shift our focus and energy into the next diet. That my friends, is where the real work begins.
Questions about food and its relationship to control or anything else food and body related? Feel free to ask!