Getting Past Food Obsession – Food as Fuel for Body & Mind

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Living A Life Free of Food Obsessions

I stumbled across the following blog post I wrote for Carla Birnberg’s site five years ago this week and was struck about how relevant it still is. Actually, I find that’s true of a lot of the blog posts we’ve written over the last nine years, since we started writing A Weight Lifted. That’s your invitation to scroll through the wealth of innovative and strategic thinking that has been the hallmark of the posts we featured over the years. Here’s hoping you find in it the help we try to provide to our readers.

Food: Feeding Us Physically and Psychologically

food as fuelWhen people think of ‘food as fuel,’ they usually focus on the physiological aspects of what food does for us.  Providing nutrients to help us feel well and have enough energy to do what we want to do.

But I also think food as fuel has to do with eating in a way that satisfies us psychologically.  In other words, simply thinking of food as “fuel” in the typical way doesn’t do it justice, because it needs to nourish our body and our mind.

Food as Physical Fuel

As our attention at Green Mountain is generally on helping folks achieve and maintain healthy weights, when it comes to the physiological aspect of food, I tend to focus on getting enough calories to run our bodies (although it is important that it contains enough nutrients, too).

That sounds a little counterintuitive as the issue for those looking to lose weight often seems to revolve around eating too many calories.

Undereating Can Be A Setup For Overeating and Food Obession

The difficulty lies in the fact that most folks undertake diets to help them stop eating too much.  Yet diets can set us up for overeating.

We encourage folks to trust their internal cues to guide them in effectively eating enough.  ‘Cuz sometimes we need to eat more, and if we don’t trust what our bodies tell us and we’re worried about our weight, we will undereat.

If we do that too often, we end up overeating to compensate.  Overeating is a natural response to consistent undereating.

Further, if we get emotional about the under- or overeating, that is, we feel deprived when we don’t eat what or as much as we want, or if we feel guilty when we do, we set ourselves up for emotional overeating.

Food as Mental Fuel

That brings me to the other part of my definition of food as fuel: how what we eat supports us from a psychological perspective.

Our minds are inextricably linked to our bodies.  Unless a person is truly not interested in food — and there do seem to be some people like that, though I haven’t met any I can remember — we must satisfy our senses as well as our physiological needs when we eat.

That adds up to being happy with our eating experiences.  If we aren’t, many of us find ourselves circling food — thinking about it constantly, being overly affected when we see ads for foods or just passing a bowl of candy sitting on an office mate’s desk.

This gets in the way of getting on with the rest of our lives.  We’re continually distracted by thoughts of food.

Satisfaction Can Free Us From Food Obsession

When we enjoy what we eat, our satisfaction fuels us to accomplish what we want just as much as the nutrients and energy in the foods we choose.

As someone who has personally struggled with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and who works with those who are battling that right now, I know this approach offers a way to end the struggle and move on.

We each may find different ways of getting to this point. Some of us need more structure initially (which can seem like a typical diet on the face of it –  read more about that in our article “It May Look Like a Diet but…”) and some of us don’t.

In the end, however, a relaxed, easy approach to eating that provides us physical and mental nourishment may be all of our best bet for choosing food that truly fuels us.

Learn More About Our Nutrition &  Eating Behavior Program


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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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