How lockdown has changed my relationship with food

A journey with food, written by Pip Hibbert.

I’ve always enjoyed eating food, cooking food and using food as a form of social occasion. Throughout my life, I’ve also tended to overindulge in the things that I like or eat because I’m bored or sad. I’ve also had times where I’ve decided to diet and exercise every day of the week, restricting my food and only eating things like soup or salads because I thought that was the only way to maintain a weight that I thought was desirable. In the long term, both these ways of eating have left me feeling either uncomfortable in my skin or angry, tired and sad. Like most people, fitting in eating healthily and exercising regularly becomes a tough job to fit around work. This is either because I’m working late into the night or working long days and don’t have time to have whole substantial meals.

So, when the UK went into its first lockdown, food became a big focus for me. Like a lot of people, at the beginning I was naïve enough to believe I would use that ‘free’ time to sort out my life, get fit, be able to run a 10k and transform myself into this unrecognisable person. Surprisingly, that did not happen. As I began to start my old habits of ‘right, I’ll eat healthily from now on’, I noticed the pangs of hunger and dissatisfaction that came from just eating ‘healthily’ and not letting myself have treats every now and then. I started to really think about my relationship with food, I’d seem to have got into a trap of doing one extreme or the other. Whilst being busy with work, I didn’t have time to plan meals or make myself enjoyable salads and my body and self-esteem had started to suffer because of it. Now I was faced with time, I really started to think about what it was my body needed and wanted. I wanted to start again and start small; with breakfast.

It was at that point that the ‘overnight oats’ craze was still taking over. I looked online at what I needed, bought myself some rolled oats and that night set out preparing my breakfast. I noticed how excited I would get when it was time to make it, I was adding in the things I wanted, like frozen fruit and flavoured vegan yogurts. I started adding in the fancier things I’d come across in the shops like chia seeds and ground linseed. I had no idea why these things were good for me, but knowing I was doing something nice for my body was really enjoyable. Not only that but I found my usual morning anxiety (which was only heightened by the pandemic) was somewhat masked by my excitement for eating the breakfast I’d prepared the night before. It felt good to give my body something it both needed and wanted.

Slowly, I extended this care to my other meal times. I excitedly made plans to list what I wanted to eat, to find what I could include in the meals to make them more nutritious. I was finally able to experiment with meals I’d always wanted to try cooking, try the vegan cheeses and see how well they went with pastas and in sauces and dedicated time to nourishing my body. As I mentally and physically felt more fuelled by my food I felt excited to exercise, something I’d never experienced without a feeling of guilt or feeling the need to work off calories. The cycle of eating fuelling food and exercising made me feel stronger, more capable. I felt like I wanted to look after my body and give it what it needed, what it deserved for keeping me alive all these years.

I started to realise the privilege that comes with being able to do this, being able to provide your body with what it needs, heal what needs healing just by having the time and resources to do it. As the lockdown started to end and my life became busier, I tried to maintain some of the habits I’d developed, wanting to keep a hold of the friendship I’d built with my body. Sometimes that friendship is still hard to keep a hold of and sometimes I must remind myself of what my body needs rather than what I think it deserves and like most people, it’s something that has good days and bad days, but that’s okay.

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