Back to Top

Food & Physical Self-Care

Box of fruits and vegetables

Written by Claire Ranit

Sometimes it seems like we confuse physical self-care with how we look physically as opposed to how we feel physically. I mention self-care in different settings and almost every time someone says they’ve been meaning to “go on a diet.” Unfortunately, a common thought is that losing weight automatically qualifies as physical self-care but it isn’t an either/or situation.

For some people, maintaining certain eating patterns (or diet) may fit into their self-care plan and for others it may be necessary to stay within a certain weight range for medical reasons. But losing weight does not automatically equal self-care. And if done in a highly restrictive fashion can be a draining, uncomfortable experience. The brain only has so much resource to get through each day and every action takes a toll on that resource. Discipline to eat a strict diet is one of the things that uses up brain resources. That’s why people on highly restrictive diets sometimes end up binge-eating the very foods they are trying to avoid. This can lead to “yo-yo dieting” where people fluctuate between different weights. On top of that, there are very real struggles with body image, for people of any gender, running rampant through society which negatively impacts psychological wellbeing.

So then, how can you include eating patterns (or diet) in your physical self-care plan in a healthy way? I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but through struggles and reflections over the years here’s how I now go about it…

As a foundation point, try to maintain a high-level perspective. Food intake is a cumulative thing, what you eat adds up over weeks, months, and years which means:

  • One or a few days of eating higher calorie meals will not completely derail your health (barring of course specific medical conditions).
  • Try to focus on “macronutrients,” or specifically what is your intake overall of carbs, proteins, and fats as opposed to getting stuck in the mire of counting calories. People can become fixated on hitting their calorie marks and miss out on their nutrient intake. For some, missing the mark can lead to unhealthy and punitive self-talk.
  • Consider allowing yourself moderate treats. For me, if I know I’m “allowed” to have a small piece of chocolate whenever I feel like it then I find myself focusing far less on the fact that I can’t have chocolate and as a result craving said chocolate. Think of it as a scarcity of resource issue – if you can access the resource when you’d like and it’s always available, you’re less driven to consume as much of it as possible when given the chance.
  • Figure out how to work fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks and find ones you like! Try different ways of preparing and pairing them and considering trying some you haven’t before.
  • As always, have grace with yourself and adapt your efforts are you encounter barriers and learn new things about yourself.
  • Everything in moderation.

Hopefully this overview provides a better understanding on how to work diet into your physical self-care plan if you choose!