Nutrition is a game we play.

Before I completely freak you out with talk of food groups, let me say a couple of things about The Bottom Line when it comes to eating:

  • The bottom line is that you provide yourself the opportunity to eat at regular times.
  • The bottom line is that, at those times, you give yourself free reign to eat WHAT and HOW MUCH you want.

Until you’ve got those things down, don’t even bother with “nutrition.” It will only mess you up.

Eating at regular times doesn’t mean “three measured meals with no snacks in between.” That is some depriving, dictatorial BS right there, pushed by groups like Overeaters Anonymous. Do NOT mistake any of what I’m saying here with any of the many, many tricks diet programs have pulled on you to try to get you to eat less.

I don’t want you to eat less. I want you to eat well.

Eating well means eating in a way that feels good, both emotionally and physically. It, emphatically, means getting enough to eat, and getting enough of the foods you really like.

Eating at regular times means, for most people, three meals with one or two or three snacks thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, most adults have somehow internalized the idea that snacks are bad.

Stop right there. Snacks are not bad — snacks are essential.

Snacks are just as, and sometimes more, important than meals. Snacks get you through the period of desperation between lunch and dinner. Snacks give you a chance to eat some of the fun, bizarre, ridiculous, delicious, non-staple foods (like Cheetos) that it might otherwise be hard to incorporate into a fully-orchestrated meal. (They can also help to regulate your blood sugar, if you want to get all technical.)

They legitimize the hunger that you naturally feel at the mid-morning lull, the mid-afternoon lull, and the late-evening munchy time in front of the TV. We all feel hunger at one or all of these times. There’s no sense in denying it, so we may as well admit it, make it official, and get on with our lives.

Snacks are legitimate, snacks are official, and when you decide that you are going to eat them and make them a non-negotiable part of taking care of yourself with food, you can stop feeling guilty about them immediately.

So let’s do that right now: you are going to eat snacks. (Or snax! Because it’s so much more fun to say. Snax!) Why? Because snacks — official, pre-planned snax! — are part of life. They just are.

Providing yourself with regular opportunities to eat means that you will either pick rough times (like 6am, 9, 12pm, 3, 6, and 9pm again), or pick rough intervals (two or three or four hours) at which you will sit down with food in front of you.

You do not have to eat. But you have to sit down and look at that food and give yourself real, unconditional permission to eat if you want. And to go back for seconds, or thirds, if you need them. Or to eat half of it and change your mind and throw it away. Or to take a couple of bites and hand it to your husband. (Ahem. What?) Or wrap it back up and stick it in the fridge or freezer for another time.

Sound ridiculous and pointless? It’s not. It’s a crucial part of rebuilding trust with your body. It’s caring for your body as you would care for a child.

It’s making a promise to yourself: I will feed you. I will love you. I will let you grow.

Until the promise is made, and kept, and a relationship has been re-established, you cannot go forward toward the top of the pyramid without feeling scared, rebellious, resentful, and suspicious of yourself.

For now, build the bottom of that pyramid. Next time, we’ll dance at the top.

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