Yeah…Immaeatthat

Jul 03

Not every meal has to be a gourmet experience: A conversation on (sometimes) eating boring and unexciting food.

I love when I sit down for a meal that is filled with everything my tastebuds, mind and body want at that moment.  I would say at least once a day I eat something that I find pleasure and joy in.  A word Hummusapien mentioned to me a while back is “hygge, which means the act of creating coziness for yourself in every day moments.  I love when food feels like just that…coziness that is oh-so satisfying.  I 100% believe eating is one way to find joy and pleasure.  

However, this post is about being okay when meals don’t feel like hygge.

Midway-ish through eating disorder recovery, something I reminded myself of a lot was that every meal does NOT have to be a gourmet experience.  There were times I’d end up overly hungry because the snack options didn’t live up to my eating disorder’s pretentious food standards.  Now I realize that everything you eat doesn’t have to be perfectly pleasing to your tastebuds.  Sometimes you eat a bland sandwich for lunch, a stale muffin midway through a work meeting, an uninspiring freezer lasagna that my Italian brother-in-law would make fun of, a dinner at a chain restaurant that you think is totally lame, a 4pm cold glazed donut because dinner is in 2 hours and you need something NOW, a hotdog on a boring bun at a favorite friend’s cookout, or a clif bar flavor that isn’t your favorite because that is what is available come meal / snack time.  

For instance, last Friday morning I popped into a cafe for a morning snack.  The chocolate croissant I ordered in the photo below was totally lame.  It had like 6 (TINY) chocolate chips max and was a really sub-par chocolate croissant.  For me, for a chocolate croissant to be excellent it should have chocolate in every bite.  This wasn’t the case.

But I ate it.  Drank my latte.  Moved on with more important things I was doing that day.  Rewind 7 years and that whole experience would’ve been overwhelming for me.  I would’ve felt that eating that chocolate croissant was a waste because it wasn’t perfect, but now I know that sometimes we eat food that isn’t all rainbows and unicorns because you’re hungry or will be hungry soon and “x” food is the option.  

Back then I was living in such a deprivation / diet-y mindset.  A peek inside my brain would’ve revealed thoughts of: this is the only chocolate croissant I can enjoy for awhile so it HAS to be perfect.  That puts a lot of pressure on a person to choose the most perfect food at every meal or snack (pressure that can turn into indecision when it comes time to choose a meal / snack).  But now I know if my body is craving a chocolate croissant tomorrow and the next day and the next, I can have chocolate croissants as desired.  Pressure released :)

At least once a week a client will tell me that they have found themselves recently (or in the past) in front of the pantry / fridge / restaurant menu crying because they don’t know what they want to eat.  A combination of years of food rules dictating what they are allowed to eat, extreme hunger (that makes even ‘normal’ eaters feel hopeless / irritable), and deprivation leads to indecisiveness when it comes time to choose a meal or a snack. 

I so remember that feeling of standing in front of the pantry feeling that this was the only morning snack I was eating that day so it had to be perfect because at the time me controlling my food choices gave me a sense of stability that I mislabeled as happiness.

As my recovery has progressed, I’ve experienced food become less and less interesting.  At first, quite honestly, I felt like it sucked.  What once brought me so much joy* didn’t anymore because eating satisfying food was no longer a novelty.  I ate satisfying foods every time I wanted them and that brought a lot of positives: a less turbulent relationship with food, ease with eating out, and more brain space to focus on living a more whole life.  All these things were good (actually they were fan-freaking-tastic), but the sensational, exuberant, flooded-with-relief feeling I once got when eating was gone.  I missed that for a while because for several years eating gave me such a high** that I wasn’t getting anymore. 

The intense allure and primal pull towards food was gone because I was finally nourishing my body regularly.  This is one reason I don’t buy into the term “food addiction” because, in my experience, the more I ate all foods the less obsessed I became with foods. (I talked more about food addiction in this post.)

The biggest thing I’ve realized is that the “control” (I would have once called it “joy”) food brings is fleeting.  It can bring a sense of happiness, pleasure and control over your life for the 10-30 minutes you spend eating, but food or disordered food behaviors can’t bring lasting fulfillment.  Transforming my relationship with food allowed me to discover things that allow me to live a fulfilling life filled with things that aren’t fleeting.  Things like: investing in relationships with others, understanding me and what I need, nurturing a healthy spiritual life, etc.  Things that bring a deep rooted sensation of relief and happiness that I get to carry with me everyday no matter what my mood is.

All this to say…it’s nice for food to be one tool I can use to take care of myself, but not the only tool.  And if I find a new food that does bring my tastebuds, mind and body a lot of happiness, I eat it until satisfied as often as I want it.***

*it wasn’t truly “joy” I was feeling though.  It was really a sense of control that gave me a short term sense of stability over my mood.

**same as above but replace “joy” with “a high.”

***thanks for reading :)  Would love to hear any thoughts you have on this.

45 comments on “Not every meal has to be a gourmet experience: A conversation on (sometimes) eating boring and unexciting food.”

  1. SO MUCH YES! I feel that when I struggle with this, like you said about how you used to feel about the croissant being “worth it” is a leftover from my ED and how I used to feel about the calorie “splurge”/deviation from my eating. When I first began to recover I still had this thing about food being “worth it”, even if it wasn’t coming from the same place of it being about the calories.

    I also really identify with your client-my partner will ask me what I want to eat and I will panic and freak out and just be like “I DON’T KNOW GET OFF MY BACK!” haha. After so many years of restricting, and only allowing a “splurge meal” once a week, other than the things I used to “splurge” on (foods I knew I loved from childhood-think fries, chicken nuggets, pizza) (ugh such a stupid concept…I couldn’t even bring myself to use the word cheat. Even when I was in the depths of anorexia I recognized that word was messed up!) But other than those things that are palatable for a child (and for an adult too) I have no idea what I like. So it’s been fun trying to figure that out-and having a partner that sees it as fun and loves making these things or going out with me. :)

    Also I would just like to say that even when all of my unhealthy behaviors were pretty much gone the one I could. not. shake. was calorie counting (like I started “getting better” when I was 20 and I am now 28) but after finding your blog and through you food psych and 50 ways to soothe yourself without food I have not counted calories in MONTHS. Where before the longest I had ever gone was the weekend or a trip.I had honestly gotten to the point where I was starting to accept that I would be this way for the rest of my life because it felt that hopeless. It feels SO GOOD. It feels so dramatic and eye-rolly to tell a stranger on the internet that “you changed my life” but really, my life has literally changed! dramatically!

    Keep doing what you do :)

  2. Wow…..wow wow wow. Kylie you bring so much light and depth and understanding into an area of my life that has so been hidden and has left me empty and confused. For so long I’ve thought “I don’t know what i’m craving!!” How many times have I stood in front of the pantry rethinking a snack decision and never thinking I made the right decision? Too many. I blamed it on my disorder robbing me of knowing what I really want. But after reading this it’s like a light just went off–I want the snack to be perfect and meet this need in me to be met that can’t be met with food. I want this food decision to somehow fill me and complete me and that’s not the food’s responsibility. It’s food! Thank you so much for this. This article (and so many of your other ones!!) has brought so much light into my life. Thank you for the work you are doing and bringing to so many people’s lives, mine included. I’m so so blessed to have found you and your page and I can’t tell you how life is beginning to open up for me.

  3. I struggle with this SO MUCH, still. If I eat something and it’s either bit disappointing, I feel like it’s a waste, even though I KNOW that’s the wrong mindset to have. I can remember being out at a fancy event with my mom, and bursting into tears after eating a cupcake that wasn’t up to my expectations. Like, WHY do I give food that kind of power?! Definitely something I need to work on, and everything you wrote here makes so much sense. Thank you <3 

  4. Oh my gosh!!! This is so so so true. Crap! I feel all those things. If it is not “perfect” it is a waste, and I did not realize why until you walked me through that analysis and sharing your journey. It does have to be perfect b/c when restricting, I am not sure when I will get it again, and if I am “failing” in the ED by eating X, then it really better be perfect and worth it. But that means I am idolizing food and my priorities are WAY off. Why are we worshiping food? B/c like you said, that control does seem to bring a sense of happiness, albeit false, and fleeting. Thanks for sharing this post. I will be rereading this over and over again.

  5. Just want to say this is one of my favorite posts you have ever written….it’s basically like you are inside my head when you write about where you have come from with food, and it gives me so much hope to read how you view food now, because that means I can get there too!! One thing you have written in a couple past posts has really stood out to me: that to get to this state of recovery in terms of how u think/feel about food, you couldn’t wait until it felt comfortable. Rather you had to purposefully choose to do uncomfortable things and continue to do them until they became your new “normal.” This seems so simple but was such a lightbulb moment for me reading this! Now I’m trying every day to pick one tangible thing around food/exercise that feels uncomfortable and challenge myself to do it! Thank you for letting God work through your difficult experiences to motivate, teach, and inspire others!!

    • I ditto the best post ever written. I relate to this SO much. Thank you for putting into words the complicated feelings in my head.

  6. I was just talking about this the other day – social media makes it seem like every meal has to be overly beautiful and the best thing ever. Food can just be, well, food sometimes…old, bland, boring and plain. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Yeah, you’re on to something here.  I’m working on loosening up my “eating rules” and I’ve noticed a couple of things.  First, the world doesn’t come crashing down when I eat foods I used to label as verboten.  Second, when I give myself more leeway to just eat, I’m not as obsessed with food.  Maybe because the challenge is gone?  Anyway, work in progress.  

  8. I am finding I get less and less excited about food. At first I was really sad, but then I realized I was getting 75% of my joy in life from food excitement so when that was gone I naturally felt kind of empty. I’ve worked on changing that by adding daily self-care practices and finding joy in other ways. As usual, this post is awesome and I can so relate!

  9. THANK YOU for writing this post!! The idea that food is a waste if its not perfect is something I’ve struggled with so much during my ed and recovery. I’ve felt a lot of shame/confusion around the anger a “wasted” food experience has brought on for me….and hearing that I’m definitely not the only person to experience it alleviates some of that. Have a great day!

  10. I think I have been battling and coming to terms with this this year. I have a 1-yr old baby and i eat more meals than I care to admit sitting on the ground and sharing with her (and having smeared all over my pants). Or 6 months ago scarfing from the fridge because she finally fell asleep and I have 3 seconds to grab a bite before getting to my laptop and working! Or 12 months ago it was whatever anyone put in front of me because I was glued to the couch nursing and starving. So food is good, but not a grand experience most of the time, esp. in this phase of life.

  11. I think society also reinforces these behaviors strongly as well. Not only is it stressful to eat a food that isn’t good or isn’t right, but it also can feel really “important” to maintain your appearances as a healthy eater or perfect eater. I totally find myself plating items a little differently or adding a vegetable I don’t really want to eat to my plate so that when I snapchat it to my friends, it looks better.

    Also, if you’re on the thin side and people see you eating a croissant then it’s easy to convince yourself that people don’t think you’re “healthy” anymore- even worse if they comment on it. Obviously eating whatever you’re presented with is healthier.

    With all of your posts, I think you do a great job highlighting the personal side of recovery. You also make me think about how society can reinforce these things and how I might do my best to not take part inadvertently.

  12. Wow, so true! I still find myself sometimes having a hard time getting “over” a bad meal…I tend to dwell on it too much.  So this reminds me that it’s gonna happen/get over it!  And I always felt if I were really hungry, the “perfect” food would pop up in my head to eat.  Now I know it’s better to just eat something (even though it’s not going to be the “perfect” food), so I don’t get famished and eat more than my body wants or needs.  It’s fuel for the engine at this point…So thank you for this post, it sheds light on my crazy thinking!!!

  13. I couldn’t agree with this more. I used to feel like it was such a waste if I ate something sub-par. But now, as you said, I can eat these foods whenever, so I don’t have to feel like I was cheated. This concept could carry over in other areas of life, and I absolutely love that you have opened my eyes to this. I so appreciate these thought-provoking posts!

  14. I can relate to this SO MUCH! You just wrote everything I’ve been thinking and feeling perfectly, and I’m not even sure I knew it was in my brain.

    There are many times where I end up at work late and I eat whatever’s there without much thought because I’m really hungry and know I have a couple hours before I’ll be at home with dinner made. Sometimes this is a lackluster granola bar, sometimes it’s a leftover donut that someone brought in earlier. Years ago, I would have done one of two things: eat 3-4 leftover donuts because donuts were “bad” and I would have been thinking about avoiding them all day, OR not eaten anything and waited til dinner (because there were no “healthy” options) at which point I would have been starving and cranky and light headed. Guess which experience makes me most productive with said work? :)

    Thank you again for another lovely and enlightening post!!

  15. This absolutely resonated with me. While in the throes of recovery, I constantly had the mindset that if I couldn’t restrict anymore, everything I ate from then on out had better taste perfectly delicious. I cried more times than I’d like to admit when restaurants messed up my takeout order. 

    I feel so grateful to be on the other side of this and now have a multi-faceted view of food: as fuel, pleasure, nostalgia, and comfort, with nothing off-limits.

  16. I absolutely could not relate to this any more! I continue to struggle with creating the perfect ‘meal’. I find myself anxious, guilty, and completely defeated if a meal or snack is not exactly what my body was craving in that moment or didn’t really live up to my eating disorder’s ‘expectations’. It can be so tricky to decipher through that thought process and identify that while it may not be a food choice my eating disorder is completely comfortable with, it is what I WANT. Finding that sense of self-voice again can be so challenging, but oh so important. I am so grateful to hear I am not alone in this silly mindset, there have been countless times I feel totally lost around food because I simply don’t know what I want, or don’t have the ingredients to make what I think is ‘good for my body’ or ‘the best choice’. Thank you so very much for continuing to address these topics, your posts are so incredibly inspiring and encouraging. Hope your holiday is full of delicious food!

  17. Absolutely! Even a couple of years into intuitive eating and I still have to remind myself of this from time to time. A few weekends ago I went out to a new brunch place with my husband, so excited to get a pancake or waffle or something sweet! Something I never would’ve ordered while in the throes of an eating disorder. And what do you know, the menu was full of savory things with not a pancake in sight! After a mini freak out, I let myself be a little disappointed, but ordered something else and it was fine. In fact, I found myself connecting with my husband even more because I wasn’t really excited about the food– he got my full attention. I have noticed though that sometimes these unexciting meals leave me unsatisfied; I wanted something sweet, I didn’t get it, I still want something sweet. Nothing a cinnamon roll to go from the bakery next door couldn’t alleviate though :)

  18. WOW! I feel like you’re peeking into what my mindset was like during the early stages of my recovery, and before. Being SO upset if food wasn’t right & feeling like it was a waste, crying from anxiety and stress of not knowing what to eat, etc. It was always overwhelming! It’s been a few years now, but I’m only just now realizing/practicing what you wrote about today. Every meal and snack doesn’t have to be perfect. Thank you for sharing such a resonating post! :)

  19. I just adore this post. One of my faves you’ve ever written. But… let’s be honest. I say that about almost every post. ;)

    Thank you so much, Kylie!! You are truly a breathe of fresh air, and are amazing at what you do. Sending you <3 !

  20. I’d just like to add my support to this post. It is spot freaking on.
    I think part of the evil reprogramming diet culture has done to our brains is convincing us that control is not only the same as joy but it is also required. Otherwise, we couldn’t possibly be living our best lives, right?
    As our culture shifts away from “diet” language, and moves into an obsession with “health” and “strength” which is just the same problem with new vocabulary, it is super important for anyone in recovery from an ED to realize that health, joy, and overall wellness are like everything physical, states of being which we pass in and out of as we live our lives.
    It is possible to practice self care and still feel anxious. There is nothing wrong with that. It is okay to have days where you feel sad. What isn’t okay, is to believe there is a way to control those states of being that involves controlling your food and exercise routines.
    Thank you for bringing this up, Kylie. You continue to be one of my favorite recovery/life blogs because of your dedication to a 360 degree view of the approach we take to our lives.

    • Good points, Jess. Loved the mention of “health / joy / overall wellness are states of being which we pass in and out of as we live our lives.” We aren’t meant to control everything so rigidly and stay the same body size / have the same exercise routine / eat the same lunch / etc. We’re meant to move into different states. Such a good reminder to live in the gray vs. black & white.

      Thanks for commenting :)

  21. Love this! Also a great mentality I use to approach leftovers. They’re sometimes totally random and weird but they nourish me and sometimes that’s all you need :)

  22. Thanks for this…..really well explained and VERY relatable. Happy summer, Kylie!

  23. Wow Kylie, this post hit me hard. Thank you for this. I get so overwhelmed with your perspective on topics, such as this, that it reminds me again as to why I need to let go of food’s hold over me. These posts come at the most inconvenient times – as in when I am planning to start another diet. But seriously thank you!

  24. Love this post!
    Sometimes food simply is fuel – mundane, so-so – to get through the day. Makes me appreciate those gourmet, labored, and sometimes indulgent meals even more.
    And even as somebody who hasn’t struggled with a true ED, I still relate to that pressure of needing a snack or meal to be perfect because you can’t re-live or re-eat those calories later. God life is easier when we take that pressure off ourselves!

    Oh, and thought you might want to know that one of your ads was a “lose belly fat” ad – I know you’re careful to try and limit those kinds of ads on your blog, so just letting you know. :)

  25. Thanks for this post! As I’ve gone through my intuitive eating journey Insometimes feel like I have no idea what I want and kind of get mad at my body for not telling me what it wants. Luckily I have started to become ok with the same ‘boring’ breakfast or lunches, mostly because I hate wasting food so I’ll eat whatever is in the fridge. I think it makes those really spectacular meals, like date night with my hubby, even or special!

  26. All the yes!! You perfectly articulated this struggle of making each meal or snack an amazing experience. I know it is because in my ED behavior I only ‘allowed’ myself to eat at certain times so it had to be perfect every time or I felt like I would have ‘wasted’ my chance to eat. My husband said I was sometimes ritualistic with food as I would have to have certain things done before eating (dishes etc) or I felt like the experience of having a meal wouldn’t be perfect. As always you nailed it and I love knowing I am not alone in this one :)

  27. Just to add to what everyone’s been saying here… you are like a mindreader with this post! It’s so spot on…! Your posts constantly inspire me and make me realise that I can move onwards and upwards!

  28. I agree with all this 1000%. Favorite quote: “controlling my food choices gave me a sense of stability that I mislabeled as happiness.” <- Yep! There is so much REAL joy out there that has nothing to do with food, and letting go of controlling my food has helped me dig deeper into the good stuff.

  29. Love this conversation. I had a not-so-great breakfast experience the other day when I over toasted my bread  for an egg sandwich but was in a hurry so I ate it anyways. As I was eating it as I drove to work. I was so annoyed as I usually love a yummy, slow breakfast. But I just reminded myself that I have soooo many breakfasts that I can a lack luster one every so often. No biggie! 

  30. Thank you for this post! I’ve experienced this in the past, but I could never quite put my finger on what it was! This was very helpful for me to find how far I’ve come.

  31. Really so well said! It’s funny in many ways I am far beyond disordered eating but bec I’m a busy mom of two little girls and mealtime can be so frantic I do get annoyed that I can’t just sit and savor my food the way I used to. Normal in that I would just love a chance to relax but also bec I think I still see food as a treat of sorts. I’m not depriving myself but I do think it gives me that high you’re talking about. I appreciate your insight!

  32. Thank you for this post! I could relate to it so much and like you had named an uneasiness inside me I couldn’t label myself. Each week I menu plan with my fiance, and it takes me so much time to find a recipe that I will like, because “nothing” meets my expectations of what I am “craving” or I will cook a meal and it doesn’t turn out amazing and I think of it as almost a failure. I only started to realize that no food is perfect, and that sometimes boring food is ok, just like you said so wonderfully and all these comments echo. Really loved this post. Thank you!

  33. Another YES YES YES!!! This is totally where I’m at right now. I fuel my body which is good, but I get way too stressed out about the “perfect” everything that goes into my body. I want to echo what everyone else has said and say THANK YOU! You got it girl!

  34. Thank you for this. You inspired me to write the following note for myself in my phone as a reminder.

    Food is just one way to care for myself. Food is not the be all, end all solution to all of my difficult feelings. Food is fleeting, while living a nourishing life within my bubble of coziness runs much deeper. I can take my eyes off of my “plate” for a moment and look up at the world and people around me. There is so much more out there and I have all the potential in the world to discover what fulfills me. I will not sell myself short.

  35. Wow, you really hit the nail on the head with this one. Kylee, you are such an inspiration and I absolutely love reading all of your posts and following you. I can relate so so much to this post and am so thankful that I no longer suffer like I did in the past with this. Many people have told me that it’s impossible to ever recover from an eating disorder, but I think you are a prime example of someone who has. I LOVE your outlook on food and life and I’m so happy that I found you. Thank you for everything that you share and keep doing what you’re doing. I hope one day I can be as brave and courageous as you are with sharing my past with everyone so I can hopefully touch a few lives as I know you have touched so MANY. 

  36. Thank you, so much, for this post! I am recovering from food restriction and orthorexia, and I do find I still obsess about food and counting calories. I have to think and be mindful about not doing this, and when I do this, it takes any joy out enjoying a meal. In saying this, my goal is to relish the experience and remember food is food, meant for nourishment. This is what my husband always says, and I do believe this. However, practicing this mindset is difficult. Thank you, again! 

  37. This is so good! It really brings to mind when I, myself, was also glamorizing food more. There was a time (not too long ago) in my life in which McDonald’s breakfast was highly glamorized. I would only allow myself to eat breakfast there once a week. I always ordered the same thing, egg and cheese biscuit. One morning when it was “my day” to order breakfast, they accidentally put my egg and cheese on a hamburger bun instead of a biscuit. I didn’t realize it until I had already left and when I discovered it all I can remember is how angry I felt. I was so mad that I didn’t even eat it even though I was hungry. I felt like that had ruined my day because of this one experience. In fact, I remember telling people about it throughout the day several times. Looking back now, and especially after your post, I think it’s because I had put too much pressure on this one experience for my happiness. After beginning the ED Recovery process, I have been enjoying McDonald’s breakfast whenever I feel like it, which interestingly enough isn’t everyday. But I feel now that this breakfast, while enjoyable, doesn’t carry nearly the weight as it did before.

  38. Yes! I never thought that eating unexciting food would be part of eating disorder and disordered eating recovery, but you are exactly right. I’ve definitely been that person that starting crying over not knowing what to eat for dinner because of all the food rules that have been tough to let go. It was an unexpected obstacle to overcome when I thought I was in a good place. Now I can go out to dinner with my parents at a restaurant where I know the food is just blah, but I remind myself, it’s just food and I’m here to spend time with my parents and that’s more important.

  39. Definitely relate to this. I think what is hard for me is the unsatisfied feeling that comes sometimes when I eat a food that’s not super satisfying or exciting. But I know what you mean about being less interested in food the more you allow yourself to eat it. I used to be so excited to go the the grocery store and buy foods from the “healthy” isle like cookies and snacks and frozen meals. Now because I eat any of that stuff from other sources it’s not as exciting as it once was.

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  41. AHH. I was literally just staring at the pantry earlier this afternoon struggling to decide what to eat. I’ve been realizing more and more too that every meal doesn’t have to be spectacular or special. Food is just food. Sometimes I set my expectations for recipes/meals/food too high and end up being disappointed when it doesn’t taste as good as I imagined. Whereas if I just let food be what it is rather than overanalyze and judge it, I can actually feel the satisfaction when something surprisingly tastes good.

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