What Happens When You Share Your Food Story?
“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” - Iyanla Vanzant
The first time I felt brave enough to publicly share my Food Story, I was standing in a room full of 150 people. I took a deep breath, then spoke candidly about my relationship with food – and how reflecting on an entire lifetime’s worth of meals has helped to inform and redirect my path. By the end, I felt lighter, but also raw and vulnerable as I pulled my pain and words out from deep inside me. And then…there was silence.
Like, pin-drop, record-skip, deafening silence.
“Has no one understood?” I wondered. “Do they all think I’m crazy?” All my years of self-doubt, perfectionism, and food guilt came rushing back like a vacuum, filling the space that I had just emptied.
Then a woman named Susan raised her hand. She admitted that she doesn’t like sitting down at the dinner table with her husband and children and that she couldn’t understand why. Her guilt at being unable to enjoy a meal with her family had nagged at her for years, especially when she thought of her three young kids. But when she heard my story, even though it had nothing to do with hers, it inspired her to reflect on her own.
Suddenly, Susan connected the dots and realized that growing up with an alcoholic father and a diet-obsessed mother, her childhood dinner table had been more fraught than friendly. She found the thread, way back in her past, that was still influencing her Food Story today – and best of all, she now felt the veil of that shame lifted. By understanding it, she became empowered to change her narrative.
Susan’s story inspired a room full of women to stand up, one by one, and share snippets of their own Food Stories. And then, the magic happened: we all realized that we’re not alone in our struggles, even if our stories and relationships with food and our bodies aren’t the same. Our Food Stories, however disparate, were connecting us to ourselves and to each other.
But first things first! You’re likely thinking: what exactly is a Food Story?
Your Food Story is multi-layered, written over years and years.
It’s the way your mother talked about her body – and what your father said about vegetables.
It’s the food you eat when you’re celebrating – and the food you eat when you’re heartbroken.
It’s the dish your grandma always made for holidays – and the dessert you always order on your birthday.
It’s knowing you “should” be eating X – and eating Y instead.
Your Food Story is about childhood experiences, memory-laden meals, and the many foods that you may have labeled “good” or “bad.” It’s how food factors into your life – including the comments and attitudes of the people around you that you’ve adopted as your truth.
Without you even realizing it, these thoughts and patterns formed your Food Story. Internal dialogue is also a huge part of your Food Story, and it keeps many of us in unhealthy relationships with food and with our bodies.
The sad truth is that most of us wish that something about our habits or health could be different. Whether you spent years yo-yo dieting, frantically restricting food, or immersed in another cycle of eating that doesn’t serve you, discovering where your unwanted challenge came from can help you heal. While you cannot possibly identify or change all of the parts of your story that are no longer serving you in an instant, you can start the process.
One of the bravest and most empowering ways to begin rewriting your story is to share it. When our stories remain unprocessed they can zap our life force energy, literally draining us of our vitality. You don’t have to stand in front of a crowded room and bare your soul; you can tell a close friend. Or, if you’re not quite ready to talk about your story, try journaling (for your eyes only!) about what you would like to shift.
You can even write notes to your future self: https://www.futureme.org/. (Imagine writing a totally empowering, story-shattering email to your future self, then finding it in your inbox one week later? And then the week after that? And the next one? Pretty powerful!)
But there’s another power in sharing your Food Story: not just taking control of your own, but inspiring others to understand theirs. When you get vulnerable and tell your story, you create a connection with someone that may change them forever, sparking something deep within them and inspiring them to look inside too. Most importantly, it reminds you and them that we’re not alone on this journey.
Because at the end of the day, we are all in this together!
Now it’s your turn: What are some of the most memorable parts of your Food Story? Let's inspire one another to change by joining the conversation and sharing in the comments!