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Eating Disorders

Let Food Be the White Noise for Your Life’s Symphony

The basic principle of white noise can also be applied to food. Here's how.

Key points

  • White noise is effective because it gives the brain something consistent and steady to focus on.
  • Food is our body’s source of safety—in a sense, the white noise of life's symphony.
  • During the holiday season, food often becomes the star of the show instead of part of the ensemble.
  • Eating well doesn’t have to be complex. Instead, we must create a new paradigm around food.
Element5 Digital / Unsplash
Element5 Digital / Unsplash

White noise is effective because it gives the brain something consistent and steady to focus on, so it’s not so bothered by outside noise. It works well for sleep and is the secret to noise-canceling headphones. The basic principle of white noise can also be applied to our bodies and food.

Food is our body’s source of safety. When it is fed consistently and the fuel (glucose) is steady without distracting surges and valleys, there is no threat to survival. Nutrition is like the roots of a tree; think about how long a tree can remain standing without a sturdy foundation. I once learned in my nutrition training that nutrition in the years leading up to a pregnancy was as important as nutrition during the pregnancy. I suppose that holds true for most life events that call on our body to have the building blocks for resiliency.

As an eating disorder specialist for decades, I can say that, for something that should be so basic and simple, food sure does create a lot of drama in many people’s lives—and not just those with disordered eating! At one time, I also got caught in the web of food as a novelty. Although the body likes basic and simple, the brain sure loves novelty. We get distracted by shiny objects and cravings for forbidden things. Thoughts of what to eat and what not to eat swirl in our heads—so much so, that we are distracted from what’s most important in our lives.

As we enter the season of food as novelty—with Halloween as “opening day”—let us not be distracted from our life’s symphony, our connections to loved ones, and the awe of stillness when mindful.

I’m not saying that we can’t enjoy the treats of the season. Let’s just not make them the main course. Food has a long tradition of connecting people, but the food somehow became the star of the show instead of part of the ensemble.

So many people feel defeated at this time of the year, thinking they can’t eat well so they might as well just give in to the temptation and start again in the new year. Been there, done that. This approach leads to stress and anxiety as well as a lack of clarity and energy. We ultimately miss the most important parts of the season, all because we lost our foundational white noise to keep us feeling safe, grounded, and resilient.

Call me boring, but food has become a self-care activity for me.

Just like sleep, movement, and mindfulness, I eat to keep my nervous system feeling safe. A balanced plate of protein, vegetables, and complex carbs with a dollop of fat, three times a day, keeps me calm and sane. If I work out my body, it gets replenished with protein and carbs for recovery. Sure, I have my favorite shiny objects, like soft serve ice cream, but I don’t let it distract me from my foundational “harm reduction” plan that reeks of simplicity.

Eating well doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, the more complex, the more potential for breaking points, like links in a chain. When it comes to behavioral habit change, make it easy. Once it becomes second nature, a little novelty doesn’t trip you up.

This idea may seem to counter the belief that recovery from an eating disorder means all foods fit all the time, but my experience tells me that we must create a new paradigm around food. It is not to be feared or idealized. It is simply the foundation of our lives—the white noise—so that we can live our great, big lives and sit back and listen to the symphony.

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