Taste. Lick. Suck. Bite. The innocent act of eating can sound so lustful. And, eating food is, at its core, incredibly sexual. Birds and bees pollinate flowers, the sexual organs of fruiting trees and plants, and we eat the results. In fact, eating is the most intimate thing we do with other people … in public.
But too often, women experience debilitating perfectionism, guilt, shame, and fear around food and our cravings for it. We stand in the way of our bodies; our desires for pleasure and sex. It's not our fault — we come into awareness that our bodies are capable of pleasure about the same age that we are taught that sex and food are dangerous. And so we begin to walk along the dual razors edges of dieting and dating. An example from my own life: When I was getting divorced, a two-plus year grind, I became aware that my libido had been encased in cement and was drowned at the bottom of the ocean. We had co-created the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me together, and I had made a name as a vegan chef and cookbook author. After I discovered my ex-husband’s infidelity, I blamed his wandering attentions on myself. I thought I must have lost my sexual pull after giving birth to our son, or that I was too tame for him.
But as my divorce dragged on, and I spent more time as a single co-parent, my energy, hormones, and body went through a major upheaval. I hadn’t thought about sex for months, let alone dating. I also hadn’t eaten meat in over a decade, and hadn’t wanted any. And then, something changed — and I suddenly wanted both. I wanted men, and I wanted meatballs. Let me tell you, it was confusing, scary, and frustrating to be in a body that all of a sudden craved two very “taboo” things: sex and meat.
I fought my cravings for quite a while — over a year of total denial. And in that time, my body, soul, and life suffered. I finally realized that I wasn’t allowing myself the same started listening to my body and gave her what she was asking for: Men and meat.
It was like a rebirth. My energy, passion, and life turned on. I started seeing more possibility in my life, and having more fun, and my body came back from the brink of hormonal failure. I went on over 100 first dates in 18 months. And I had a total diet makeover from vegan to omnivore. Here's what I learned about how to date and eat with self-respect in the process.
1. Experiment to find what really feels good to you.
When I started Internet dating, I found out pretty quickly that the fantasy person in the profile rarely matches up with the reality. In my 100+ first dates, I met a lot of men who were obviously not a good match, but couldn’t have known that without meeting them first.
Once we were sitting across from each other at the coffee shop, or talking perched on bar stools over a glass of wine, my body and brain told me who was a good fit, and who wasn’t. Similarly, you also won’t know what foods are going to help you feel the way you want by reading a diet book. You have to be willing to try different ways of eating to understand, on a cellular level, what foods help you feel well. Try vegan, try paleo, try grain-free, eat everything, or go on a guided cleanse. Collect the dots so you can begin to connect the dots. Be open to feeling what feels good, or not-so-good, to you. Your body, heart, and soul will tell you what you need to know. But you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone, date “not your type” people, and try a way of eating that may be foreign.
2. Always stand up for what's right for your own body.
Even though I knew I would lose some vegan friends when I came out as an omnivore (I did), and I would get shamed and judged by friends who found out I was dating and sleeping with multiple people at once, (it happened), I had a deep inner knowing that I was doing my life my way. And that's what really made me happy.
We are the five people we hang out with most. We mirror their behavior and thoughts. Are your friends supporting you on this path of discovery? Or are they judgmental, shaming, and not trustworthy? Surround yourself with good people, and ditch the rest. Which brings me to...
3. Ask for help.
Left to my own devices, I would still be living alone with my son and spending every Friday night on the couch with the Gilmore Girls. It was my dear friends who kept inviting me out; encouraging me to flirt, date, sleep with a safe friend of theirs, eat meat at their house, and finally experiment with finding my truths.
Ask your friends what they love and admire about you. Get their support in your experiments — and ask them if they’ll still support and love you no matter what you discover. They will. And if they don’t, you’ll know it’s time to cleanse your friends, too.
4. Remember that procrastination stems from our desire for perfection.
Shopping for men on Tinder does not equal dating. Reading diet books and buying supplements you never take does not equal healing your body.
The only way to really create the vitality you desire it to experiment. I was afraid to start dating because I couldn’t imagine living through another broken heart again. So I stayed home, commiserated with friends on the phone, and watched a lot of romantic comedies. After a few months of that, I realized my life was leaking away from me, like a yoga ball with a pinprick in the side. I decided I would rather risk the fleeting humiliation of a few bad dates than die with the regret of never trying again. At the same time, I was afraid to start eating meat again, even though my body was craving it, my hormones were tanking, and I was exhausted and drooling over friends’ steaks at dinner. My body was telling me what I wanted, but I wasn’t listening because I was afraid to fail in front of anyone, or be “found out.” Looking for the perfect person or the perfect diet stops you from ever really investing or trying. My advice? Make an online dating profile — then ask someone out! Swap out one food that you know holds you back in your energy or weight loss goals. Replace green juice with bone broth. Remove sugar. Ask that guy out. Just. Do. Whatever. You. Actually. Want.
5. To find the perfect person or diet, you have to act as if YOU were already perfect.
Showing up at a date with an air of “I need you to fix me/like me/be the one” dooms it to failure. You have to date as if you were already whole, not searching for someone to “complete you.”
Similarly, most of us diet from a place of “I’m lousy. My body sucks. I’m a total weak-willed slob.” You have to show up as if you already believe you're beautiful, or you'll never feel good — no matter the diet.
Try to meet each person and each plate in the moment, without bringing your history or “failures” with you. You’ll find that dinner and dating become a lot more enjoyable when you show up as if you were already perfect. Judging yourself, the food, or the person in front of you doesn’t allow you to be present and fully experience the moment, bite, experience, or kiss.
Be present and taste everything. It's delicious.
Images: .craig/Flickr; Giphy