How I achieved a healthier relationship with food

Male role modelAround the age of 13, I found myself feeling pretty bad about my body. Growing up in the 80’s, I naturally took Jean Claude van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone as role models with regards to what a guy was supposed to look like. But this didn’t gel with the 5-foot-6-inch-under-100-lb reflection of myself I saw in the mirror. Thus began my obsession with food, fitness and body image. 

By the age of 18, I was 5 foot and 10 inches and weighed in at a strapping 120 lbs (54 kg). Just for reference, that’s the statistics for a typical supermodel…a FEMALE supermodel! By 1987, I had had enough of trying everything and knew and needed professional help. Both an endocrinologist nutritionist and a personal trainer steered me in the direction of weight gain. By 21, I had gained 30 lbs, tipping the scales at 15o lbs (68 kg). It was the most miserable 3 years of my life. I spent everyday on the verge of throwing up. Eat, eat some more, and when you’re bored or full, eat some more. I doubled my calories overnight. While that might sounds envious, consider that this is the flip side of the coin that says you have to eat less when you want to eat more.

I realize now that this was the nexus of my approach to food and the relationship that many people have with it. I don’t want anyone to be as unhappy as I was for those 3 years. Whatever the goal, it just isn’t worth that kind of self abuse and discomfort. So it should come as some surprise that it took me another 10 years to actually realize that I felt this way. The reason for this is that at 150lbs I was still not satisfied and continued to eat “this way” and not “that way” in my vain attempt to get more muscular. All the while telling myself it was for health.

It wasn’t until my master’s degree program that I realized that my relationship with food was still being driven by my 13 year old version of my body image. Once it saw what was at the root of my relationship with food and body image, I was able to reflect on the fact that at 33 it was time to develop another tool for motivation. I realized that the goals of the teen me didn’t fit with the adult goals and therefore I started to slowly change my relationship with food and through that, my diet. It guided my studies to realize that our desire to eat differently is more driven by our deep relationship with food rather than our intellectual selves might think. So take a minute before you eat that food and ask yourself:

Does this fit into the food story you have for yourself today, or is it an old story that no longer works for you?

My personal experience has led me to where I am today and allows me to help my clients to replace their food story with a healthier and happier one.

Ian Rubin, MA, is the creator of Food Story Coaching TM and shares his work from Wholeself Wellness, his studio in Portland (Oregon). His primary goal is to help his clients ”eat happy” and live the life they’ve always wanted. You can contact Ian at