Is food a source of fear or comfort in your life? After you eat, do you find yourself feeling guilty or unsatisfied? If you’re like many people and answered yes to one or both of those questions, it’s possible that you may not have the best relationship with food. Understanding the role that food plays in our lives is essential when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle and overall wellness. With this in mind, I’d like to share 5 tips with you on how to have a healthy relationship with food!
How do you view food?
With all the information and statistics that are constantly thrown at us surrounding food and dieting, it is easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged when it comes to eating. When this happens, it is best to get a new perspective on the matter. So how do you view food?
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that since the issues with recent events, eating seems to be just another way to kill time. But food can mean various things to all kinds of people. Some simply see it as a tool for weight loss or weight gain. Others rely on food as a source of comfort or emotional support. And many people don’t give much thought to the matter at all. I believe that analyzing your outlook on the food that you eat and, even more, examining what you hope to get out of a meal can be key to establishing a healthy relationship with food.
The fact of the matter is food is an integral part of all of our lives. Not only do we need to eat to survive, but food is essential in orchestrating our mental and physical stability. The energy to get through our busy work days and the nutrients to keep our bodies functioning properly are all fueled by the things that we eat. So here are some helpful tips to remember when thinking about food.
1. Be Mindful!
When you sit down to eat, instead of focusing on the calorie count of the meal, focus on how you’re feeling as you eat it.
Indulge all of your senses! Try to take note of:
- How does the food look?
- How does the food smell?
- How does the food taste?
- And, especially, how does your body receive it?
This practice can help to heal your relationship with food because it not only keeps you more alert to what you are putting into your body, but it gives you a better appreciation of what you’re consuming as well.
Minimizing distractions, like television or social media, can help you to maximize this experience. One of my previous articles, “What About Healthy Eating Habits,” has some great tips on how to be mindful as you eat. Overall, the goal is to be present every time you encounter food. Along with becoming more satisfied with your meal, doing so can prevent you from eating too much and feeling guilty because it provides a more accurate account of your hunger or fullness.
2. No More Strict Restrictions!
While it is good to be aware and stay away from foods that your body rejects, completely cutting out certain foods or food groups can often have a reverse effect. Every strict diet that I’ve tried seems to work for a time, but inevitably fails when I let one misstep snowball into binge eating. This is because we tend to reduce food to the labels of good and bad, which is more often than not the cause of many of our psychological issues with it.
The truth is, our bodies thrive when our diets are well-rounded. As much as our bodies thrive off of a healthy amount of fruit and vegetables, fattier foods are also very necessary for a range of bodily functions as well. This being said, I am a huge advocate for getting the nutrients our bodies need from natural sources as opposed to heavily processed foods.
At the end of the day, the key is a change in perspective! Instead of banishing certain foods and punishing yourself for slipping up, try to focus on maintaining a well-balanced diet with all things in moderation. Such a mindset will help you to view food not as an enemy or something to fear, but as a friend that helps to support your wellness!
3. Don’t Make Eating Emotional!
Many people resort to eating as a form of emotional support. If you are feeling stressed, upset, or even just bored, food can easily become a sort of safe space to run to instead of facing your emotions. This is another prime example of an unhealthy relationship with food, however, even such an instinctive habit like this one can be broken!
The moment you think of running to the pantry or the refrigerator, ask yourself: “Am I really hungry?” I know, it seems so obvious, but the goal is to help strengthen your awareness of what and how you’re actually feeling. At the moment when you are able to separate hunger from emotion is when you can begin to confront your feelings head on.
4. Keep a Food Journal!
According to health.usnews.com, a helpful tool to avoid emotional eating and promote mindfulness is keeping an honest food journal. This way, you can become more alert to what and how often you are eating in order to increase personal accountability.
Breaking down your current relationship with food can help to set the foundation for a renewed connection with the things you eat. By keeping track of the details of your meals – including your portions and eating schedule – you can review your habits and the way that they correlate to your moods and the way they change.
While journaling, remember to:
Be honest with yourself – your journal is for your own personal benefit so it is important to accurately track what you’re consuming
Use your journal for self-reflection – the purpose of this activity is not to produce shame but to gain a better understanding of the role of food in your life
Look for patterns – part of knowing yourself is knowing your tendencies and knowing when you are at your most vulnerable.
Additionally, food journals can help with regulation and recognizing the foods that your body accepts and rejects. Below are some food journals that can help you get started.
5. Cook For Yourself!
Let’s be honest. Cooking is not for everyone.
However, a great way to begin building a healthier connection with the food that you are eating is by preparing it yourself! Cooking for yourself allows you to be in complete control of what you are putting into your body. This way, you are in command of the freshness of your ingredients as well as the portions and, most importantly, the flavor!
When cooking for yourself:
- Success starts at the store: Lean toward more natural ingredients on your grocery list
- Start easy: With a few simple recipes and then continue to build on what you have
- Get creative: experimenting with flavors and techniques can make the process more enjoyable
- Prepare with proper tools: Be sure you have some great kitchen gadgets like the Ninja Foodi below for cooking meals
With food being such an essential part of our lives, it should not be something that we battle but something that improves our health. Therefore, I hope you find these tips helpful as you continue to build your own healthy relationship with food! Lastly if you need professional help please contact the National Eating Disorder Association.
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