How often do you think about food? Do you think about it when you are hungry and need to go eat or is it what you spend most of your day fixating on? We are now beginning to realize that food has a greater effect on our bodies than exercise does. There is an ever increasing urge for us to just eat clean. With such an emphasis on the importance of food and the desire to look a certain way, many people have begun to see all food and the act of eating as something that is bad. This relationship with eating and food is not healthy. For some people, this relationship might be indulging in a sweet snack and feeling guilty about it for the rest of the day and forcing themselves to burn more calories later in the day. For others, this relationship may be refusing indulgences all together because they know that once they start, they won’t be able to stop and they strictly monitor whatever goes into their bodies. While others may be stuck in the never ending negative feedback loop of binging, feeling guilty, restricting food, and cravings. Additionally, we tend to assume that because someone eats healthy, it means that they have a healthy relationship with food, but this isn’t always the case. Being in a dysfunctional relationship is not good. But, unlike being in a dysfunctional relationship with a partner, we can’t just break up with food. Since we need food to live, we can’t just breakup with food, this means that we have to work hard to fix it.
Ditch The Rules
Imagine being in a relationship where you or the other person has to control everything, and if something doesn’t happen the way it was supposed to, there is a complete meltdown. This certainly isn’t a healthy relationship, but this is how most diets work. Being on a certain diet means you have to have complete control over everything you put into your body. Not only are most of these diets restrictive and nearly impossible to maintain long term, but they demonize our relationship with certain foods. When we restrict the foods we can eat, we tend to think about those foods and crave them. Anyone who has ever been on any sort of diet will know this. At some point, we lose control and give in to those cravings, it’s inevitable. Usually, when we give in to those cravings we don’t just have one cookie either, we have an entire box of cookies. As a result, we feel terrible about ourselves and have a negative body image. To try and correct this, we promise ourselves to do better next time and go back to restricting what we eat and then the cycle keeps repeating itself.
Ditching the rules of what you can and can’t eat means that you can totally have that cookie or that pizza. The difference between “I can’t have that” and “I can have that” means you have the option of eating it and, if you do eat it, you allowed yourself to eat it so you don’t have to feel guilty about eating it. By keeping the rules loose you can help to avoid the negative feelings associated with food and eating.
Don’t Punish Yourself
The process of developing a healthy relationship with food doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process. During this process there will be times where you do start to feel guilty about eating something that wasn’t so good for you. We all give in to cravings and we all pig out on junk food from time to time. When this happens, it is important to remind yourself that its okay to do so. Sure, eating something healthy probably would have been better, but it’s okay to eat a pizza or to go a few days where vegetable intake has been scarce. You are still beautiful and worthy and if the voice in your head starts to tell you otherwise, stop it. Remember, don’t tell yourself that you can’t have that food, remind yourself that it is completely okay to have it. Every relationship has it’s hiccups, a healthy relationship is able to get through it, forgive, and move on.
Trust Yourself With Food
Trust is an important part of every relationship, even your relationship with food. A lot of people, especially when they are on restrictive diets, don’t trust themselves to be anywhere near the foods they have restricted because they know that if they start, they can’t stop. Resisting foods can be tricky, we are biologically programmed to seek foods that provide an immediate source of energy (like all the junk food and sweets). Eating these foods are naturally pleasurable. When you’re around these foods let yourself have them. Say you’re at a buffet and they have a pastry you love, only put one or two on your plate. When you eat them savour them, don’t just inhale them, enjoy the taste. Once you’ve finished those and the rest of the food on your plate, you likely won’t feel such a strong desire to get more. Alternatively, if you got a bag of candy from a recent holiday, leave the candy in the kitchen cupboard. Once you’ve had your meal, have a serving of the candy as your dessert (serving size will be indicated on the back of the package). After you’ve portioned out the serving, but the bag back into the cupboard and go occupy yourself with something else after eating. It is important to stop doubting yourself and overanalyzing everything when it comes to food. It may be difficult to resist the temptation of having sweets in the next room over, but practice trusting yourself around food and learn to discern when you are actually hungry or just emotionally hungry.
Stop Caring About Skinny
The ultimate reason for dieting is because you want your body to look a certain way. Either you want to lose weight or gain weight as muscle, not as fat, and the only thing that you see as standing in your way are your “problem foods”. However, we forget that looking a certain way, whatever the reason for it may be, will not make you happy. It’s not really our fault we want to have a certain physique, we are bombarded with photoshopped images of ultra thin models and a lot of advertising would have you believe that you need to achieve a certain physique in order to be happy. This is not the case. You can be happy at a size XXXXL or a size XS, the choice to be happy is up to you. While eating healthy is great, pigging out on pizza and ice-cream is nowhere near as unhealthy as a life filled with struggle and sadness about your weight.
Mindful eating helps people to gain control over their eating habits. The first step of mindful eating is to pay attention to your body. When you feel like reaching for that candy bar, you have to ask yourself whether you are actually hungry, or whether you are emotionally hungry. If your stomach is growling or you have no energy, it’s time to eat. Next, is to pay attention to when your body is full, and to not go past that point. Eat slowly and give your brain time to catch up to your stomach. It’s also important to pay attention to when and where you are eating. When it’s time to eat, sit down at a table! Don’t eat in front of the TV or at your workstation. Eating with others also helps by satisfying any sort of emotional hunger and the act of conversing at meals helps to slow down your meal. It’s also good to think about the food itself. Is the food you’re reaching for nutritious or emotionally comforting? Take the time to think through which food will make you feel better, but don’t punish yourself if you do choose the comfort food. By actually taking the time to think about your food and how it will work with your body will help you to develop a healthier relationship with your food.
Develop a Healthy Relationship With Food
Adopting a proper mentality towards food starts with being able to see food as fuel for life, rather than as something that is inherently bad and that will make you fat. To change the way you look at food you have to start ditching your rules. The only time you should restrict a food from your diet is if you don’t like the taste of it or if you are allergic to it. You also need to stop punishing yourself over what you eat and to start trusting yourself around food. As you work towards this you will start to notice that you are becoming happier and that it really doesn’t matter if you have that ideal physique because beauty is possible at any size. Finally, be mindful. This doesn’t mean you have to be cautious about what you eat, it means you need to get in tune with what your body needs. If you have cravings it usually means you are short on some nutrients so chow down on some fruits and veggies, they may not seem as appetizing as that chocolate, but they’ll be more satisfying.