Tips for a healthy relationship with food
We have spoken before about the difference between a healthy food relationship and what an unhealthy food relationship looks like: the way it can make us feel and some concrete steps to take to start changing this habit. But, what else can we do?
It is important to understand that no food is inherently good or bad. Some foods have more nutrients than others, and some may be more satisfying in the moment. There’s a time and place for everything. Eating some kale won’t automatically make you healthier. . . just like eating one ice cream won’t automatically make you unhealthy. We need to know that one food alone, or one single moment is not going to affect our overall health that much. What matters the most is what we can actually eat overall that will have an effect.
So, we need to remove any judgment and labels from food. Food is just food. No food is good or bad and there’s truly a time and place for everything. The best food for you to eat is the food that you crave in that moment.
With that said, when it comes to improving our relationship with food a tactic like mindful eating can be a powerful tool when used properly. This means really taking in what you’re eating and enjoying it. Sit down with your meal. Put it on a pretty plate or in a bowl. Chew your food slowly and really allow yourself to taste it. Is it crunchy? Salty? Creamy? Sweet?
Of course, this isn’t possible for every single meal. You’re busy! Sometimes you’ll have to eat while working or while doing other things. Sometimes you’ll have to eat out of a takeout bag or carton when you have time. I get it! And that’s totally okay. But, as much as you can, try to do it.
Awareness goes hand and hand with mindfulness, and opens the door for change. When you start becoming more aware of the thoughts, rules and beliefs you have around food that are not supporting you in forming a healthy relationship with it, try pausing and asking yourself – what can I do for myself in this moment?
For example, if you have a rule that you should not eat carbs with dinner, you may stop and ask yourself: Where did this rule come from? Does it make me feel good? What would it look like to add a carbohydrate to dinner? Sometimes food is the answer, yes, even for comfort! But other times you may be in need of something completely different to best meet your needs.
Always always honor you hunger. When we delay physical hunger, it only intensifies our desire to eat, leading to what can feel like overwhelming cravings– perpetuating a starve/binge cycle. Honoring hunger is one of the best ways to reconnect with your hunger and fullness cues and rebuild that trust with your body.
Make sure you eat filling and satisfying meals and snacks. When something is filling, it physically fills your stomach. You feel like you don’t need any more food and are no longer hungry. On the other hand, when something is satisfying it leaves you feeling mentally content. When your meals are both filling and satisfying, you can eat and then move on. You don’t spend time thinking about food afterwards because you’re both physically full and mentally satisfied.
Implementing these tips will take some time and may seem strange at first. Good questions to think about are: what am I in the mood for, or what sounds good right now? And, how can I make this meal or snack more balanced and filling?
Over time, thinking about these things will start to become second nature. It won’t be something you need to consider too much before each meal or snack. And then, once you’ve got that down, thoughts about food after the meal or snack will slowly start to dissipate too, creating a healthy relationship with the foods you enjoy.