Do you have a healthy relationship with food?
Lately, I’ve read advice on how to have a healthy relationship with food. People offer meditation programs and personal sessions to help you overcome an unhealthy relationship with food.
But what does this really mean?
Does it mean that, to have a healthy relationship with food, you only eat when hungry and never overindulge?
Or does it mean you eat what you want, when you want, and never feel bad or guilt for it?
I’m really not sure what a healthy relationship with food means. Maybe you can tell me?
Perhaps it’s all about knowing why you eat certain foods or why you eat in some situations. Perhaps it’s not counting every single calorie that passes through your lips.
Sure, some eating habits are decidedly NOT healthy, like binge eating or anorexia. But is eating too much on a Friday night considered an unhealthy relationship with food?
I’ve struggled with making better decisions about my eating habits for almost my entire life. I have struggled with abdominal fat for my entire life too so I believe that my obsession with food has a lot to do with my desire for flat abs. And it’s a very strong desire, let me tell you!
I also love food and love to cook new recipes, especially ones with a Middle Eastern or African flare. They’re so delicious that it’s really hard to stop at just one serving!
What’s Unhealthy About Your Eating?
Eating too much or too little is probably a good indication that you don’t have a healthy relationship with food, especially if your behavior is associated with a deep-seated psychological yearning for control, a better body or punishment. These psychological reasons can be very difficult to pin down and even more difficult to overcome and I am not undermining these in any way!
But what about other behaviors associated with food that more emotional in nature?
- count calories diligently and feel bad if you overshoot your limit?
- create food rules for yourself?
- feel guilty when you ‘break’ these rules?
- allow yourself one or two ‘cheat’ meals a week and then go a bit crazy with those meals?
- set strict food goals for yourself?
- eat for entertainment?
- eat when you’re bored or if you’re trying to avoid a tough or unpleasant task?
- reward yourself with food?
When it comes to our relationship with food, it really boils down to ‘why do you eat when you do and why do you eat what you eat’? If you can ask yourself these questions the next time you’re drawn to a carton of ice cream, a bag of salty chips, or that Big Mac, you could find yourself truly enlightened!
Look at your eating habits first, especially those ones that you’re not proud of, and come up with a reason why you’re eating that way. You know that your eating isn’t ideal, yet you’re unable to prevent that binge, stop at only 1 cookie, or avoid the pantry after dinner.
Figure Out Why You Eat
Next time this behavior pops up, stop yourself for a minute and ask yourself “why am I eating?” If you’re truly hungry, you’ll know. But perhaps you’re eating for another reason, a reason for which you could find an alternative behavior to satisfy whatever thoughts are running through your mind.
Here are a few potential options to help you get started:
- Procrastination: Are you faced with a tough task or decision? Do you secretly want to avoid it? Instead of eating, take note and tell yourself to sit down and dig into that task now. It’s always better to get it over with anyway! Right?
- Entertainment: A lot of women overwork themselves and don’t dedicate time for self-love every day. And, a lot of people entertain with food, so it’s easy to overeat and overindulge when you’re relaxed and happy.
- Deprivation: Either you don’t allow yourself some favorite treats or you deprive yourself of calories during the week; either way, routine is disrupted and you go a bit crazy. Have that piece of chocolate and move on. And eat enough calories during the week so you’re not famished on the weekend.
- Poor Food Choices: You think you’re eating healthy but you still get these awful cravings for sugar and carbs in the afternoons. Sometimes you can overcome them but there are still more days than you’d like to admit where you get home from work and raid the fridge for sweet snacks. Luckily, by adding a healthy snack to your day that has nuts, seeds, protein and a bit of fruit, you can rebalance your blood sugar and avoid those pantry raids!
- Habit: This one is tough to beat. Do you find yourself digging into chips or trail mix every time you sit down on the couch? Do you sometimes forget how that snack even got into your hands? This is habit. For some people, this habit is a hand-to-mouth fixation (tuning into my Freud for ya!) so see if you can find a different way to satisfy this urge, like switch to grapes or hold a hot cup of tea. Unsalted, air-popped popcorn is even a much better choice!
Your Action Steps
Let’s start with a few minor tweaks to your routine so that you can begin to understand why you’re eating the way you do.
Choose foods for your main meals that contain fibre, healthy fats and protein. Together, these will help signal to your brain that you’re full and nourish your cells so that you aren’t hungry 1 hour later.
Always carry a healthy 3pm snack and eat it every day. Have those late-afternoon cravings hit you like a Mac truck? Yep, you bet they have. Now you have something good for you that will stop that craving in its tracks.
Keep a food journal and write down your thoughts, feelings and state of mind whenever you eat. You should begin to see patterns that identify your ‘why’ after a few months.
Create meal plans, stock your fridge with healthier snacks that support your snacking habits, make time for some yummy indulgence. Eat your favorite foods on occasion; just make sure you’re getting abundant whole foods the rest of the time.
Does this sound more like a healthy relationship with food than counting all your calories? I sure think so! Good luck!