4 Tips to Love Your Relationship with Food Again
When we hear the word food, we all have opinions on how to eat, how to cook, when to eat, what you should and shouldn’t put in your body, etc. What we don’t realize is the most fundamental aspect of a person’s metabolism is their relationship with food. We live in a society where the percentages of eating disorders (diagnosed and undiagnosed) are horrifyingly high and a society where we have access to too much information about different diets and lifestyles. We all want to help other people, but we are doing it by throwing these diets and lifestyles at each other expecting us all to come out on top as ketogenic-lovers, Adkins fanatics, or tupperware eaters. But we fail to see that the true cause of unsuccessful eating habits comes from a lack of healing and nurturing of your relationship with food.
It sounds crazy, I know, but our bodies are so complex that even a small thought can change the entire way your body digests something-even something healthy. Hear me out because I’m about to get scientific on you: your mind directly stimulates the beginning process of digestion. The cerebral cortex relays the image of what you’re about to eat to your limbic system, the lower portion of the brain, which regulates the emotions of fear, pleasure, and anger and drives of hunger, sex, and care of offspring (David, 2015). Within this system is your hypothalamus, which plays an important role in hormone production and stimulates important processes in the body. So, if you were to consume a brownie with pure joy, your hypothalamus will trigger the positive input by sending activation signals and, thus, beginning the metabolic breakdown of the brownie while still burning its calories (David, 2015). Basically, if you are to eat something with a positive connotation, your body will efficiently metabolize the calories and nutrients. WOW, the body is a beautiful thing. This doesn’t give you the right of passage to eat a bunch of junk and just be happy about it. No, this can be used to assist you with developing a healthy relationship with food and to be able to eat some of the things you love without the guilt, the bloat, and the worry about not reaching goals or ‘ruining’ the hard work you’ve put in.
Here are a few tips on how to heal your relationship with food:
- Give Yourself Time: Habits don’t form overnight, we know, but just like any other relationship in your life you have to give yourself the patience your body deserves to properly heal. We wouldn’t tell someone who just broke up from their longest relationship to just stop being sad, we would tell them that in time they will feel better. Your relationship with food is one in the same. You have to understand that in order to change your mindset, you have to be willing to put in the time.
- Be Intentional: In order to switch off the guilt you feel towards a certain food, you have to be intentional with the balance you allow for yourself. Everyone is different, I personally eat by the 80/20 rule (80% whole foods and 20% enjoying life), but that may not work for you. You may need to start with 70/30 or you have specific goals and you need to be at 90/10. Regardless of what percentage you give yourself as balance, you have to feed your body with intention. If you decide on Friday you’re going to make cookies for a get together or with the kids, do so in a way where you’re enjoying the process of making them and intentionally, and happily, eat one or two with the kids. Don’t bake with the idea in your mind that these are bad and I can’t have one because when you do finally give in and eat one, you will feel sadness, guilt, and maybe even a little anxiety and your body won’t digest the cookie properly. Treat yourself with intention and see how your views on sweets and cravings shift along with how your body metabolizes them.
- Beware of Restriction: Having goals is a great thing; goals lead to achievement and achievement leads to success so on and so forth. But, when it comes to physical goals, we have to be cautious of how we obtain them. Being on a restrictive diet, yes it is a diet, for an extended period of time can cause hormonal issues and imbalances, mental problems, emotional complications, etc.. I have so much respect for those who set a goal and discipline their life to achieve it, but you need to have a plan for afterwards. Restricting certain foods and food groups isn’t healthy and doesn’t make you balanced. If you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, i.e. everyone else is doing it, my best friend lost 20 pounds, etc, you will ultimately hurt your body rather than help it. If your brother has dairy sensitivity, he has to eliminate dairy in order to not be in pain, but if you don’t and you want to eat cheese, eat. the. cheese. Eat it with intentionality and with enjoyment and stop taking things out of your life because people tell you to. Our bodies are temples, yes, but our mental state is a huge component of that and I have seen time and time again people I love battle with a negative food relationship because 15 years ago they were offhandedly told cheese leads to a permanent stomach bloat.
- Understand the Different Lifestyles: Developing a healthy relationship with food is a personal process. We all have to recognize that there are SO many different eating lifestyles out there, but that doesn’t mean they will all be good for us. A lot of people live the ketogenic lifestyle because of health reasons, a lot of people cut out grains because of allergies or sensitivities, and that’s okay. Just because a certain food lifestyle works for your best friend, doesn’t mean it was meant for you. We need to stop worrying about what worked for other people and start getting to know our own bodies and how it responds to food. We want to include nutrients that help us stay healthy, gives us energy so we can survive our days and workouts, and provides us with joy because we were given this life to live. Find a lifestyle that works for you, your family, and your views on life and try not to worry about what everyone else is eating.
David, M. (2015). The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.