How To Develop A Healthy Relationship With Food
For many restriction and deprivation are synonymous with the word “Diet.” But in truth, you can choose any diet (which is really *ONLY* a way or style of eating and MAY NOT include restrictions or deprivations at all, and still have a healthy relationship with food. The way your eat and your relationship with and to your food can be mutually exclusive. And, if you develop a healthy relationship with your food, you can eat however you need to and be content.
For the majority of folks, “dieting” starts from a pain point. Usually, the desire to lose weight. The begin by counting, restricting, and measuring their food and themselves, oftentimes making drastic changes to their lives and lifestyles overnight. They do this because of a false promise of quick and easy weight loss. A promise that is rarely delivered on, and they soon find themselves falling off the wagon face first into a plate of chocolate cake (or ice cream or pizza – you know the drill.)
They assume that the diet (and it’s promises) failed them, and so they switch diets (again), following the trail of promises. And the cycle continues again and again.
So, how do we get off the diet roller coaster and develop a healthy relationship with food instead?
Let Go Of (Or Change) the Good/Bad Labels
With so much emphasis on healthy and unhealthy foods, it’s hard to figure out what we should eat, how much we should eat, and when we should eat it. A common myth about a healthy relationship with food is that it means eating only those foods which are labeled “healthy.” This doesn’t really have to be the case. You get to choose how much you get to eat.
The truth is that any and all foods come with consequences. No food is all good. And no food is all bad. The important thing is to mindfully choose what you want to eat, what you want to put into your body, and ultimately what consequences you want to accept.
Many mindful eating programs will tell you that you should only consider the food and the feelings in the moment. But this, in my opinion, is a bit shortsighted. Eating a whole sleeve of cookies is likely to make you feel great in the moment, being high on endorphins from that much sugar. But it wreaks havoc on your veins, causing inflammation, it causes cravings that may last for days, and it upsets the balance of electrolytes in your system. Those are things that make you feel not-so-good hours or even days later.
You get to choose. And the thing is if you get to choose – then it’s YOU who’s choosing to not eat it. As an example, if bread makes your stomach hurt, and you choose not to eat it, then you’re not forced. When you choose, there’s no (or less) resistance. It’s not about “I can’t have” but “I don’t want” or even “I do want, but not enough to put up with….” This changes the Good Bad labels to Good FOR YOU and Bad FOR YOU. Or even “Food I Choose” and “Food I Don’t Choose.”
Most Of the Time: Moderation Is the Key
For most eaters, moderation is enough and they will be able to say, “I really like this food. I’m going to have a small piece, just for today. I won’t have it again till next week.” And stick to it!
However, there are folks for whom a single bite sets off chemical triggers that could be likened to addiction. For these people, moderation may NOT be the answer. If you are one of those people who can eat a bite or two and be done – great! Then moderation will likely work for you. However, if you are one of those for whom a bite is not enough, and “forbidden” foods in the house only nag and call to you – then it may be a better choice to see if you can make healthier swaps that don’t lead to those addictive behaviors or consider eliminating the food completely. Yes, it will be hard at first, but as you gain distance from it, you’ll realize your true food freedom.
Awareness Is Important
And speaking of awareness, don’t force yourself to eat “because it’s time.” You’re a grown up, and the food will be there whenever you get hungry. Additionally, don’t force yourself to wait because “it’s not time yet.” Sure, there are societal norms around eating. But those norms don’t rule or dictation your body’s desire for sustenance. Listen to it, and eat what you need.
It’s important to realize that we need food to survive. We need nutrients, and calories, and fat, protein, and carbs. We should eat because our bodies need it to repair and maintain our systems and keep us alive. Do not think of food as your enemy, it isn’t. When you appreciate and honor yourself and your body’s requirements, eating right to keep yourself that way will be much easier! And all it requires is time and patience.