Our bodies need food for fuel and nourishment. Essentially, food is needed to sustain life. But food is so much more than just a biological need. Hear more from our friend Evelyn, from Live Well With Eve, to hear more about her tips to create a healthy relationship with food.
Food helps us connect with our culture and different cultures, build connections, create memories, and share moments together. It can bring emotions such as nostalgia, happiness and comfort, among others. It can be a coping mechanism or used to celebrate a special occasion. It is safe to say that food plays a big role in our lives.
Many focus on improving the way they eat but forget to also focus on their relationship with food. The relationship you have with food is one of the most important in your life. It requires constant check-ins, work, and adjustments. So, you might be wondering…What is a good relationship with food? How do I know if I have a good relationship with food?
Having a good relationship with food means you eat all foods in moderation and have unconditional permission to eat the foods that make you feel good physically and mentally. You are free of food guilt, no foods are off-limits, you know what you eat does not define you as a person, and you don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
You’ve probably heard this before:
“carbs are bad for you and will make you gain weight”
“you can’t have any sugar or sweets”
“you can’t eat that because it is not healthy”
What happens when we label food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
These types of labels that we, sometimes unconsciously, put on food are rooted deep in our culture and learned belief systems. They can truly affect our relationship with what we eat every day. It is in our best interest to really be mindful about how we think of food, how we refer to it, and make changes in our mindset to better our relationship with it.
4 Strategies to Improve Your Relationship with Food –
1. Identify Where You Learn To ‘Fear’ Food
Do you consider certain foods scary or do they cause you anxiety? Ask yourself “What would happen if I eat this?” The first step to healing our relationship with food is by identifying what foods are fear-provoking. Self-awareness is essential during this process. By becoming self-aware of our food fears, we can focus on creating behavioral change.
It is perfectly fine to want and enjoy foods that are not necessarily considered nutrient-dense. Food is not just meant to nourish our bodies as I like to say, food is meant to be good for the soul too. Remind yourself that it is healthier to have a positive and low-stress relationship with food than the impact of eating a single food has in your body and health.
2. Focus on Your Hunger Cues
Your body tells you it needs energy by sending you hunger cues. Self-awareness allows us to know whether we are eating from pleasure, situational, emotional, or environmental cues.
Listen to hunger and satiety cues when eating. Slow down and tune in with your body and what it is telling you—Is it full or still hungry?
3. Give Yourself Permission to Eat All Kinds of Food
A sign of a good relationship with food is allowing yourself to eat all kinds of food in moderation. Your likes and dislikes should guide your food choices. You should not only eat food that improves your health, but also food that you actually enjoy.
When we restrict ourselves, it creates more anxiety around food. The feeling of deprivation may then provoke you to overeat. This causes you to feel guilty, shame, may increase your restrictions, and have an impact on your body image and self-esteem. It becomes a vicious cycle.
To break this cycle one must become self-aware and really focus on listening to their hunger cues. By giving yourself permission to eat all kinds of food, you get rid of the scarcity mentality because you know these foods are always available. When you restrict these foods, you believe they are not available for you so you feel you must ‘overdo it’. The more exposure you have to foods you like and enjoy that you consider ‘bad’, the less appealing they become to you 1.
Whether you overeat or not, you deserve to give yourself permission to eat when you are hungry and to enjoy all kinds of food. Your body deserves food no matter what.
4. Practice Mindful Eating
There are no food restrictions when we practice mindful eating, therefore, creating a more positive environment surrounding food and eating.
When eating mindfully, it’s important to slow down the pace of your eating.Take a pause or a deep breath between bites. Allow yourself to be fully in the present moment. Slowing down and bringing more mindful awareness to what we are eating and how we are feeling before, during, and after meals is one of the best practices for bettering our relationship with food.
I hope these strategies help you improve your relationship with food, as they helped me. I used to be scared of eating filling meals and eating carbs. I now know that carbs are an essential part of our diet and I also know there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods.
Lastly, I want to remind you that a good relationship with food does not mean you always have a perfect relationship with food. As with any relationship, you will have ups and downs. Remember that building a good relationship with food takes time, patience, and practice…. But it is always worth it because you deserve to have a good relationship with food.