6 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Food
Listen: relationships are complicated. When they go toxic in real life, you can cut them out. If you have an alcohol addiction, you can never drink again.
When it goes toxic with food, guess what. You. Still. Have. To. Eat.
Whether you find yourself binging, restricting, constantly thinking about food, or all of the above, here are some practical tips that can help you stay in a good headspace:
Physical hunger is only one type of hunger – there’s also eye hunger, taste hunger, smell hunger, etc. Sounds crazy, but think about it – we engage all of our senses in the process of eating. When we eat quickly and while distracted, we may be physically full but our senses are left unsatisfied. Allow yourself to be present and enjoy every bite, and you may find yourself less “hungry” at the end of your meal.
Comparison is the thief of joy. It might be the time to get honest and ask yourself if there are people you are following that cause you to resent the body you’re in. If you want to heal your relationship with food and body image, constantly looking at what someone else is doing will have you chasing the wind and coming out empty. You’re better off focusing on what your own unique body needs to feel healthy, because so much of what you see isn’t real anyway.
Food tracking tools can be helpful when used as a short-term learning tool to gauge the nutrient content of your meals. But I firmly believe that using calorie-tracking tools long term is one of the top ways to damage your relationship with food and lose touch with your body’s intuition. These apps often teach us that:
a. we should be satisfied with exactly the same amount of food each day
b. That all calories are created equal
c. That we should use exercise to “earn” the right to eat more
d. that if we go over we should feel guilty, and if we come out under, we should feel proud or take advantage of our leftover calories and “spend them”.
OUR BODIES ARE NOT BUDGETS. When we truly tune into our bodies, our appetite should naturally ebb and flow in a way that maintains a balanced weight. When we eat less the day before, we may be hungrier the next day; and vice versa. Using an app to tell you how much you can or can’t eat tells you that you can’t trust your own body to manage it and you need to override it.
This is a tough one. When you start paying close enough attention, you’ll notice that food and body comments are EVERYWHERE. Here are a few commonly accepted ways people cope out loud with their own negative relationship with food:
There are so many more, but in order to truly heal you have to learn to acknowledge these comments for what they truly are, let them go, respond kindly, and to be extra mindful not to contribute comments like these yourself.
Eating with others is a way to find accountability, to take your mind off of obsessive thoughts about food, and to enjoy the eating process that may have become difficult. Eating in isolation can be incredibly triggering, so make a point to make food a communal part of your life.
One of my favorite books, Intuitive Eating, goes into detail about how creating “off limits” foods actually works against us in the long run. Work towards allowing yourself to eat all foods, and in the process, you’ll find your way to the things you actually want and need. This means you could technically eat ice cream for every single meal, but your body will tell you otherwise that may not be the best decision.
Body, meet mind.
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