With so many different food options in grocery stores, new international food chains, and ethnic restaurants opening all around us, many of us still “live to eat!”
How can we figure out what is our relationship with food?
Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself these questions:
- Does eating certain foods make you feel guilty?
- Do you feel shame when you eat more than you should?
- Do you consider certain foods “off-limits” other than strict health requirements?
- Do you have a habit of overeating without realizing it?
- Do you eat even if you are not feeling hungry?
- Do you eat to find comfort?
- Do you eat or drink because it is a habit?
- Do you eat in response to strong emotions like boredom, nervousness, loneliness, stress, or excitement?
- Do you keep trying different diets in the hope of losing weight?
- Do you avoid eating in front of others for fear of judgment?
If you answered ‘yes’ to the above questions, it indicates that you may have an unhealthy relationship with food.
Here are 5 ways to develop a healthier relationship with food
The one thing to keep in mind is that there does not exist a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to food. Each person is unique, be it their mind or their body, so each person’s food, physiology, and digestion is also unique. To begin our relationship with food we first need to develop a mindset of self-love, self-compassion, and self-regulation, because it is a gradual and slow process but a very rewarding one.
1. Pay attention to your body
Learn to listen to your body and consider the body’s natural cues for the need for food. Our eating habits are influenced by not only our body’s circadian rhythm, but also by many other factors such as cultural norms and beliefs, cost, convenience, availability of time, education, our body’s fitness, gut health, and our genes. It is easy to lose that connection with our body in our modern-day lifestyle. For this reason, start paying attention to what your body is saying or signaling. Every time you sit to eat, ask yourself these 3 questions: Am I eating because I am hungry? What am I eating? How will this help me feel in the long run? If you are ready to listen, the body will guide you and tell you what to eat and when to eat to take care of ‘your body’s need.
2. Consider mindful eating
Mindful eating is all about awareness, it is the use of our physical and emotional faculties to enjoy our food. It is paying attention to what and how you are eating or drinking at the moment. According to the research done on this concept, mindful eating has many benefits. It not only increases our gratitude for food but also increases our physiological and emotional wellbeing. It improves our relationship with food because it makes eating a pleasure and improves our acceptance of our own physical body. It allows us to manage stresses in life better. Just like starting any habit, mindful eating may require a bit of an effort in the beginning, but before you know it, it will soon become a part of your self-care routine. To practice mindful eating, start your meal by removing distractions, no tv, books, or phone, use all your senses to fully appreciate the different flavors, colors, and textures of the foods on your plate.
3. Know more about your food
Take the time to educate yourself on your meal. What is the nutritional quality of the food that you are putting in your mouth. Know yourself better, what foods do you like, what recipes do you want to try, what regional cuisine you are willing to try next. Take the time to plan your meals if you have a busy lifestyle. Set concrete health and wellness goals.
4. Give yourself permission to be free to eat
Many times, we punish ourselves by controlling our food groups when we feel we have indulged or eaten unhealthy foods. A better strategy may be to give ourselves unconditional permission to eat. Yes, we do need to watch what and how we eat but punishing ourselves is not the answer. Pay attention to your total food intake, try detoxification strategies, and try not to deprive your body of its nutritional needs. Welcome all foods on your plate.
5. Be positive about the food you eat
Develop an attitude of gratitude. Appreciate the food you eat. Make ‘food’ your friend and enjoy every minute you spend with it.
Mental health disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, are not only a result of our unhealthy relationship with food but also how we see ourselves. When you have a healthy relationship with food, eating, and weight, you will experience minimal stress, worry, and guilt. And less stress, worry, and guilt make it easier for you to eat and live healthy!