Many of us are constantly striving to find and maintain positive relationships within our lives and eliminate or minimize the negative relationships. This being said, our bodies and food are two things that are inevitable players in our lives and therefore are two areas where positive relationships are crucial!
First let’s look at food. A common saying I frequently hear is, “Do you live to eat or do you eat to live?” While, ideally we look at this phrase and assume, well I should only eat to live right (whether this is what you do or not)? Well, it is not quite that simple. If we only think of food in one of those two ways we are leaning toward an extreme, creating an unhealthy or extreme relationship with food. There should be a balance- primarily eating to support what our body needs to live and prosper, but also allowing for the emotional component where we can enjoy foods in a social setting or allow for a reasonable consumption of less healthy options for the sake our own enjoyment or comfort. When we don’t allow for a balance, food becomes extreme- “I can never enjoy that piece of cake if I want to be healthy” or “I can’t maintain any of the numerous diets I’ve tried so I am just going to eat whatever and how much I want since nothing will work for me.” To an even greater extreme, these thoughts can become obsessive and can play a role in disordered eating behaviors or, to the next level, eating disorders themselves such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and Orthorexia. Fad diets are another trigger of these negative relationships with food- discounting specific food groups, being restrictive and then later “binging” on those food groups due to feeling deprived.
Maintaining these negative relationships with food come back to cause us problems whether they are emotional stresses, illness, deficiencies, a wide range of other medical conditions or can even hurt our relationships with other individuals. Therefore, maintaining a positive relationship with food plays a key role in developing a healthy lifestyle, emotional stability, and our relationships with others and improving our overall quality of life. Some tips/things to try and accomplish when pushing toward having a healthy relationship with food include:
- Food should only consist of approximately 15% of your brain space– enough to prepare, eat, and enjoy our food while making generally healthy decisions without obsessing about what we are going to have or the bad choice we made earlier.
- You can comfortably go out to eat with friends or family without causing significant anxiety and still being able to eat reasonable portions (not feeling obligated to clean your plate, overeat, or feel the need to just get a salad because other people are watching and judging). Unless you have allergies, you should also not feel the need to significantly alter every item on the menu.
- Plan out your meals/snacks and prep time at a designated time- Set time aside to plan out your meals/shop/prep etc and do not continue to think about what you are going to make or buy the rest of the day.
- Only think about your meals when it is time to eat them (aside from prep time). If your meals are already prepared and snacks bought and available, you can grab a healthy option when it’s time to eat and don’t spend time analyzing the next meal right when you finish the one you just had.
- Eat mindfully and take your time. Allow yourself to taste and enjoy your food rather than inhaling it. Appreciate the meal you are eating so you don’t finish it and look for more. It should take you at least 20 minutes to complete your meal.
- Allow yourself to eat your favorite SOUL FOODS in moderation. If you want a sweet or savory treat that may not have the best health benefits, but you are at a party or have a day where you really want that comfort food, allow yourself to eat it in a reasonable portion size and eat it mindfully! Combining this with a healthy variety of other food choices will prevent you from feeling deprived and allow you to not binge on these items later.
- Consider eating as part of your healthy lifestyle rather than the means for an end goal. Create a healthy eating lifestyle with well balanced and reasonably timed out meals and snacks filled with variety that you don’t have to think too hard about incorporating in your day to day life for the rest of your life!
These are just a few tips/ideas to strive for when working toward developing a healthy relationship with food. In order to reach and MAINTAIN our desired weight or health goals we need to maintain this positive relationship with food otherwise our bodies will respond to the stress of this negative relationship by fighting against the changes we are making every step of the way. Another key component of why we develop a negative relationship with food is having a negative relationship with our bodies. There are so many influencing factors that promote negative body image and having both a positive relationship with food and our bodies is crucial to optimize quality of life.
Check back next week to explore developing or maintaining a positive relationship with our bodies and how that ties back into our relationship with food!
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Wishing you success and happiness in health and wellness,
-Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”