When working with clients – whether the focus is digestive health, eating disorder recovery, general health and wellness, or really any other goal, we often prioritize a healthy relationship with food here at Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness. Unfortunately, our culture has normalized disordered eating behaviors, which means many people are provided with validation that their disordered eating habits are not only normal, but healthy. However, this can be a slippery slope! Diet culture and wellness culture can be so tricky to spot and their infiltration into our daily lives can lead to truly unhealthy conditions, such eating disorders and digestive disorders.
So, what can we do? Many people do not realize that, just like any relationship (such as marriages, friendships, family), our relationship with food takes work, thoughtfulness, and compromise. And, like our families, friendships and marriages, it is so important to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship with food, because relationships are intertwined and having an unhealthy relationship in your life can bleed into other relationships and impact your overall health. So, below are our top tips to start improving your relationship with food today!
Get rid of those food labels
Find yourself putting labels on food?
Good or bad?
Healthy and unhealthy?
One of the first places to start with improving your relationship with food is ditching the labels. The truth is, all foods serve some purpose and can truly fit into an overall balanced diet. While some foods may be more nutrient dense, other foods can serve as fun foods and can improve satisfaction, elicit joy or nostalgia and play a role in improved quality of life and/or mental health – which is important! Food does not hold moral value and is not inherently “good” or “bad”. How about we reframe our thinking and look at all foods as simply food – not good, not bad, just food - but some foods may be more appropriate to eat at certain times or in certain cases – and that will totally vary depending on the individual and the situation. All foods can be part of a healthy diet.
Listen to your body
If you have ice cream after dinner because you want something sweet, or because it’s a hot summer night and your family is going on an outing to the best ice cream store in town, you did your body a huge favor by listening to it and eating something you enjoyed. Our mental health is much better off by not depriving ourselves of what we want in the moment. Not to mention, restriction tends to lead to binges. Ever try to avoid a craving by eating 5 different snacks that you view as healthier only to eat those 5 snacks plus the food you were craving – and a large portion of it, to boot? If you tune into your body and practice mindful eating, it’s likely that you will feel more satisfied and eat in more of a balanced way – without the binges. Of course, this is easier than done, because we have been taught by diet culture to suppress hunger cues, and, frankly, do the exact opposite of listening to our bodies. We help our clients to get reacquainted with their hunger/fullness cues and tune into what their bodies are trying to communicate to them when we work together.
Did you eat too much for lunch? Did you skip breakfast because you slept in too late and did not have time? So, your meal did not go as planned and your body feels the effects. That does not mean the rest of the day, or week, or year are going to be ruined. Don’t obsess over what happened, or what you can do to ‘make up’ for what happened. Using our last tip as a springboard, your body will tell you what you need if you take the time to listen. Also, it’s important to realize that every meal isn’t going to be picture perfect and that is okay. If we eat every meal like that, we sacrifice our enjoyment and—quite frankly—spend way too much time thinking about food and not enough time focusing on our families, jobs, and all the things that make us who we are. You are more interesting than simply what you eat!
Learn to appreciate the process of eating
Sit down with your family or friends, remove distractions (phones, computers, screens), and eat! While you’re eating, take the time to chew slowly and thoroughly, put your fork down between bites, and assess your satiety—are you still hungry? Have you had enough? Do you feel satisfied? Did you enjoy the taste and the texture? Consider the different flavors and elements of your meal and how your body is responding to them. These mealtime strategies can help us to be more in tune with our bodies.
Implementing these strategies can help us to have a healthier relationship with food, which is so important for our overall health! What tip resonates with you the most? Share below in the comments and share this blog post with someone who may benefit from these tips!
This blog post was written by Amy Schwarz, MS, RD, CDN