What kind of relationship do you have with food?
Having a “food relationship” isn’t typically the way someone considers food. You think either “I like this kind of food,” or “I don’t like that kind of food.” However, the kind of relationship you have with food can be nurturing or detrimental to your quality of life.
What would your life be like if you treated food and your body as you would treat your beloved – with gentleness, playfulness, communication, honesty, respect and love?
What if you could indulge occasionally with any food you were craving, without the guilt and without the worry of losing control and having too much? What if you could sit down and eat anything you wanted, in moderation, and feel satisfied and satiated when you had only a small amount?
This can be a way of life for you, once you change a negative food relationship to a positive one.
Think for a moment of a food from your past, one that makes you feel good while you are eating it for no specific reason. These “comfort” foods, are often unconsciously associated with times we felt safe and comforted.
The food that comes to mind for me is a big bowl of pasta with a little bit of butter, milk, salt and pepper. It is the dish I’d always ask my grandma to make for me when I stayed at her house. Maybe for you it is macaroni and cheese, cookies and milk, slow-simmered tomato sauce, ice cream cones or potato pancakes.
When we were little, we didn’t worry about what we were eating, we just ate it! But as we get older and are prone to having weight issues, it seems like the life sustaining thing that is food becomes public enemy number one! In today’s “good food/bad food” society, that comfort food you are thinking of is probably on some “foods not to eat” list! It is so hard to try and lose weight when you love certain types of food and know you shouldn’t have them anymore.
But what if we could eat mainly healthy, nutritious foods, but still be able to have some of that comfort food we love so much every now and then? If we had an eating style that allowed for indulgences without any guilt, and still managed to stay on track with losing weight or maintaining weight loss?
Obviously, there are some foods we should not be eating all the time. As nutrition science progresses, we know that regular consumption of large amounts of certain types of food, such as simple carbohydrates, highly processed foods or high-fat foods, are not good for our health.
However, there should be a balance between eating for nutrition and being able to indulge now and then with some of our favorite comfort foods. For some people, there is. But for many people, the thought of having “just a bite” of something is a foreign concept. For those type of people, myself included, “just a bite” of something we love but feel we shouldn’t have usually turns into an uncontrolled frenzy of mindless binging.
I don’t buy cookies anymore because if they are in the house, I’ll eat the whole package in 1 or two sittings. It would be nice to be able to purchase a bag of cookies and have one or two every now and then. Because I’ve been working on my relationship with food, I hope that I will be able to do that eventually.
Acknowledging what different foods could mean to us is an important part of cultivating a good “food relationship.”
At the most basic level, we must eat to survive. Because eating is a basic need, it’s important to notice what kind of relationship we have with food—and to take steps to make changes when the relationship is not a loving, nurturing one.
Some examples of negative food relationships are as follows:
- Having a constant inner battle going on by avoiding certain foods we absolutely love to try and control our weight. When we reach a breaking point because of the deprivation, we lose the willpower to say no any longer. We then binge on that food until we are physically sick from eating too much of it and mentally sick from our perceived weakness.
- Eating out of habit. How many times are you not really that hungry when it is meal time, but you eat because, well, it is meal time!? Do you go to the movies and always get a bucket of popcorn? Are you truly hungry every time you do that? When your friends want to go out, do you always end up at a restaurant eating?
- Using food to mask emotions. We abuse food and our bodies by overeating whenever we are unhappy or trying to avoid facing a difficult decision or situation. Often when we are stressed, we turn to eating instead of finding alternative, more positive ways to deal with our stressors.
- Following strict diets that don’t allow consumption of certain food groups and encourage eating too much of one type of food. While cutting back on certain nutrients can sometimes help with TEMPORARY weight loss, complete restriction of that nutrient for the long term isn’t always sustainable. For example, a great deal of weight lost by eating low or no carb can come rushing back if you try to adopt a more “moderate” way of eating and make it even harder to lose weight in the future.
If you identify yourself in any of the general descriptions above, you might have an unhealthy relationship with food. There are steps you can take to begin to change those negative, unhealthy patterns. By acknowledging there is a problem, you have taken the first step towards healing the relationship.
First, try to begin to be mindful about eating. Whenever you are about to eat, stop for a moment and really THINK about what you are doing. How are you feeling, what is going on around you, what are you about to eat? How do you FEEL about what you are about to eat?
After becoming mindful, the next thing you should do is to start writing those thoughts down in a journal. This may seem difficult and stupid at first, but it can be a great tool to help find out what might be going on in our subconscious. Whenever you have an urge to eat something you consider bad, or to binge, write down how you are feeling and what is going on in your life.
Write down any memories you associate with the food…good or bad. What was your life like during the time of the memories? Write it down.
After you indulged in something you consider bad, or after a frantic binge and in the guilty aftermath, WRITE DOWN how you are feeling and write about anything that is coming to mind, even if it might not seem relevant.
As you keep doing this on a regular basis, you could just discover some pattern that isn’t obvious initially, but after documenting for a period, becomes evident.
Once a pattern or theme is noticed, the deeper work begins.
In the next few months, I will have some other posts with more ideas how to turn a toxic food relationship into a loving one. Until then, what are you waiting for?
Today is a great day to start being mindful of your relationship with food, and if you find it to be lacking, take the steps to change it to a more positive, nurturing one.
I love to hear from you. If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below!