Building a healthier relationship with food starts with a wholesome perception about what food actually is and what it's designed to do for you.
There is much truth to the term, "you are what you eat". And also the statement, "eat to live" rather than, "live to eat".
However, food should be savoured and enjoyed. Of course, there is also a significant social and family connection to meal time. The trick is to remember that food is designed to nourish you, not rule your life - which is when it can become harmful and destructive.
Intuitively, you should know when you're regularly eating the wrong types of foods to excess. Guilt is an emotion that can permeate into your psyche when you consistently binge on junk food. And this emotion can easily begin to manifest itself physically in how you look and feel, if you don't take back control.
Food can be both delicious and nourishing at the same time. Which means, a wholesome diet needn't deprive of flavour and taste. You just need to expand your consciousness around food and be clear on the harmful foods to avoid that deplete your energy and cause sickness and disease.
Here's 7 ways to improve your relationship with food so that you can enjoy every bite, lose the guilt and feel happier and healthier as a result.
7 Ways to Have a Healthier Relationship with Food
1. Learn Your Hunger Triggers
Learning how to eat healthfully starts with being conscious of your hunger triggers. Instinctively, when we are young we understand this: we only want to eat when we’re hungry. But as we get older, we begin to eat to shelter ourselves out of pure habit, comfort and to even shelter ourselves from the world.
We often eat just because it's "time" to eat, rather than because we're genuinely hungry.
We begin to eat emotionally; when eat when we get bored, sad or stressed out. We even eat when we are happy and want to celebrate. We eat far more than we should and somewhere along the way, we lose touch with our instinctual need to eat.
By familiarising yourself of the triggers that cause you to reach for food, you begin to realise that many times, it's not out of hunger but habit that you eat.
More "attuned eating", involves prioritising the internal cues that tell you you're actually hungry (e.g. having a rumbling stomach, feeling light-headed, lack of concentration, feeling agitated) over external cues (i.e. eating just because it's breakfast time or based on calories, points or serving sizes you think your body needs).
Over the course of a year - if you eat on average of three times per day - your body will be called upon to process well over 1,000 meals. So, skipping or delaying a meal is actually healthy, it won't harm you. In fact it will give your body and digestive system a break which can do wonders for cellular renewal, your energy and healing.
The bottom line is; your body is intelligent. Listen to it and if you’re not hungry, consider not eating. Choose another outlet other than eating for the sake of eating. It's all about being conscious of the fact that ultimately we don't need to eat anywhere as much as we think we do, which in the end is far better for your long term health and wellbeing.
2. Don't Ignore Genuine Hunger
Genuine hunger (i.e. hunger that is not simply borne out of habit, an emotional response or a social occasion), is not something to suppress. It means your body is craving energy and nourishment. The question is what you choose to feed it - a wholesome meal or snack, or a quick-fix, sugar-laden energy bar?
Being hungry is actually a good thing. It is your body's natural, biological process. Real hunger can be satisfied by satiating your cells with nutrient rich food.
When you feed your body wholesome ingredients, you'll nourish your cells and you'll want to eat less. And the good news is you can forget the calorie counting and eat as much as you want! Think fresh fruits, vegetables, salads, smoothies, raw nuts, plant oils, avocados, whole grains etc.
On the flip side, if whenever you're hungry, you reach for processed, fatty or sugary foods, your body will constantly be starved of nourishment, keeping you hungry, which eventually causes a vicious cycle of overeating as a result.
3. Satisfy Your Cravings Differently
We all have sweet tooth or savoury cravings from time to time. Don't beat yourself up, just make a healthier choice that does the same job without causing you to crash and burn.
Got a sweet tooth?
Grab a juicy, ripe mango, a handful of dried fruit or dip some whole walnuts in raw honey and enjoy. Or whip together a chocolate nut mylk smoothie with coconut milk, raw cacao, banana and a couple of pitted medjool dates.
Mash an avocado with a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of sea salt and enjoy with wholegrain crackers or crunchy capsicum slices.
The earlier you respond to your cravings, the quicker you can cut them off at the pass and not sell out to poor snack choices.
If you ignore those initial hunger signals and wait to eat until they are stronger, chances are, you'll overeat and feel uncomfortably full, and perhaps even guilty and bloated afterwards.
4. Savour Your Food
It takes time for your stomach to tell your brain you’ve eaten enough, so when you eat, eat slowly and savour your food.
This helps you recognise your gradual feelings of satiety, but it will also help you really enjoy food. Savouring foods in all its delicious glory will nurture an appreciation of the complex flavours, textures and smells of what you're eating.
One way to help you eat slowly is to increase your mindfulness. Mindfulness is a term that gets thrown around a lot lately, but it really boils down to being very tuned in to what you're eating and interpreting the sensations of how you feel whilst you're eating without judgment.
Pay attention to the colours and flavours of the food, but also, to your body’s internal cues for being satisfied.
5. Understand What It Means to Be Satisfied
Of course, we’re talking about feeling satisfied from your meal. Some people call this being full, but the truth is, if you’re completely full—bloated, in discomfort, lethargic—you’ve probably overeaten.
Now, you don’t want to feel guilty about this if you have—everyone overeats occasionally, but if you’re chronically overeating and suffering the gastric distress of eating too much, then you’re not going to be building a healthy relationship with food. You’re going to associate food with pain.
Learn more: 5 Tips for Better Digestion and Less Bloat.
When you are satisfied from your meal, you won’t feel heavy or weighed down: your stomach won’t feel empty, but you won’t feel uncomfortably full, either. You’ll feel content and energetic.
A good way to gauge your fullness is to stop eating when you’re a quarter way done with your meal, and then again when you’re half. Taking this pause will help you assess your feelings and let your brain catch up with cues coming from your body.
6. Embrace The Colours Of The Rainbow
There's nothing more wonderful than heading down to your local farmer's market and seeing all of the colours of fresh whole food on display.
Mother nature delivers all of the colours of the rainbow in food offerings - Red, Yellow, Green, Orange, Blue, Indigo and Violet.
Sadly today, so many foods on our supermarket shelf are brown, white or gold, processed and devoid of nature's colours and rich nutrients. No wonder inflammatory diseases, diabetes and cancer are out of control
When you shop for food, just think colour. You don't need to know every vitamin, mineral and enzyme contained in the food. Just go with a variety of colours and you'll get all of the nutrients you need.
Your only job is to embrace these foods in abundance.
When the bulk of your diet consists of fresh whole, you don't need to get bogged down with portion sizes and calories. Because these foods are so nutrient dense, you'll find you'll gradually eat less and less as time goes on because your cells are nourished.
Not only does eating a wide variety of colours of whole foods deliver a wide variety of phytonutrients and anti-oxidants, but it also stimulates your senses. You'll connect with food in a whole different way and you'll learn to love and prepare your meals with whole new sense of appreciation which is powerful for feeding your emotions.
7. Respect Your Body
Your body is a gift, and it doesn’t deserve judgement. Like your mind and your spirit, it requires love, stimulation and nourishment to thrive. So stop viewing your body as something to fight against and instead, treat it as the blessing that it is.
Not only will viewpoint make it easier to nourish your body with healthy foods that honour it, but it also makes you less likely to disrespect it when you eat foods that aren’t so wholesome.
Building a healthier relationship with food may not happen overnight. However, by looking at food through a different set of eyes and being conscious of these strategies, you can begin to change the way you feel about not only food, but your body as well.
Tolman Self Care.