With the wellness world forever growing and the insane pressure on society to be ‘healthy’ and of a particular size, it is no wonder that what might potentially start as an innocent kick start to a healthy lifestyle, it can turn into something harmful. There are hundreds of different diets out there – Atkins, Paleo, 5:2, ‘clean’ eating, weight watchers… to name a few-so it’s no wonder it can be an absolute minefield as to what we should be doing, where to start and second guessing our own interceptive awareness to follow something that we might believe to have benefit to us. The word ‘diet’ can be an ever facing demon.
Although it is great to be mindful of nutrition and nourish our bodies with certain foods, it’s more beneficial to have a good relationship with food and by that I mean all food. Obsessive behaviours with food can spiral out of control and can take control of thoughts, emotions and behaviours. So what does a good relationship with food mean/look like?
1. Stop labelling foods ‘good’ and ‘bad’
If you ever got told off as a child for doing something ‘bad’, how did that make you feel? Ashamed? Guilty? That’s the same association you’re putting onto food, if you eat something you’ve labelled as bad, there’s almost a stigma attached that you need to feel a certain way about it. It also creates more desire to want to eat foods that are ‘bad’ and therefore can lead to binges of these foods after periods of restriction. Instead of labelling food good and bad, try to remember that every food has a place in a balanced diet – some more energy, some for nutrients and some for enjoyment.
2. Don’t worry if you ‘mess up’, don’t counteract behaviour by then missing a meal.
If you’ve over-eaten a particular food, or eaten something that hasn’t made you feel good leading you to feel a bit bleurgh about it, don’t counteract the behaviour by restricting food intake. Just continue your next day/meal as normal. It will help you to achieve a normal pattern of food rather than a continuation of over eating/restriction. By counteracting what you’ve done, you’ll create an association with doing it and then needing to balance it out, rather than continuing as normal and not giving it any extra attention.
3. Identify what might trigger you
What stops you from having a good relationship with food? Social media accounts that take pictures of perfect smoothies or people that write blogs on ‘my daily intake of food’. Or walking past a certain health shop on the way home from work? Sometimes these aren’t helpful and can change our own behaviours towards food. Anything that is going to stop you from achieving that good relationship should be removed/avoided where possible.
4. Include eating in social environments in your routine
Try not to isolate yourself in social situations around food. Food is supposed to be enjoyed too and can be part of a social activity. Spending time around other people and food can help to relieve social anxiety towards food. Alarm bells should raise if you’re missing out on certain situations due to the possibility of it interfering with your food intake.
5. Don’t fixate on headlines – they tend to be sensationalised and might not have any solid scientific back up.
A lot of headlines are there to grab your attention and to sell a story/concept/diet idea. Take everything you read with a pinch of salt if you do not know if source to be credible. A nutritionist is not a legally protected title, so unfortunately anyone can say anything about food/diets without any knowledge at all! If you are worried about something, asked a registered Dietitian/Nutritionist to look at the science behind it rather than take the headline as gospel.
6. Focus on your physical hunger – don’t be afraid to be hungry!
Feeling hunger is a completely normal physiological response and it’s deserves attention – it’s your body trying to tell you it needs to be given some energy. Supressing this natural feeling can lead to distorted behaviours around foods and/or restriction. On the other hand, if you’re not physically hungry, where it the desire for food coming from? It might be an emotional response to food and therefore consider other ways to manage your emotions rather than with food.
7. Focus your attention onto reasons why we eat – Energy, nourishment, Enjoyment!
Contrary to popular belief, food isn’t just there to help us gain and lose weight! We need food for energy, we need it to nourish our body but also it is something we can enjoy. Include foods you like and enjoy and try to understand that every single food has a place in our intake!