Improving your relationship with food

Food can be a lot of things, however all too often it is just seen as it’s caloric value and other important values are dismissed. Traditionally food was used as a trade offering, for ceremonies, for celebration and those with larger bodies were considered most nourished and healthiest. Over the years of media influence and diet culture all focused on weight loss and thin bodies, many individuals’ relationship with food has diminished significantly or was never properly established to begin with. This blog focuses on the many roles that food has in our day to day lives in addition to being an energy source, how to leave behind feelings of guilt this festive season and how to establish a healthier relationship with food on a day-to-day basis.

I want to start off by saying – food is more than just calories. Food is fuel and nourishment for our body and mind. And in addition to this, food is also:

· Joyous – food can provide pleasure through its taste, the textures, the form and so on. Eating food can be a joyful experience. Who else loves doing a happy dance when you see your meal arriving in a restaurant?

· Social – food can be part of a social experience. Catching up with friends or going to a function can be a fun and relaxing experience if you let it be.

· Fun – trying out new flavours and foods can be a fun experience.

· Cultural – immersing yourself in your own culture or another culture when travelling is a beautiful experience.

· Intimate – food can be intimate and pleasurable through sharing with people close to you, cooking from the heart or incorporating it into sensual play.

· Celebratory – food is commonly used in celebratory settings whether that be a wedding, graduation, birthday and so on.

· Creative – growing, cooking and eating food is a creative process, an art in itself.

With festive season in full spirit at the moment, food usually being the main event, many people will reduce intake/calories before or after, increase exercise and/or go on intense ‘detox’ programs in attempt to ‘offset’ the ‘damage done’ over Christmas. However, let me tell you – you haven’t done any damage. The only thing you’ll damage is your relationship with food. So instead, follow these tips on how to leave the guilt behind this season (and forever).

1. Don’t apologize, criticize or justify what you are eating – to yourself or others. You can eat whatever you want.

2. Don’t starve yourself in anticipation for a big meal – just keep eating as you would in your regular routine and if you’re hungry – eat.

3. Whilst eating, think about how much joy, pleasure and connection this food is giving you in that moment and catch yourself out if you begin thinking about the calories or ingredients.

4. If other people make comments about you and your food, or themselves and food, you can set boundaries around these conversations.

5. Practice mindfulness and tune in to what your body wants in those moments. You might hear soul food or you might hear you’re still hungry or you might hear you’re actually satisfied already.

6. Say goodbye to new years resolutions. You don’t need one and if you feel the need to change something (like improving your relationship with food) – you’re already doing so by reading this post!

Now festive season aside, how can you improve your relationship with food on a regular day-to-day basis?

1. Stick to a regular food routine – and eat when you are hungry.

2. Instead of doing ‘cheat days’ which can often lead to restriction and then binging, try to implement a rough 80/20 balance where each day there’s always room for soul food however most of your day you are consuming more nutrient dense whole foods.

3. Call out your internalized monologue that is harmful to you – e.g., “Oh, I better go to the gym today because I just had that piece of cake” – No, you can have piece of cake and enjoy it, and you don’t have to work it off. If you want to go to the gym because you enjoy working out and you feel strong afterwards then go ahead – just make sure the motivation isn’t to work off that piece of cake.

4. Set boundaries around friends and family’s conversations and/or comments around food, weight, or appearance – or call them out for harmful comments. E.g., “You should probably put that donut back, it’ll go straight to your waist” – answer “No it’s okay, I’m not concerned, I want to eat a donut so I will”.

5. Try to keep your meals balanced so aiming for ¼ protein, ¼ starchy veg and ½ salad with a topping of fats.

6. Listen to your body, if you feel like soul food, then just have some. Research shows that the more restrict yourself, the more likely you are to binge. So, I suggest, just have some when you want some.

So, what’s the main theme – everything in moderation and balance is key! Here’s to a great festive season and new year, with lots of delicious food, joy and zero guilt!

Let me know if you found this helpful and be sure to share this blog with those you feel might need a little reminder.

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