Building a Healthy Relationship with Food
Having a healthy relationship with food is definitely not a process that happens overnight, it often requires us to make a conscious effort and really reflect on our own emotions, body image issues as well as other stigmas that we may attach to certain foods. Throughout your life your relationship with food has most likely changed. Have you ever stopped to wonder how you feel about food? The answer is never simple and most likely not neutral. Our bodies are natural regulators and to build a healthy relationship with food we need to go back to the basics and trusting your body is a key part of this process. It can be difficult to find that sweet spot that works for you, but it isn’t impossible!
If you have experienced any of the following, it could be a sign that you don’t have the healthiest relationship with food:
- Feeling guilty about the food that you eat (or the quantity)
- Meticulously restricting foods that you see as ‘bad’
- Ignoring your body signalling hunger
- Overeating during stressful situations/bouts of negative emotion
- Consistently following fad diets, yo-yo dieting or trying ‘quick fixes’ (such as detox teas)
- Feelings of anxiety when eating with other people or at restaurants as you fear that you may be judged for the food that you eat/the quantity
- Fearing food that you have not made yourself, for example having concerns about the amount of oil that was used in the cooking process
If you have experienced any of the above, please don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed! These feelings are extremely common but rarely discussed openly, and can definitely be healed through showing yourself kindness and patience in your food journey.
A healthy relationship with food is intrinsically linked to having a healthy relationship with yourself. Starving/binging are both forms of self-harm and factors of different eating disorders (with a combination making up some eating disorders). By acknowledging that your body needs food and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat when you are hungry, you are exercising self-love and will often find that you feel so much better within yourself and in other areas of your life as well! The goal is to see eating as a chance to nourish and nurture your body by providing it with a balanced, varied and exciting diet. You could also try out doing some positive affirmations in order to build a more positive relationship with yourself, therefore giving you more incentive to nurture your body with the food that it needs!
Remember that food is fuel!
Another key part of having a healthy relationship with food is ensuring that you give your body what it needs, but also satisfy any specific cravings without concerns/guilt. Often these cravings can arise when your body is missing something specific, and it is trying to communicate that to you. For example, when you crave high sugar desserts/sweets, this is usually your body’s way of telling you that you may be experiencing blood sugar fluctuations, with nutritionist Doctor Goodman explaining that “When your blood sugar drops, your body may be trying to get you to give it more fuel to keep your blood sugar levels stable."
We at Love Yourself definitely recommend sticking to a balanced diet rich in protein, high fibre foods and complex carbs in order to ensure that your body has the fuel that it needs without having to resort to ‘quick fixes’ like foods/drinks high in sugar and caffeine to give you spikes in energy/positive emotions. Our Balanced Diet plan is specially formulated to ensure that your body receives all of the nutrients that it needs in order to function properly, and contains the seven essential factors for a healthy, balanced diet: Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat, Fibre, Vitamins, Minerals and Water.
Enjoying the food that you eat
Fear foods are another huge challenge that arise when trying to build up a healthier relationship with food. These can include foods that taste great but are high in saturated fats, or that contain a lot of oil, cream or sugar, which can be very intimidating to somebody that is already food/body conscious. It is important not to see these foods as the enemy, but instead to acknowledge that foods are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and that anything can be enjoyed in moderation! Often, when we label a food as being ‘bad’ it is put on a pedestal in our minds, and by telling ourselves that we aren’t allowed it, the more that it is craved and often eventually binged on. It’s important to realise that just like having one salad won’t make you lose weight, having one donut won’t make you gain weight! By indulging in high fat/sugar/salt foods in moderation you are preventing an inner stigma being created around them, meaning that you don’t have to experience fear that you will binge on them and feel rubbish, and instead simply enjoy them as they are intended!
We believe that there is nothing wrong with comfort food and that it definitely can fit into a balanced diet! When we completely eliminate our favourite foods in the hopes of becoming ‘healthier’ it is almost inevitable that the diet attempt will fail (even with the strongest willpower!) and is why so many fad diets and weight loss tricks don’t work in the long term, often leading to fast, short lived results and ‘yo-yo’ dieting. We at Love Yourself believe that rather than restricting your diet, you should instead focus on expanding it, trying new exciting foods and never sacrificing on amazing flavour. You could even try putting a new spin on some of your favourite foods, one of my personal favourite hacks is when making spaghetti dishes to use half/a third regular pasta, and makeup the rest using zoodles! (spiralised zucchini/courgette) You never feel like you are restricting because you are still eating a large volume of food (often a larger portion than you would be with just pasta) and enjoying all of the flavours as usual, but with the added bonus of more nutrients as well as fewer calories (if being in a calorie deficit is something that you aspire to).
Keeping a food diary to help keep track of when and why we reach for certain foods can help us to better understand our behaviours. You might start to notice patterns in your food diary. For example, eating when you are bored, eating when you are feeling down or eating before your stomach has settled from the last meal. An unhealthy relationship is not just overeating or a diet with poor nutrition. The food diary might show that you aren’t eating enough food which is why you develop these snacking habits when you are feeling bored or down.
Another great tip to consider is to practice mindful eating, which is done by truly engaging with the food that you are eating by giving it your full attention. Some tips for this are to try sitting down at a dinner table for all of your meals without a phone, television or any other distractions in order to ensure that you are focussed on your meal. Consider eating slowly, as this allows you to engage all of your senses with your food, as well as aid your digestion and allow your body to give you proper cues as to whether it is still hungry or full.
In summary, what you can do to build a healthier relationship with food:
- Daily affirmations of self love (click here for some ideas if you don’t know where to start!)
- Be excited about the food that you eat!
- Do not limit your diet, expand it wherever you can
- Never cut out your favourite foods, enjoy everything in moderation
- Eat when you are hungry and listen to the cues that your body gives you
- Practice mindful eating
We would love you to try out some of these tips and let us know if you have any others that you have found helpful in your own journey to having a healthy relationship with food!
Forming a positive relationship with the food we eat is a constant journey, and even making small steps towards building that relationship is amazing! Your body is yours to treasure and take care of, and by giving it the nutrients that it needs, it will take care of you as well!
By Holly Harkness & Pooja Depala