With an estimated 69% of Americans overweight, 34% of them obese, food has somehow become something new in our society, an addiction, a temporary solution for emotions and stress, or something to fear and avoid.
Your Relationship With Food
Do you have a love/hate relationship with food? What does a healthy relationship even look like? When you have a good relationship with food, food does not control you in any way. It is a pleasure but not an addiction. It makes you feel good, not guilty or ashamed. It is a part of your life, not everything or nothing. Do any of these traits sound like you?
- you spend time on a diet, eating bland foods you don’t enjoy for a period of time, then you lose control and binge on junk food
- you dread meals and eating
- you live for meals and eating
- you quite often wish you could just eat whatever you want, and feel jealous of people around you and their “good metabolism”
- you can’t get through a day without eating something sugary or fatty, in large quantities, no matter how much you don’t want to.
- you have been yo-yoing between weights and diets for an extended period of time
- you think that there is great discipline in eating less so you deprive yourself constantly
- you are preoccupied most of the day with what you are eating or how much you eat
- you think very little about how the food you eat affects your health, or you obsess over it
- you hide food or lie about what you ate to others
- you use food to manage stress or emotions
- you have strict definitions of “good” and “bad” foods
- you go all day without eating, then have a giant meal at night
If you think you may have an unhealthy relationship with food, here are a few steps you can take towards making it healthy. (Important-some of the above traits can be signs of a serious eating disorder. If you suspect that you may have an eating disorder, please call your doctor!)
Feed Yourself Vitamins and Nutrients from Food
Much of the time, our bodies are so devoid of the nutrients they need to function that we struggle more than we need to with the overeating cycle. Once your body receives the nutrients, this helps to shut down the hunger signals. We feel more satisfied, full, and have more energy.
You can start by just adding in an apple at breakfast, a side salad at lunch, and a serving of broccoli at dinner, along with the normal foods you eat. You may be surprised at how eventually, your desire for the unhealthier choices (white sugars, pastas, flours, breads, etc) will begin to diminish, and you will likely begin to crave the nutritious food more often.
Stress Less about What You Eat
Stressing about food can actually make you sick and increase your risk for the same lifestyle-related diseases that being overweight can. Don’t think too much about your macronutrient ratio (this is proving to be more and more unnecessary to me, even though I have preached it to my own clients in the past), just try to eat a wide variety of whole foods.
I cut back on stress from eating by finding meals I enjoy and just repeating them daily. I have oats, peanut butter and blueberries for breakfast, a salad and power smoothie for lunch, and a balanced dinner, with fruit and nuts as snacks in between.
I have a glass of red wine at night if I want. If it’s Friday night and we feel like tacos and a margarita, we do it. We abide by the 90/10 plan: 80-90% of the time we eat whole foods that we love, the rest we allow for “error” and don’t beat ourselves up.
Avoid Food Labels
Instead of labeling foods as “bad” or “good”, which we have all been guilty of, try thinking of them as “eat more of” and “eat less of”. This new mentality eliminates guilt, and also takes away the illustrious tabu of bad food that we want to binge on.
Nothing is off limits, ever. So if you do have a pizza and ice cream night, you don’t feel horribly guilty and fall down the guilt spiral of binge eating all over again.
Eating at regular intervals throughout the day will provide you with a steady stream of energy and prevent blood sugar crashes. It doesn’t have to be 3 square meals, and you also don’t have to force yourself to eat every 2-3 hours. Just make sure you’re eating at regular intervals; listen to your own hunger cues to tell you when and you’ll start to see a pattern that you can follow.
This will stop unhealthy eating habits before they can even begin by eliminating any compulsive choices or behaviors brought on by low blood sugar or hunger. Start by trying to eat just a little something at breakfast, and you can build from here.