So i’m working on developing a “healthy relationship with food”. But i want to explain what that means, both for my own clarification and to see what it means for other folks.
1) Food is fuel. I can’t not eat and expect to be healthy, energetic or happy, just like i can’t expect my car to run without gas or my computer to run without electricity. Not eating, or under eating is not a healthy habit. Yes, in order to lose weight one needs to create some calorie deficit, however it needs to still be in the functional range. I want to be at my best, and that means ensuring i have enough fuel to do so.
2) Variety is important. Eating only one food group, color, flavor, shape, texture, temperature or any other characteristic means i’ll be limiting my nutrition. Eating a variety of things will help provide me with lots of different vitamins and nutrients my body needs. It will also prevent me from getting bored. It is easy to fall into patterns, but those patterns need to include a variety of foods.
3) Foods are not good or bad. Some options might be better choices – a handful of nuts will keep me satiated longer than a handful of jelly beans for example, but the jelly beans are not evil. I might feel more virtuous having chosen the grilled chicken salad, but i am not a bad person if i want the cheeseburger, or even if i choose it. More accurate questions are will this food/meal get me closer to my goals? Does this fit in with the intentions i’ve set? How will i feel after eating this? Do i really want this thing, or is there another reason it seems attractive? Can i get the same enjoyment with something else that will fit closer with my intentions?
4) Eating should be a conscious decision. Eating out of habit, emotion or boredom is not a healthy relationship with food. Recognizing when i am hungry, and eating enough to calm that hunger is good. Making a conscious decision of what to eat and when is the most important thing I can do towards being healthier. For me, logging is critical here, as it creates a moment to pause and ask myself if this is really what i want to eat.
5) The numbers are not in control of me. The scale, my calorie count, my calorie budget, my pedometer, my heart rate monitor and my clothing size do not define me. I am much more than any of these things. Numbers are metrics, but do not measure my happiness or relationships.
6) Portion size matters. I’m a short woman. I can’t eat as much as my husband, who is almost a foot taller than me, and a hundred pounds heavier. I need to be content with what is on my plate and not compare to his (which often has some ‘extras’ as well). It can feel tedious to measure stuff out, but it really makes a difference! If i am still hungry (after pausing to drink some water and let my food settle), i can always get something else.
7) Water is awesome. Water is necessary for your body to run properly, fills you up, cleans you out and tastes good. I know folks get accustomed to sodas and flavored beverages, but really, water is probably one of the best things for you. For me, a healthy relationship with food includes drinking lots of water.
8) Be adventurous. Try new flavors, recipes and cooking techniques. Try new restaurants. Look at different meal plans. I get stuck in habits, and then the habits degrade to what is fastest, most comforting and easiest. Keeping things interesting really helps break that cycle. It also helps the mindful, choice driven aspect of eating for me.
9) Enjoy whats on the plate. Whether its a salad of leftovers, a carefully made dish at home or a burger and fries out. Food is delicious and worth enjoying. Don’t feel guilty over a meal, even it its not towards your goals. Guilt just makes you feel bad, and can serve as an excuse to give up on good habits. Savor what you eat as you eat it. Enjoy it. And then, if necessary, make adjustments. That pie was too good to pass up? Maybe eat a little less later on, but if not, it’s ok. A friend of mine likes to quote her WW leader “if you trip on one step, you don’t throw yourself down the rest of the stairs”, yet so often we do with food.
10) One bite at a time. This is big, hard stuff, even if it sounds simple. For me a healthy relationship with food is going to be a long, hard process, but it’s totally possible. The way to do it? One bite at a time. Let meals in the past be in the past, future meals be handled in the future, and focus on what is in front of me now. It’s not about one big decision, but hundreds, maybe even thousands of small ones.