A healthy relationship with food refers to learned good behaviors, perceptions, emotions, and mindsets. Creating a positive experience with food than negative ones is the primary goal of a healthy relationship with the food we consume. When it comes to creating a good eating habit, showing patience and kindness toward oneself is of paramount importance. Having unconditional permission to eat the food that makes one feel good emotionally and physically.
Unhealthy relationship with food is a guilty feeling when someone eats certain food or eats more than required. It can also be overeating or “off-limits” of certain food, binge eating or eating in response to emotions like disappointment, anger, stress, nervousness.
Learn to listen to your body
Listen to the body, it will tell you when to eat or not eat. Every individual has the natural ability to regulate their hunger. If people get into the habit of listening to their inbuilt hunger cues, they can regulate their appetite and rationalize their food intake.
Mindful eating is the quintessential cornerstone to mending bad relationships with food. It means eating in the moment and being fully present mentally during the eating experience. It actually helps to learn how to slow down and savor the food you’re eating and can help you learn which food you genuinely enjoy. Mindful eating helps in becoming more in tune with your body’s natural hunger and helps feel full.
Stop labelling food as “good” or “bad”
Categorizing food under ‘Can eat’ or ‘Avoid eating’ and putting labels on them like “Good” or “Bad” gives those foods power over individuals. It will force us to judge ourselves when we eat the so-called “bad” food. Also, it is human nature to want something you don’t think you can have, and that leads to cravings. So, viewing all foods as equal, with no food being better or worse than another (helps foster a healthy relationship with food). When you stop viewing foods as “good” or “bad,” you take away the food’s power. With time, the craving to indulge in food just because you are in its presence will fade and you won’t feel the need to overeat.
Prepare for stress
Be mindful of the effect that stress has on eating and food choices. Planning in advance your food choices and eating habits during times of stress; helps in lowering stress. Lack of sleep also contributes to stress. During stress people tend to binge eat. A good night’s sleep is the solution. To avoid such situations, keep a few healthy food options handy or try to manage stress by diverting the mind in different ways.
Associate eating with positive behavior
Having a positive attitude towards food facilitates healthy behavior towards it. Cook recipes which include healthy ingredients you like. Then, sit down, distraction-free, when you eat them and try to fully enjoy the tastes, flavors, colors, and textures. Framing a mental time table of your meal plans especially during a busy week is essential. Having a clear plan will serve well when you might have too many distractions to listen to your body well. Instead of giving a reason for your food choices, allow yourself to eat food that you feel is best for you at that very moment.
Don’t punish yourself
It’s better to avoid punishing yourself for eating unhealthy foods. If you are feeling this, try focusing on your diet from a week’s perspective (rather than a 24-hour period). Examining overall food intake this way helps to keep a balanced and healthier perspective when it comes to enjoying food that’s less healthy. Try to maintain a healthy balanced diet throughout the week, once in a while if eating outside, practice mindfulness.
A symbiotic relationship with food is like every other relationship. With time, effort, practice, and a lot of patience your relationship with food will go deeper than fueling your body.
Dr Soumita Biswas, Chief Nutritionist, Aster RV Hospital