Overcoming unhealthy, emotional relationship with food

A healthy relationship with food refers to learned good behaviors, perceptions, emotions, and mindsets. Creating a positive experience with food rather than a negative one 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, which means having unconditional permission to eat the food that makes one feel good emotionally and physically.

When someone eats certain foods or eats more than they should, they have an unhealthy relationship with food. It can also be overeating or “off-limits” eating of certain foods, binge eating, or eating in response to emotions like disappointment, anger, stress, or 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.  People who develop the habit of listening to their natural hunger cues can control their appetite and rationalize their food intake. 

Mindful eating

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, which can help you learn which foods you genuinely enjoy. Mindful eating helps you become more in tune with your body’s natural hunger and help you feel full.

Stop labelling food as “good” or “bad”

Categorizing foods 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, by viewing all foods as equal, with no food being better or worse than another (which 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 ahead of time your food choices and eating habits during stressful times can help reduce stress. Lack of sleep also contributes to stress. People tend to binge eat when they are stressed. 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 timetable 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.

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