"But That's Unhealthy!" 4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Food
Kim Rounsefell·May 06, 2021
Reflect for a moment.
How would you define your relationship with food right now? Does the thought fill you with inspiration? Happy memories of connection to your roots? A place of enjoyment, nourishment of not only your body but your mind as well.
Or does the thought conjure up complicated feelings?
Maybe you dread the thought of knowing what to eat.
You feel stress when presented with too many food choices, or perhaps you have too few food choices available. Perhaps the mere thought invokes overwhelming guilt that you're not eating 'right' or 'healthy,' or even emptiness bought up due to events during your life.
Our relationships with food can be equally intricate and complex as our relationships with the people in our lives.
If you feel like yours leans toward a negative relationship, read on for some ideas to recenter yourself and try to find enjoyment in food again.
1. Watch Out for the Food Police
Food police are out in full force monitoring your every move!
They're waiting on the sidelines, ready to cast their judgment over your food choices. It can feel overbearing. In this case, our Food Police are a metaphor for food judgment or morals placed around the food we eat.
"That looks unhealthy"
"Too much sugar is bad for you"
Judgment might arise from your inner voice, friends and loved ones in your lives, or the food messages subliminally cast through the media like alien mind-control.
Hanging around food judgment like a bad smell is its friend guilt! So, it's essential to honing in on it, being aware of when it crops up.
A mindfulness practice you can try when you notice food judgment surfacing is to try not to react to it or give it too much attention. Notice its presence with curiosity and allow it to pass in its own time. It might also help to name the feeling? "Hello food judgement nice of you to come visit!"
This approach is helpful because you're not trying to force certain ways of thinking, which tends to cause more rumination and inner-battles.
With practice you'll get better at letting negative food judgments come and go without reacting to it.
2. Get Food Inspiration from the Right Places for You
In the age of social media, hashtags #foodporn and its mate #fitspiration are popular.
These are often associated with provocative food images with sauces oozing and bright pops of glorious color on a backdrop of tableware that's to die for! It's enough to make anyone's mouth water!
But like anything on social media.
It's important to remember that these images are stylized right down to the most minute detail, with perfect lighting, blur, and white balance designed to make any food pop!
Check out this video of the day in the life of a food stylist and photographer.
While this imagery aims to inspire you to cook more, when inundated with this kind of perfect food imagery, there's bound to be feelings of food inadequacy that crop up from time to time.
Sometimes it's good to remember the real day-to-day stuff when it comes to food. Not knowing what to cook, making a meal that looks like something the cat dragged in (the opposite of #foodporn)! And allowing yourself to be imperfect when it comes to food.
If you feel inadequate around your food or cooking choices in any way, it's time to look out for some helpful food and recipe sources that work for you and don't tout unachievable standards.
Don't like to cook? That's okay!
3. Tune Inward, Practice Listening to Your Own Body
How is your body feeling today? Does it feel sluggish or energized?
Hydrated or dry? Do you feel hungry, full, or neither?
What do you feel like eating today? Something crunchy? Something sweet? Something salty? Or fruity? Do you feel like cooking something today or going for a more convenient option?
So many questions! You won't likely ask these of yourself all at once; taking little moments throughout the day or before a meal to pause and check-in with yourself is worthwhile.
And over time and practice, it can help you tune in more succinctly to your body's wants and needs.
Try approaching this exercise with some curiosity; for example, if you are feeling like something salty, try not to judge or dismiss it as being 'bad' but rather a message your body might be trying to communicate. Maybe your body is needing some extra salt after a long hot day. Try out this exercise at moments in the day to approach food feelings with greater curiosity over criticism.
4. Seek Professional Help if Uncertain
Food and our relationship with it are complicated. Life events can have a profound impact on how we interact with food later down the road.
With so much information at hand, it's not always easy to know what is best for your individual needs or how to trust those needs.
Some signs that you might need some additional support when it comes to your relationship with food are:
Being caught in a constant dieting cycle,
Having very rigid around food with extreme rules,
Avoidance of eating with others.
Count calories, weighing food, restricting food.
Feeling out of control with emotions and eating.
Constantly over exercising to make up for 'bad days'
An over-obsession with 'healthy foods'
If in any doubt or struggling with how you feel about food, eating habits, or body. Seek professional advice from a health care professional who specializes in eating behavior.