If eating food is something that is absolutely necessary for human survival, then why are we so confused about how to do it right? That's a loaded question, to be sure, and it probably has something to do with the frequency of ever-emerging new research that touts the benefits of one superfood while simultaneously demonizing another and what’s good or bad seems to change by the week.
Creating a healthy relationship with food is going to require you to redefine what food is and isn’t. It isn’t good or bad and it isn’t a reward in the same way that exercise isn’t a punishment for what you ate! What it is, is fuel- not only for your workouts but for your daily life. Food is also information. It is coded with various details that interact with your DNA that work to give you energy, strengthen your immune system, boost your metabolism and more.
In order for us to create a confident and healthy relationship with food, we need to tune out some of this outside noise, ditch the food rules and look at the big picture. Read on for some tips on how to create a better relationship with food that moves away from the temporary mindset and shifts towards a more sustainable one.
Tips For A Positive Relationship With Food:
Quit Labeling Food As “Good” Or “Bad”
Somewhere along the line, many of us have ascribed a moral quality to certain foods. Green vegetables, for example, seem to have almost miracle-like qualities, while pizza, cake or any other junk-food type food is seen as evil.
Here’s the thing: foods do not have the power to make you a good or bad person. Instead of thinking of foods as good or bad, black or white, start thinking of them on a sliding scale of more nutritious to less nutritious. This way, you can do your best to choose foods mostly from the more nutritious side of the scale, but at the same time enjoy foods from the less nutritious side on occasion - without feeling guilty or that you need to “burn them off” later. No single food will make or break your health and well-being.
Ditch The Food Rules
Food rules are common because they help us to simplify things and help safeguard us from feelings of food induced guilt, which we think will make eating easier. Rules help us to feel confident in our eating skills and in our ability to control and follow them. The issue arises, however, when we don’t follow them, and feelings of failure ensue.
Instead of following overly strict food rules, which generally mean cutting certain foods or food groups out entirely, try being a little more realistic and cutting things down to 1x per week, or pick a number that works for you and your goals. You’ll be more likely to set yourself up for success, and avoid binging, if you try to find balance and moderation instead of banishing things forever.
Balance Is More Important Than Perfection
Speaking of balance, let’s define what I mean by that term. I use the word balance to describe a way of eating that is healthy, makes you feel good, leaves you happy/satisfied and is sustainable. This, opposed to some “perfect” scenario. Balance means building and creating a long-term lifestyle with health in mind instead of getting distracted with being perfect today. Balance leaves no room for guilt, for punishment or for disappointment - balance means rolling with the punches, making good nutrient-dense food choices meal by meal, staying active and striving for that overall healthy lifestyle.
Focus On Food As Fuel
I mentioned this briefly above, but it helps to think about food as literal fuel for your body. It powers you through your day and through your workouts. Food heals you, helps you sleep well, clears your skin, hydrates you, helps you grow strong hair and nails, helps you build muscle, and helps you avoid or manage illnesses. When you think about food this way, it is easier to make good, healthy choices based on what you want your food to do for you. Junk food? Processed food? They’ve been stripped of all of these qualities.
They won’t heal, they won’t nourish or even satisfy.
Think About What To ADD Instead Of What To AVOID
Finally, another great mindset shift when cultivating a healthy relationship with food is to focus on what foods to add instead of what foods to avoid. By that I mean, add more veggies to each plate, add more lean protein, add more healthy fats, etc.
When you fill your plate with the good stuff, you’ll not only find there isn’t room for the other, less nutritious foods, but you won’t need, crave or miss them because you’ll be filling up on foods that satiate you and leave you feeling full for longer.
If your lunchtime iceberg salad just isn’t powering you through the afternoon, try adding nuts, avocado, cranberries, some grilled chicken, etc. Instead of focusing your attention on cutting calories, think about adding healthy food that will help you feel full.
Creating a healthy, long-term, sustainable relationship with food is imperative if you are going to make lasting lifestyle changes. Use the tips above to help shift your mindset around food, food rules, balance, and more.
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