Most of us have been there, knee deep in a tub of ice cream wondering how it all disappeared so fast! Then, the guilt creeps up like the all too common “how are you” text 5 months after you broke up with your ex.
Maybe you feel “out of control” around the foods you’ve deemed as “bad” or “off limits” or maybe you fear certain foods for similar reasons. Regardless, I’m here to not only tell you, but also teach you about how you can cultivate a healthy relationship with food. Because, believe it or not, it is possible to eat a cup of ice cream or a handful of potato chips and feel completely satisfied. To clarify, it’s also completely doable (and ok) to consume beyond the recommended serving size and feel completely guilt-free! If this is information that you need in your life, which I’m assuming it is since you clicked on this post, then hold on tight and keep reading! I’m happy that you’re here!
Unpack Your Inner Self-Talk
Listen without judgement
If you listen closely, what thoughts constantly come up around food? What stories are you telling yourself? Write these thoughts and stories down as they come up. Do this free of judgement or shame. This is important because you want to obtain your accurate thoughts and feelings of the food you are consuming. Remember that no one else has to see what you wrote down– because you are doing this exercise purely for yourself.
This can help clarify what you are struggling with while also helping to identify common themes and thought patterns associated with certain foods.
Change your story!
Now that you’ve gained awareness surrounding your thoughts, you can slowly work to change them. Emphasis on SLOWLY because I want to make it clear that this is typically not a linear process and will take time. Nothing valuable comes easy and having a healthier relationship with food is no exception. However, I can promise that you’ll be happier and more self-aware if you do decide to stick with this process.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty– so you have a thought that isn’t serving you and you want to change it… How is this done!?
Well, I’m happy you asked! To demonstrate this, I’ll use an example of a common negative thought and how to change it to become more positive.
“I can’t eat X because Y will happen”
For example: “I can’t eat fat because I’ll gain weight” or “I can’t eat carbs because I’ll get fat.”
This kind of self-talk is problematic and ultimately isn’t serving you. Instead you can change these phrases to read, “I will choose to engage in eating food that nourishes me” and, “I trust myself to make food decisions without guilt or judgement.”
Now, I know that for some of you this kind of mindset shift sounds daunting and unattainable. If this is you, I would strongly recommend working one-on-one with a Registered Dietitian (RD or RDN) so that you can be better guided and counseled on your individual needs.
Nevertheless, these new self-talk statements take the power away from food and place the power back into your own hands. As a dietitian, I know that my patients know their body WAY better than I ever could because they are living in it! You know your body, your needs, your likes, your dislikes and you can trust yourself to make the right decisions for your body and your overall health. You might just need a bit of guidance, and that’s ok!
A question that I like to ask myself and I often teach to my clients to ask is, “If I truly love myself, would I allow myself to engage in X.” Go ahead and fill in your X– This could be bingeing on a tub of ice cream or this could be not allowing yourself to have ice cream with your friends on a sunny day when you really want to. You have to ask yourself if these thoughts and actions are truly serving you. If you have decided they aren’t, then you have the autonomy and power to shift the way you think and therefore change the way you live life.
On this note, if you are struggling with overeating and binging, it’s really important to find the root cause for why this is happening. Sometimes restriction and extreme hunger can cause our bodies and minds to over consume or sometimes food can be used as a coping mechanism for traumatic or emotional situations. In either case, working with a trusted dietitian and doctor is the best way to unpack the root causes of your eating issues and fix them for good.
Stop the labeling!
When we label food as “bad” and “good” we subsequently attach an emotional charge to that food decision. We start thinking of not only the food as “bad” but ourselves as “bad” for eating it. When this happens, we create fear around certain foods which can lead to a host of unhealthy habits.
Oftentimes when we tell ourselves not to eat something because it’s “bad” creates a tendency to desire that food even more. Maybe you’ll find yourself thinking about that off limits food all the time (aka obsessive food thoughts) or you find yourself feeling “out of control” around the foods you’ve labeled as “bad.” Eventually, what results are unhealthy and disordered relationships with food.
Instead, I advise my clients to view all food as neutral– no food is “good” or “bad,” it’s simply food. This takes away the power and emotional charge that food carries, resulting in increased autonomy surrounding your individual food decisions. The goal is to learn how to allow ourselves to choose foods, activities, and people that are most nourishing to us in particular moments.
Think about what you can ADD IN instead of TAKE OUT of your diet
What kind of foods come to mind when you ask yourself, “What foods do I really enjoy that also make my body feel good once I eat them?” Whatever foods came to mind for you, consider adding those into your diet instead of eliminating foods.
For me foods like whole fruits, protein-packed salads, peanut butter and banana (yum) and tuna melt sandwiches on hearty whole wheat bread come to mind!
When we eliminate foods from our diet this creates a sense of lack and scarcity which often makes us think about and want that food even more! If you choose not to eat a certain type of food, don’t do so because you are fearful of it. If a food doesn’t make you feel your best and functional optimally that’s a fine reason not to eat it. But, be honest with yourself when doing this. Because there is a fine line between not eating something because it genuinely makes us feel crappy or we truly don’t enjoy the taste and not choosing to eat something because we fear it.
On the contrary, when we focus on adding more foods into our diet this creates a sense of abundance. You will feel more autonomy over your food choices and you can come to learn that any choice you make is the right one for you in that specific moment. Trust yourself. 🙂
Additional research and recommended readings
I know this can be a lot to take in and difficult to understand, so here are some additional reading and resources to guide you to your healthy relationship with food!
To learn more about how to create a healthy relationship with food, I recommend reading the book Intuitive Eating and following intuitive eating and HAES focused RD’s on social media platforms (I listed some of my favorites below)! Finally, I also recommend surrounding yourself with people that promote and support healthy mindsets surrounding food and our bodies!
MUST FOLLOW IG ACCOUNTS
Feel free to also check out my FUN Training if you’re struggling with intuitive exercise!
All in all, creating a healthy relationship with food starts with analyzing and dissecting your thoughts and getting down to the root cause(s) of these issues. Then, healing those thought patterns and putting in work daily to change the current perspectives you hold in ways that better serve you in the long run. You got this!