Making Friends with Food

We’ve made it through another holiday season! It’s a time of year that can be tricky for people when it comes to food. Worrying about eating too much, fearing missing out on holiday fun if you don’t eat the delicious treats, wondering what others think of your food choices, and internally (or externally) keeping track of others’ food intake are just a few ways this topic rears up over the holidays.

For most of my adult life, I battled food. I journaled about my eating “failures” and set goal after goal after goal. I agonized over my inability to control food, and I was terrified of the health consequences. The one constant through all those years? I was always thinking about food!

If this sounds familiar, let me start by reassuring you that wherever you’re at in your food journey, it’s really ok! Most of us have been socialized to have a difficult relationship with food and our bodies since the day we were born (click here for more on the history ), and it’s not going to change overnight magically. What I have learned, however, is that it is possible to create a more neutral relationship to food.

Here are a few starting points that I found helpful:

  1. Stop weighing yourself: This might feel uncomfortable or even scary at first, but it is really helpful! Every time we check our weight, we reinforce the idea that our body needs policing and that our food choices should be based on the number on the scale rather than on our internal sense of hunger or fullness.
  2. Stop making food a moral issue: Have you noticed how many foods are deemed “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”? These categories make it hard to be neutral about food because we spend a lot of energy trying to decide if we are being “good” or “bad” when we eat something. If, instead, we think of food as neutral – some combination of protein, nutrients, minerals, sugars, fibre, etc. – we no longer have to put moral values on the food…or on ourselves for eating it!
  3. Get curious about your body’s cues: How do you know you are hungry or thirsty? What body sensations are related to feeling full? Our body is talking to us all the time, but most of us have forgotten how to hear it.
  4. Practice moments of mindful eating: Starting with a small, manageable chunk of time (maybe 1 minute to start), concentrate only on eating. Turn off or tune out all distractions and allow yourself to really notice the act of eating. How does the food taste? Is it pleasant? Neutral? Unpleasant? What do you notice about the texture? The temperature?
  5. Connect with a professional: Our attitudes, beliefs and emotions about food and our bodies are complex! It’s okay to ask for help sorting this stuff out. Counsellors can be very helpful in working through the emotional impacts of food and eating, while professionals such as nutritionists or homeopaths can offer great insights into learning about your body’s unique wants and needs when it comes to food.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and some of these ideas might not work for you…which is kind of the point: no one else knows better than you what your body and spirit needs! I wish you well on your journey towards making friends with food. In my experience, the relief of not having to think about food every minute of the day is well worth the effort!

If you are looking for additional support in this area we HIGHLY recommend Food to Fit Nutrition, based out of Saskatoon.

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