As a nutritionist, it is impossible to ignore the role that our relationship with food plays in our everyday life. You can have all the knowledge in the world about what to eat and what not to eat to be healthy, but without a positive relationship with food, this knowledge will only get you so far.
So that begs the question, how do you build a positive relationship with food? And why is it so important?
Before I go on to try and answer those two mega important questions, let’s start out with exploring how come so many of us have a difficult relationship with food in the first place?
Unfortunately, from a young and impressionable age, many of us are bombarded with conflicting messages about food that end up making a pretty natural process (feel hunger, eat food), much more complicated.
We are fed rules about what to eat and when to eat it and shamed for choices that aren’t within these rules.
Add in the fact that we live in a culture that has not and does not always celebrate diversity in body shapes and sizes; it is no wonder we have a truck load of fears around food, and little trust in ourselves when it comes to our diet.
To make matters more difficult, we live in a time where the food industry does not always have the health of the consumer in their best interest. In the last century our grocery markets have been flooded with low quality, highly processed foods that are more often than not more affordable and accessible than natural whole foods (like fruits and vegetables). Backed by food scientists, the ingredients in these chemically engineered foods tantalize our taste buds and warp our desire for real food (p.s. this includes “healthy” diet foods).
But this story isn’t all doom and gloom, because there is a way to reclaim a peaceful relationship with food – one without anger and resentment, restriction and control, bingeing and shame.
So how do you build a healthy relationship with food? Here are some of my favourite tools when starting to shift our experience with our daily nourishment:
- Let go of guilt and shame – no matter what you choose to eat, there is nothing to feel bad about. The more we punish ourselves for what and how much we eat, the more we feed into a negative cycle with food. Here is something to consider: instead of feeling bad about what you ate, what can you feel good about?
- Trust yourself – throw out the laundry list of nutrition rules that you find yourself constantly agonizing over and start trusting your instincts when it comes to choosing what you want to eat. We have been taught that without control or dieting we are wild animals that won’t stop eating – ever! But I would argue that the more we trust and believe in our caring nature for ourselves, that we will choose foods that make us feel even better than without the trust.
- Make food your best friend – when food becomes our best friend, we treat it with respect, we know our limits, we seek out the best quality and we are willing to put in the time and effort to get it right. Start shifting the mentality that food is the enemy, one that we need to keep hidden in the corners, but instead shine some bright light on food and explore how it can enhance your life when you invite it kindly to the table.
- Fuel yourself for YOU – with all of the noise around our health, it is easy to get lost in why we care about it in the first place. Find the reason you want to fuel yourself well for YOU. Is it so that you have the energy to take care of your children? The mental clarity to do well in school? The vitality to live a long and pain free life? The ability to be more present for loved ones? Keep these at the top of your mind, every day.
Establishing a healthy relationship with food is so important for our long-term success. Like any healthy long-term partnership, the key to sustainability is trust, respect, love and compassion; not control, anger, resentment and distrust. By building a positive relationship to food, we can enjoy our food more, worry about it less, and ultimately thrive better. No more ying-yangs, crash diets, or stress; just self-compassion, kindness and understanding – because that is when we truly become healthy.