The gorgeous journalist, Chandré Davids, who worked at the legendary South African Edition of the Women's Health Magazine asked me to share 5 tips to begin improving your relationship with food a little while ago.
Since the feature came out in the August 2020 edition of the Magazine I had received so many beautiful messages from my community as well as many questions. So I wanted to create a post where I share more on each of the tips as well as adding a few answers to your most asked questions regarding your relationship with food.
Let's change the narrative!
There is no good or bad when it comes to your relationship with food. Instead think of it in terms of healthy or unhealthy, or serving you at this moment or not.
As human we are 'meaning-makers', our brain always tries to make meaning of things and in many cases, it uses labels like normal/not normal,good/bad, right/wrong and this narrative does not serve you when you're on a healing journey. Why? you may be wondering, well, those words could be linked to a lot of trauma and your mind may have given them negative meanings linked to diet culture, restriction and punishment. So when you keep using phrases or words that trigger a negative image or feeling in your body, you won't be able to create lasting, healthy change.
So here's what I want you to try - don't judge your relationship with food as good or bad, normal or not normal, simply ask yourself:
'Is my relationship with food serving me right now?'
'Do I feel good about food?'
'Does my body react in obvious ways (you could tense up, crave something, shiver, holding your breath, get anxious) when I think about eating healthy nourishing food or not restricting food?'
'Do I maybe have unhealed or acknowledge trauma around food e.g. disordered eating, purging, severe restriction, punishment for eating or 'being bad' when it comes to food?'
If you answered YES to one or more of these statements, you've got the opportunity to heal and grow, and that's exciting!
Let's Start Healing!
Your relationship with food is quite important. Not only on a biological and physical level, but a mental and emotional level too. It's such a big part of our lives, and that's why it's so worth learning about and healing. So let's dig in to my 5 favorite ways to start healing your relationship with food:
1. Start by Unlearning
Most of what we believe is what we have been taught by our parents, friends and society. So take a look at the meaning given to food, the conversations had about food and the things food was associated with as you grew up e.g. food was used for comfort, it was restricted, talked about negatively, used to soothe or punish or there was never enough.
Studies have shown we tend to return to our childhood programming, so learn how to reparent. See the old belief that doesn't serve you anymore e.g. " Food makes me feel better when I get hurt.", and choose a new one that serves you and your new self e.g. " I am strong enough to get through this pain without soothing myself with food."
2. Have a Healthy Relationship With Yourself First
Having an unhealthy relationship with food can reflect the type of relationship we have with ourselves. If you are controlling and critical with yourself, you'll reflect that in your relationship with food. If you don't feel good enough or you don't care for yourself deeply, you'll choose foods that won't serve you or you'll stay away from nourishment altogether.
When your relationship with food takes an upgrade, so does your relationship with yourself, and visa versa. Take time to work on your relationship with you, how you talk to yourself, treat yourself, keep commitments you made to yourself, give yourself a break and forgive yourself when you mess up. In time this will reflect in your relationship with food, how you view it, and what you choose to put into your amazing body.
3. Stop Putting 'Good' & 'Bad' Labels on Food
Our brains are designed to lead us towards pleasure and away from pain. So, by labeling certain food as good and certain food as bad you are working against your mind, not with it. Start thinking of food in terms of information, and what it will be signaling your body to do e.g. have energy or feel depleted, store fat or burn fat, feel calm or feel wired? This will change your relationship with food to one where you choose foods that will serve you and the day you have planned, so that you can slay!
4. Check Your Stress Levels
You might love the hustle, but it could be causing your body to override your mind when it comes to your relationship with food. Long term stress not only depletes the body, but stress in general causes you to crave sugary, fatty foods. This is because highly sugary and processed foods activate the reward centre in your brain, making you crave more. This leads to you feeling like food has power over you, guilty and sometimes hopeless. So get a practice that helps lower the effects of stress on your body: meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, forest bathing, massages, less screen time, and may more.
5. What Are You Really Hungry For?
Your relationship with food will improve when you fill the real hunger you have in your life. This hunger is usually not caused by food. It may be for healthy, fulfilling relationships, a career that you are passionate about, a spiritual connection, more fun and movement. Think about what you are really hungry for and do 1 thing a week to pursue that. Prioritize your important relationships, pursue your dream career, join an exercise class or event where you can move, have fun, and find your tribe, spend time in Nature and connect with things bigger than you, your life and food.
And a bonus tip...
6. Realize When You're In Too Deep And Get Help!
This might seem hard at first, but having a Health Coach or Therapist guiding you along your healing journey can take a lot of pressure off you while you figure yourself out. Having someone who can see the wood from the trees, encourage you on day's where you can't do it for yourself and have loads of knowledge, studies and experience under their belt can be a game changer when it comes to the way you think and feel about food.
To find out more about my Coaching options around food freedom, ditching diets and disordered eating visit my website here.
Your relationship with food, has very little to do with food, and everything to do with YOU. Get to know yourself, love who you are and who you were made to be, and pursue the life of your dreams.
This will reflect outwards to what's on your plate!