Tips to Establish a Healthy Relationship with Food

by The Cooperative

Eating is a natural and necessary part of life, yet our habits are heavily influenced by factors such as environment, upbringing, and stress levels. As a result, we often turn to food as a source of comfort or convenience. However, it is possible to awaken our senses and rekindle our relationship with eating.

  1. Practice the art of mindful eating. Sometimes the way we eat can be just as essential as what we eat. Mindful eating allows us to truly experience every meal without judgment. The following tips can be applied when eating mindfully:
    1. Create an environment that is void of distractions, such as your phone, computer, or television.
    2. Sit at the kitchen table for every meal.
    3. Take a few deep breaths before eating to calm your nervous system.
    4. Set down your eating utensil after every bite.
    5. Chew slowly until each bite is close to liquid consistency.
    6. Savor your food, focusing on the taste, texture, smell, and appearance.
  2. Honor your hunger cues. Are you truly hungry? When the moment hits, check in with yourself to determine the following:
    1. Am I experiencing any physical signs of hunger (low energy, headache, growling stomach)?
    2. Am I willing to eat what I have? If you’re hungry, you will be less picky.
    3. Did this hunger emerge suddenly or build up gradually? Hunger linked to emotions will feel intense and urgent.
    4. How long am I willing to wait until I eat? Distract yourself for another 5-10 minutes and reassess. If you are stressed or bored, you will typically lose interest.
  3. Be a food detective. Start a food journal to investigate your daily eating patterns - this will help you uncover your why. When tracking meals, be sure to highlight the following:
    1. What and when you ate.
    2. Your mood and what you were doing.
    3. Emotional triggers (stress, boredom, anger, sadness).
    4. Environmental triggers (food displays, advertisements, the smell of food, activities linked to food).  
For instance, your journal may reveal that you buy a muffin when you stop in at your local coffee shop every morning. Using that knowledge, you may try brewing coffee at home or packing a healthy breakfast.
  1. Aim for progress, not perfection. Let’s touch on the word, “balance.” It’s okay to have a slice of cake at a birthday party. It’s also okay to eat pizza on a Friday night with friends. Really, it is. Rewire your brain to view eating as flexible, rather than black and white.  
Instead of living in a diet mentality and depriving yourself
Focus on how you can nourish your body 80% of the time with fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats. If you’re in a situation where the options are limited, enjoy yourself and move forward.
Instead of labeling food as “good” or “bad” à
Focus on how the ingredients benefit your body – carbohydrates give you energy and proteins support muscle growth. Experiencing guilt will only drain your happiness and increase your stress levels.
Instead of hyper focusing on food à
Recognize that eating is a small piece of your health puzzle. Nutrition is significant, but physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management are all equally influential.
  1. Have fun with your food. How many foods have you tried in your lifetime? You may have established your preferences, but there are endless options awaiting your taste palate. Experimenting with a variety of foods not only provides you with essential nutrients, but it also expands your choices when meal planning or eating out. This will give you the gift of food freedom.
Understanding your individual nutrition is fundamental to long-term health and well-being. When you finetune your relationship with food, you are more likely to enjoy how it benefits your body.
By, Coach Kaleigh

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