How is your relationship with food? Chances are in our diet obsessed culture, it’s not great.
This article will review 5 tips to make peace with food, and heal from the effects of chronic dieting.
Improving your relationship with food will support you in healthy aging, weight loss, and better mental health!
In a previous blog post, we talked about ways to create a healthy mindset to support weight loss. Changing negative food beliefs will contribute to this important shift in mindset!
The Chronic Dieting Mentality
Today I challenge you to question our current diet culture! Why? It’s simple, diets don’t work!
Boston’s Medical Center’s website indicates an estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and Americans spend $33 billion each year on weight loss products.
Yet, nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.
A Different Approach
A healthy weight is a large part of aging well and avoiding chronic disease.
As a Registered Dietitian, I can confidently say that maintaining a “healthy for you weight ” is the single most important thing you can do for your health!
However, weight loss interventions tend to lean towards a fad diet approach. It’s time to move away from this toxic mentality, and start the healing!
Signs you Need to Make Peace with Food
- Repeated unsuccessful attempts at weight loss
- Labeling foods as “good” or “bad”
- Feelings of extreme guilt after eating
- Having specific rules about food
- Compulsive or binge eating behaviors
- Feeling out of touch with hunger and fullness cues
1. Legalize all Foods to Make Peace with Food
Adopt an “all foods can fit” approach to eating. Restricting food tends to backfire. If I tell myself I can’t have dessert, you’ll find me in my pantry mindlessly munching on cookies!
Giving yourself permission to eat all foods is the opposite of dieting. It is about changing your mindset and trusting your body to find a healthy balance.
End Food & Weight Obsessions
Legalizing food can end food and weight obsessions. However, it can feel scary to have this type of freedom with food. You may have never had this permission to eat in your life!
It is a process of change and building trust in yourself. Be kind and give yourself the space to learn and grow from your perceived “mistakes” around food.
Let yourself eat when you are hungry, choose foods that sound good to you, and eat an amount that satisfies you!
Try this Exercise to Legalize Food
- Make a list of the foods you enjoy.
- Set aside judgments about food.
- Star the foods you allow yourself to enjoy regularly.
- Circle the foods you enjoy occasionally.
- Underline the foods you avoid or eat very rarely.
- Review your list and assess how you perceive these foods.
- Practice legalizing the underlined foods.
What would it be like to detach negative beliefs from these underlined foods?
How would this shift your mindset and promote a better relationship with food?
2. Honor Hunger to Make Peace with Food
Hunger is not bad! It is simply your body’s request for energy or food. Denying hunger sets you up for failure.
Once you reach the point of feeling very hungry, all good intentions for healthy, balanced eating are lost!
Signs of Hunger
- Rumbling or growling sensation in your stomach
- Difficulty focusing
- Low energy
- Irritability; feeling “hangry”
- Thinking about foods that sound good to you
Trust your Hunger Cues
Using a hunger scale can help add more depth to your understanding of your body’s hunger cues. The hunger scale allows you to assess your hunger using a number from 1-10.
1 being associated with feeling starved, and 10 being a fullness that could be compared to a post-Thanksgiving meal.
Practice assigning a number to your feeling of hunger prior to eating. Ideally you would stay anywhere between a 3 and a 7 or 8. The key is not letting yourself get too hungry or too full!
3. Recognize Emotional Eating
Using the hunger scale to assess your level of hunger will help you to become aware of other reasons you eat. We all eat at times when we are stressed, upset, bored, or even happy.
It is perfectly normal to eat from an emotional place at times. However, regularly turning to food for comfort begins to impact our physical and mental health.
The main problem with emotional eating is that it doesn’t fix our problem. Eating that bag of chips may feel good for a moment.
Unfortunately, the stress or negative feelings remain. And they return with an “I ate an entire bag of chips” guilt and discomfort!
4. Disconnect from Diet Culture
Most of us are impacted by diet culture in some way. It would be difficult to completely disconnect from society’s obsession with food, weight, and dieting.
Diet culture likely feels normal and familiar. However, once you start really paying attention, you will notice its’ prevalence and toxicity.
Being tangled up in diet or body image negativity will hinder your pursuit of peace with food.
Say Goodbye to Diet Culture
- Identify sources of diet culture.
- Change the subject or remove yourself from diet focused conversations.
- Reevaluate your social media and who you follow.
- Surround yourself with others who have a positive relationship with food and a healthy body image.
5. Adopt a Growth Mindset to Make Peace with Food
The above steps are not easy, and changing something that is ingrained is a process.
Make peace with food by adopting a Growth Mindset. Believe that you can improve your relationship with food by being curious and open to change.
Forget about the idea of failure with eating! There is no perfect way to eat, and no finish line in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
Put perceived mistakes with eating behind you. The good news is there is always another opportunity to do things differently right around the corner!
Kathryn is a Registered Dietitian and a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She is also Certified through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Weight Management.