The many ways that food pervades our lives..
Your relationship with food has a huge effect over your overall health.
Do you see food as a way to nourish your body and give it what it needs to thrive? Or do you see it as a way to stop cravings and quell emotional struggles?
Do you feel guilty when you eat certain foods and tend to beat yourself up about it later? Do you find that you link food to certain activities – like watching TV?
Do you feel like you NEED something sweet at around 3pm to keep you going? Are you constantly hungry and craving more to eat?
There are scientific explanations that underlie all these issues, and simply understanding how food affects your body could be the key to helping you build a healthy relationship with food.
A not-so-solid foundation
A lot of the issues we encounter as adults stem from a lack of education as kids. Unfortunately, we are often set up to fail through unintentional psychological mistakes made by those we love. Does being given a treat when we’re upset as a child, ring a bell? Parents and grandparents were well meaning, but could these instances have set us up for failure later in life?
Remember being forced to ‘finish what’s on your plate’? It’s no wonder our hunger and satiety signals are mixed up – we’ve forced ourselves to eat when we’re not actually hungry and now our bodies are confused.
Babies are born with the intuitive knowledge of when to eat, they cry when they’re hungry and get given milk then (for the most part!) they stop when they’ve had enough.
Unfortunately as they grow up and we have more control over their eating, we start to dictate when they should eat and how much. Time has become a big part of our eating habits and we often let the clock determine when we eat rather than letting our body decide when it’s actually hungry.
Another key mistake is constantly giving our bodies sugar, in the form of refined carbs, sugary foods, processed snacks, so that our blood sugar levels are constantly out of whack, signalling that we need to constantly top up on sugar to keep us satiated.
Healing your relationship with food
There are lots of ways you can work at healing your relationship with food. Here are a few of the key things I recommend as a great place to start.
- Educate yourself. Education is our best form of defence. If you understand what is happening in your body and why, you are more likely to make better, informed choices.
- Prioritise protein over carbs. Did you know that our bodies can’t store protein yet it’s one of our most essential macros? Your body uses proteins from your diet to build new cells, maintain tissues, and synthesise new proteins that make it possible for you to perform basic bodily functions. It is necessary to make feel good and reproductive hormones, digestive enzymes, immune cells and connective tissue, such as the skin, hair, and nails. Quite simply our entire body is largely composed of protein. We cannot store protein, so it’s safe to say that in order to replace, rebuild and repair, we need to consume protein very regularly. Carbohydrates on the other hand are a non-essential dietary fuel meaning we actually don’t need that much in our diet!
- Learn to listen to your body. I can’t stress how important this is. Through years of neglecting the body’s signals, it can be hard to tune in, but it’s vital in living a healthy and nourishing life. You can do this through mindful eating. Really sitting with your meal with absolutely no distractions. Paying attention to how your body feels before the meal, during and after. Noticing the flavours. Putting the fork down between mouthfuls to ensure you are chewing properly before swallowing. Stopping eating before you are full. You don’t have to do this all the time but even every now and then will help you to understand your body better and really listen to the signals it’s sending you.
- Start journaling. Journaling or talking about how you’re feeling when you’re emotional or upset rather than reaching into the cupboard for some comfort is an incredibly powerful practice. We all know this only gives us momentary relief but is usually also linked to feelings of guilt too. Getting to the bottom of why you’re feeling those things is way more productive than trying to eat those worries away.
- Cut down on sugar and processed foods. The science that sits behind processed foods really is genius. Food companies have paid scientists to find the most alluring ingredients to add to leave you craving more and more. Think about a bag of potato chips – you can sit there and demolish a whole pack, but how often could you sit and polish off a whole bowl of potatoes? Ok, so sometimes I probably could. The vegetable oil, sugar, additives and other toxic ingredients in processed foods is wreaking absolute havoc on our systems. It’s no wonder we’re more ill than ever before.
The flow on effect
The best news is that healing your relationship with food doesn’t just help you – the positive effects undoubtedly flow onto the next generation.
Empowering our children by passing on this knowledge and modelling these good habits can help to ensure they don’t suffer the same issues we do around food.
If you can teach them from a young age how to see food as the nourishment their bodies need then you will be setting them up to have a healthy relationship with food too, while also steering them away from all the chronic illness that plague our world today.
Teaching your kids about the benefits of mindful eating, the nutrients our bodies need and how to find those in food along with using food as nourishment instead of emotional fulfilment are all vitally important steps that will help your child to grow up with a healthier outlook around the food they’re eating.
So the upshot is that while we may have been given a bum steer along the way, it’s not too late to fix things!
Learning how to respect your body and give it the nourishment it requires to thrive in its environment is more important than ever before – and the first step to restoring your relationship with food is realising that you want to.