While food is definitely key to survival, our cultural differences make it so much more than that. It allows us to experience different tastes and textures, which can be an exciting experience, coupled with social pleasures. But despite this, many people see food as something that shouldn’t be enjoyed, or struggle with eating certain things. Close to 3 million people in the UK deal with disordered eating in one way or another. This is usually the result of people having a poor relationship with the food they eat in their minds. To address this, here are 7 ways to improve your relationship with food. If you have tried these, please feel free to reach out to an eating disorder therapist with us here.
Stop Labelling Foods as Naughty or Healthy
One of the biggest mistakes we make in categorising our food is demonising entire food groups. It’s why we see a plate of greens as the ideal meal and a slice of pizza as the devil incarnate. Sure, one may be more beneficial for your overall well-being, but no food is bad or good. When you associate certain foods with moral characteristics, you give them power over you. It explains why we punish ourselves and feel guilty when we deviate from a diet, which usually results in feelings of hopelessness and consequently, overeating.
Maintain a Food Journal
The word ‘balance’ is thrown around quite a lot when ascribing nutrition to meals. But unless you calculate the exact energy and nutritional values of foods, it’s impossible to know if what you’re eating is balanced or not. Relying on labels without logging and checking values isn’t always the best way. The best way to make sure your plate has plenty of diversity is to keep track of the food you’re eating.
Recording your meals in a food journal or an app like my fitness pal helps you look back on what you’ve eaten and reflect on your choices. Chances are that seeing the repetition of a certain food will encourage you to be more adventurous and try new things.
Don’t Punish Yourself for Eating Certain Foods
A common aspect of disordered eating involves punishing yourself for eating something naughty.’ What usually follows is that you try to make amends by practicing highly restrictive eating cut back on calories. Or, they engage in excess amounts of exercise to burn off the calories they consumed.
Either way, it leads to disturbed eating patterns that can take a toll on your mental health. The punishment model is also dangerous because it increases the risk of overheating due to highly rigid standards. We often try to avoid certain foods entirely, which makes us feel like we failed whenever we have an occasional treat. This can lead to binge eating because if you had a little bit, you might as well have the entire bowl right. And so, the guilt-restricted eating-binge eating cycle continues.
Start Cooking Your Meals
Numerous mental health professionals emphasise mindfulness as a way to alleviate anxiety, and this applies to disordered eating as well. One of the ways to do this is to cook your own food. One of the major reasons we fail to be mindful of our food is that we usually get it prepared at a fast food restaurant or pop a tray in a microwave. When you make the effort to visit the grocery store, pick your ingredients, and cook your meals, you appreciate your meals a lot more. Like any other habit, this can grow and become simpler, even if it seems hard at first.
Listen To Your Body’s Hunger Cues
As babies, we were in tune with our body’s hunger signals. It explains why newborns never have fixed mealtimes–they feed when they’re hungry. Now, societal norms like having three meals a day and distractions like excessive screen time cause us fall out of sync with our body’s cues. To help you become more mindful of what you eat, evaluate what you think your body is asking for. A common example includes mistaking thirst for hunger and having snacks when your body is just asking for water.
Clear Up Your Social Media Feed
While food plays an important role in determining your health, it’s not the only factor. However, on social media, retouched photos of influencers are the embodiment of what health looks like. And when you see pictures of them holding a salad, it’s enough to strengthen the association between health and certain foods. By making comparisons, you automatically set yourself up for failure, so it’s best to clear up your social media feed and look at content through a different lens.
Talk to a Professional
Sure, you can come up with all the meal plans you want, but if you want to reset the way you experience, perceive, and enjoy food, you need to change your relationship with food. Speaking to a professional therapist is an effective way to get help on why you see food the way you do. Forming a new relationship with your body and food is paramount.