Eating well shouldn’t have to be a challenge. But a lifetime of being told that certain foods are “bad” or that eating healthy is “hard” may have skewed your relationship with food. Those so-called bad food items achieve forbidden fruit status, and then you crave them — and feel guilty for doing so. Or you shun healthy ingredients because they seem daunting to prepare or you think they won’t taste good. Clearly something has to give.
Experts say that a healthy relationship with food begins with learning to listen to your body’s natural cues. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Don’t place any foods entirely off limits, but don’t gorge on processed items that leave you feeling like crap, either. By taking this sensible approach to eating, you can improve your relationship with food. Read on to learn a few ways to go about it.
Understand Your Current Relationship
It’s as true with eating as anything else: You have to take stock of the status quo before you try to change it. The better you understand your current situation, the more informed and intelligent decisions you’ll be able to make.
What is your relationship with food like now? When you feel stressed or bored, do you reach for the ice cream? When you get busy, do you ignore your hunger pangs and press on, neglecting to eat altogether? How many meals do you eat a day, and how do you feel after you eat them? Identify any notable patterns or habits that may contribute to healthy or unhealthy eating.
Many people have some sort of emotional attachment to their food. Understanding yours informs how you may want to approach improving your food relationship. If you eat for comfort, think of alternative ways of soothing yourself. If your inner Puritan prevents you from taking any pleasure in food, ask yourself if that’s a healthy way to live. Write down the patterns you identify, how you feel about them, and what you could do to improve them.
Make Healthy Eating a Pleasure
From a purely physical standpoint, it shouldn’t matter what food tastes like. In this view, the most important thing about food is the nutrition that it delivers to your body. Just like a car needs the right fuel to drive, your body needs proper nutrition to function. Yet few people really want to live like that. When eating healthy is a burdensome, pleasure-less chore, you won’t want to do it.
There are — at least — two approaches you can take to making nutritious foods more appealing. First, you can make it easy to consume enough of the right nutrients. Great-tasting super greens powder makes getting your daily dose of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients a snap. Simply add the mixture to your favorite smoothie or a simple glass of water, and you’ll start your day on a healthy, tasty foundation.
Alternatively, aim to embrace the pleasures of the table. Mediterranean diets are filled with vegetables, fish, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats, but you rarely see a bunch of unhappy Italians a tavola. Find recipes that incorporate healthy ingredients in delicious ways, then sit back and savor them. Eating nutritious food shouldn’t — and needn’t — be a punishment.
Speaking of those relaxed Italian diners, slow the heck down. If you’re like most Americans, you probably eat way too rapidly. In our fast-paced culture, food has a tendency to be consumed fast as well. However, eating too quickly can significantly and negatively affect your health.
It takes approximately 20 minutes after eating for your brain to send signals of fullness to your body. That’s plenty of time to overeat, and as a result, you risk ingesting too many calories. Feeling sated is all well and good, but feeling stuffed indicates you’ve eaten too much. Eat too much too often, and those excess calories get stored as fat in the body.
By slowing down your eating, you give your brain ample time to tell your body when you’re actually full. To do so, practice mindful eating. Put your phone away, turn off the TV, and focus on chewing each bite you eat. When you concentrate on the inherent pleasure of eating, you’ll improve your relationship with food while moderating your caloric intake.
When was the last time you bought food from the farmer who grew it? Buying local food can offer multiple health benefits compared to food bought from a grocery store. One of the biggest is that local food, especially produce, doesn’t need to travel as far to reach you. Fruits and veggies begin losing nutritional value just 24 hours after being picked. By shopping locally, you’ll eat food that’s tastier and healthier than big-box alternatives.
Signing up for a farm share is a great way to ensure you’ll have the freshest fruits and veggies on hand. Think of a farm share as a subscription to the best produce your local area has to offer. By paying in advance, you’ll receive periodic batched shipments of that farm’s goods. Not only is this a great way to get fresh food reliably, but you help keep your local agriculture community alive.
If a weekly box of kale doesn’t sound like your jam, explore your local farmers market instead. You’ll still get farm-fresh produce, but it will be items of your choosing. Many such markets also offer free-range eggs, sustainably raised meats, organic baked goods, and other healthy delights. There’s no better way to improve your relationship with food than by connecting with the people who produce it.
Taking the First Step
Improving your relationship with food doesn’t need to be an involved, difficult process. When you listen to your body’s signals and embrace the honest pleasures of food, you can’t go too far wrong. You are what you eat, so eat well, eat local, and eat slowly enough to enjoy it all.