Do you often play mind games with yourself about what you should or should not eat? Or beat yourself up about your inability to stick to a balanced eating plan? These ‘disordered’ eating styles may be standing in the way of your health and happiness, so I’ve listed some tips to help you resolve them.
But first, what does having a healthy relationship with food even mean?
A healthy relationship with food involves a trusting that your body is functioning to the best of its ability, and your body trusts that you’ll provide it with the proper nourishment in return.
It doesn’t involve a set of strict ‘dieting rules’ telling you when, how, or what to eat. It involves you listening to your body and responding to its needs accordingly – a principle well known as mindful eating. There is no labelling foods as “good” or “bad” and there is no shame or guilt after eating certain foods. It tends to be more peaceful versus chaotic.
What could be wrong with eating healthy? But for some, a fixation on healthy eating develops into an obsession where a food is virtually off limits unless it’s either organic, raw, gluten, grain or fructose free. It’s an emerging eating style – particularly in professional women – called orthorexia where the pleasure is more in eating ‘correctly’ rather than simply eating. In other words, eating can become a source of anxiety instead of a source of pleasure.
Eventually food choices become so restrictive that health may suffer. The problem gets worse when very few self-identify as dieters (because we all know by now that ‘diets’ don’t work), instead, eating ‘clean’ becomes a revised version of food restriction which flies under the radar as healthy ‘lifestyle changes’.
The Fix: There’s no such thing as a perfect diet. Moderation is key which includes being flexible in what and when you eat and giving yourself permission to enjoy an occasional treat, like a gelato on a hot day. Consciously satisfy your craving; then resume your healthy eating patterns. Taken in moderation, these treats add contentment and variety to our diets – not to mention our lives.
From skipping meals to mindlessly munching while scrolling through Instagram, mayhem eaters spend a lot of time feeling either extremely hungry or extremely full, and for this reason may find themselves constantly scurrying for food and eating things they don’t even enjoy. Result? You end up eating more than you think.
The Fix: While women are great at multi-tasking, meal time is the one task where you do nothing else but eat, allowing you to be in better communication with your body’s true hunger signals. This includes making a conscious effort to eat when you are hungry (not ravenous) and stop when you’re comfortably full.
Planning ahead is also a must as knowing what, when or where you eat will put order back into your eating routine. Over time, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in both the quantity and the quality of what you choose to eat.
Eating is a complex behaviour and we don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. We also turn to food for comfort, boredom relief, or as a reward – most likely calorific foods. While it’s perfectly acceptable to reward yourself with a special treat after a stressful day, letting your emotions dictate what and when you eat on a regular basis can often lead to a habit of overeating. Not only can this hinder your health and fitness efforts, it can also leave other issues in your life unresolved.
The fix: Keeping a food journal can help you rule out which emotions or types of feelings tend to drive you into the kitchen and what foods you’re likely to eat as a result. The next step is to make a list of what alternative behaviours will help deal with these emotions. For example, if you find that you’re about to reach for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, consider introducing coping mechanisms other than food to your repertoire. Go for a walk, phone a friend or paint your toe nails. Whatever it is, do something other than eat to cope with the emotion and your eating habits will take a turn for the better.
Which of these types of eaters do you think you are?
This post was originally published on the Get There blog by Fitness First.
If this post resonated with you, be sure to check out Whats Eating You? which walks you through practical ways to heal your relationship with food and your body.