Today I want to talk about how to create a healthy relationship with food from a personal stand point. While I am a certified sports nutritionist I am NOT an expert on this topic. This is just MY personal experience and how I created a better relationship with food.
First, I had to realize I had a negative relationship with food. I went through two periods of time where my relationship with food became unhealthy. The first was at University the second a few years later.
When I was in university, like most of my female friends, I used to always say, “I’m going on a diet. I need to lose weight.” This was purely for aesthetic reasons at the time. I wasn’t the least bit concerned with my health beyond how I felt at the moment. The worst part about this “dieting” was that I never actually went on a diet and if I did it consisted of not eating for several hours and then binge eating because I was so hungry. I was never concerned with the scale or eating substitution type foods like fat-free or low calorie stuff, but I did eat emotionally. Eventually this phase went away and I became educated, healthy and fit, but I had a new problem.
After getting involved with bodybuilding a few years later I began to think of food in two categories, good or bad. This black and white thinking should have been a warning sign, but it wasn’t. I would spend all day or week avoiding these said bad foods. For my ‘cheat meal,’ as I called it at the time, I would go overboard and consume a whole bag of chips or eat an entire cake, maybe both. Even though I exercised a lot and ate perfectly all week I still ended up beating myself up over it for hours afterwards. It didn’t show on my body, but mentally the toll was there. The next day I would wake up and tell myself not so much next time, but the cycle would repeat.
During the next few years we kept moving and with each move came some extra pounds. Attempting to participate in bodybuilding or live that lifestyle while moving many times pushed me into yo-yo dieting by accident. After constantly starting and stopping I was burnt out.
Needless to say, I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food again. It was all or nothing. I either didn’t eat unhealthy food at all or binged and ate waaaay too much of it. I have a much healthier relationship with food now. It didn’t come over night and I still have moments where I want to eat the whole cake. Here is what worked for me.
I stopped feeling guilty about eating too much food or unhealthy, calorie laden, processed foods. I ate what I wanted and I didn’t feel bad about it. In the start I ate way too much of course, but eventually I didn’t feel like I had to eat three cupcakes. One was fine or even half. Once I stopped telling myself certain foods were forbidden I didn’t want them as much. To this day I don’t feel guilty about indulging in anything.
I ate at least three balanced meals a day, balanced meaning with protein, carbs and fat. I usually eat five small meals a day.
I drank more water. Often you are thirsty and mistake it for hunger.
I stopped picking at food randomly during the day. If I was going to snack I made a snack and sat down to eat it.
I sat down when I ate.
I tried to eat slower and practiced tasting my food (aka enjoyed eating it).
I reminded myself that all the delicious food is always going to be there. Unless you are extremely unlucky the chances of you never coming across a chocolate bar again are pretty slim, so you don’t need to eat it all at once!
I eat the real thing! I know how delicious a donut tastes. So, if I am going to indulge I have a donut, not a healthier version. I’m not saying healthier recipes aren’t good or tasty. For a normal meal they can be great, BUT if I want a ‘cheat’ as some call it I am going for the full monty. Healthier recipes for such, in my opinion, just don’t stack up.
I count calories if I have a goal to reach. I can’t not count calories or else I will certainly find myself slipping in extra food if I have a fat loss goal. Stop when you feel full does NOT work for me. I have read countless articles that say you don’t have to count calories, but that doesn’t work in my opinion if you have real trouble with food.
Today, I can happily say that my relationship with food is much better and I am much happier. I might still have a coffee problem though, but that’s for another time.