By Mairead Rodgers, RD PHEc
As a dietitian, I spend a lot of my time talking about what people are eating or should be eating. But another piece of the puzzle is why you’re eating and how it makes you feel. This piece is your relationship with food, and for a lot of people, it can be complicated, especially with so much information out there on what to eat and (more commonly) what not to eat.
I’m not saying all this because I’ve always had an amazing perfect relationship with food. I most definitely have not. But where I’m at with food right now is pretty amazing, in that what I eat is usually enjoyable, doesn’t stress me out, and I can incorporate healthy eating in a sustainable way that doesn’t mean cutting everything out.
Here’s what a good relationship with food usually looks like:
- Not thinking about food or when you’ll eat next constantly.
- Being adaptable in your food choices; not getting stressed if you’re not eating something specific for a specific meal.
- Being able to acknowledge and act on your hunger and satiety cues, not just eating (or not) based on a number.
- Not cutting out foods (except for medical reasons) and not being anxious about eating or not eating certain foods.
- Being able to take evidence-based nutrition knowledge and incorporate it in a way that promotes health (i.e. adding more vegetables or fibre, decreasing salt intake, etc.)
- Being able to go out and enjoy food in social situations without anxiety about what or how much to eat.
- Maybe sometimes using food as a coping mechanism, but not having it as your only coping mechanism.
Let’s give a nice hypothetical comparison to look at it more. Let’s say you’re working away from home all day and you don’t pack enough snacks (the horror!). You still have more than an hour of work left, your drive home, and you’re planning to do a workout when you get home.
Option 1: You feel like you’ve had enough to eat today according to your calorie counting app so you ignore your hunger. You get more and more irritable and miserable as you finish up your work. You get home and inhale whatever’s available because you’re just so hungry, feeling out of control and guilty about eating. You’re then super full but still do your workout, feeling gross the entire time. You restrict how much you eat at dinner because you ate when you weren’t supposed to and end the day feeling deprived and like you just need more self-control over your food.
Option 2: You realize you are getting grumpier by the second the hungrier you get. You run to the vending machine, even though there’s limited options and none are necessarily a “healthy” snack. You enjoy a chocolate bar while finishing up your work for the day, and get home feeling neither hungry nor full, and not really thinking about food at all. You do your workout, eat dinner when you do feel hungry, and eat enough to be satisfied, eating dessert if you want, or not if you don’t want to.
Which sounds less stressful? Which sounds like what you normally do? Which do you want to be what you normally do?
The point isn’t that chocolate bars should be regular afternoon snacks. The point is that having a good relationship with food means being adaptable, meeting your needs, and not being stressed about your food choices. If your food choices feel out of whack, give me a shout and let’s chat. Food doesn’t need to be a stressful terrible thing, and there’s so much more room in your brain and life when you don’t think about it all the time.
Thoughts or questions? Email email@example.com!