There’s a deeper reason you eat the food you eat. In some cultures, food is at the center of every household, and all the dishes drip with untold histories that can date back to their forefathers. Some people consume food because of the emotional relationship they have honed with food through time.
It might sound confusing or weird to hear, but so many adults have forgotten how to eat food normally. All children are born as normal eaters who follow the internal cues that their bodies give to them. This means that they eat what they like when they are hungry and stop when they are full.
However, as children grow older, their eating habits can be affected by external influences and pressures. This is when people start associating emotions such as fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, or suspicion to the food they eat, which will adversely affect their otherwise healthy relationship with food.
This can be strengthened even more in adulthood, especially once they are exposed to the abundance of fad diets available online. Add to that the external pressure to look a certain way or to count the calories they consume, and people start losing their healthy emotional connection to food. Over time, this will be replaced with stringent rules about what or when they can and cannot eat.
What Does a Healthy Relationship with Food Look Like?
The term “healthy” is subjective and relative, which means that a healthy relationship with food will vary from person to person. But in essence, the main point of having a healthy relationship with food is to remove the unwanted feelings that you’ve come to associate with your eating behaviors.
For instance, this healthy relationship can manifest when you don’t beat yourself up for overeating or not restricting yourself from eating the food that you want. It can also happen if you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, even if there is still food left on the plate.
A healthy relationship with food is more of an emotional connection rather than nutritious. Think of it as having a healthy relationship with your partner whom you show love and appreciation. And if things ever become abusive or unpleasant, you either try to solve the problem at hand or leave it altogether.
How Can You Begin to Create a Healthier Relationship with Food?
It can be difficult to move forward when you’ve lived your entire adult life having your eating behaviors affected by external factors, but acknowledging that some change is needed can be a start. This change won’t happen overnight, so you should give yourself enough time to adjust. Here are some ways you can begin your journey to create a healthier relationship with food:
Try Not to Feel Guilt or Shame When Eating Your Comfort Food
There’s a reason why comfort food is given that name. It’s because the food brings a sense of comfort and warmth to the person eating it, so of course, it’s supposed to be good. And most of the time, comfort food is in no way healthy, which is supposed to be okay.
But that can create a sense of guilt among those who restrict their diets and only allow themselves to eat what they want on cheat days. However, what that does is hone a mindset that good and bad food exist, when in reality, there aren’t any. At the end of the day, it all depends on a person’s eating behavior.
So allow yourself to eat your favorite deep-dish pizza guilt-free, but always in moderation. After all, even water can be harmful to your health if you drink too much of it. Stay away from the rules you’ve created around food, and you’ll be well on your way to having a healthier relationship with it.
Listen to Your Body’s Hunger Cues
Children are trained to eat on a schedule for their recess and lunch breaks at a young age. Employees also have to stick to a schedule in the workplace because not doing so is disrespectful toward others. However, what this does is train you to ignore your body’s internal cues in exchange for conformity.
And because you have little time to eat properly in between your responsibilities, it can lead you to inhale your food instead of practicing mindful eating. So not only are you ignoring your body’s cues, but you’re also treating food as nothing more than a means to satiate your hunger.
To address this, you can start by eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’ve had enough. You can also eat more mindfully by being fully present in the experience without distractions. This may look easy to do, but putting it into practice can be so much harder.
Once you become more aware of your eating habits and behaviors, it can be easier to identify the signs of a bad relationship with food if there are still any. Working toward having a healthy relationship with food will be worth it, especially when you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want without feeling guilty afterward.