As people, most of us have unhealthy relationships with food to some degree. You don’t have to have an eating disorder to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Let me say that again; you don’t have to have an eating disorder to have an unhealthy relationship with food!
Unhealthy relationships with food typically start at a young age. It’s parents who “reward” you for good behavior with sugary high calorie foods. And parents who refuse to let you leave the table until you’ve eaten your vegetables and cleared your plate. Between 2-3 years old and above, kids test their parents by saying no to certain foods and it drives parents crazy. But at that age, kids have control over 2 things. Using the bathroom and what they put in their mouths. It starts that young! Parents forcing food into kids mouths causes unhealthy relationships that follow them into adulthood.
And marketing feeds on it. Today I heard a radio commercial for “I can’t believe it’s not butter” and one woman was having a super creamy pasta dish for lunch and the other woman was having a kale dish. The woman with the kale says she can’t have any of the butter because she “suffers for lunch so she can indulge for dinner.” This is an UNHEALTHY relationship with food. None of your meals should make you feel like you’re suffering. Ever.
Healthy relationships start with balance in your meals. Meeting most of your food groups at every meal and limiting, not depriving yourself of sugary high calorie foods.
When people hear I’m a dietitian, they feel like I’m a hypocrite when they see me eating ice cream or potato chips! “But you have a masters in nutrition you can’t eat that” and I laugh. Why can’t I eat this? “Because that’s a bad food”.
Food can’t have morality. Food can’t be good or bad. But foods can be better for you. When I worked with kids, we used to chant together “no food is a bad food, some foods are just better for us than others”. This is how we should live our lives. You won’t get the maximum sentence for eating ice cream. But if your diet is mostly ice cream, or high calorie fatty foods, than you’re doing yourself a disservice. You won’t feel as healthy, you may develop nutrition related diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.
Nutrition is a science. What you put in is fuel. Your body thrives on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. That is science.
But psychology is a science too. When you tell yourself you can’t have something, you’ll go nuts feeling like your depriving yourself. Looney almost until you crack and binge eat it.
Ever been on a diet lose all the weight and then once it’s gone eat like you did before and gain it all back and then more? It’s called yo-yo dieting and it is the consequence of deprivation and unhealthy relationships with food.
Anything you make at home is already 75 percent better than what you get at a restaurant. Limit the salt, put sauces on the side or make them yourself at home. The absolute best thing you can do to increase the positivity around food is to tell yourself it’s okay to have it.
I’m human. I eat fried chicken, I eat ice cream, I eat marshmallows, I eat sugary cereal, I eat candy bars. I eat red meat. My friends have all seen me eating these things numerous times.
But I also eat 80% of the time baked chicken from home, vegetables (raw or cooked) with lunch and dinner. I also eat whole grain bread but white pasta. I also eat fruit raw or in smoothies. I eat seafood and beans.
I eat what I want when I want it but I’ve built in healthy habits and learned how to prepare food in a way that makes sense to me and my body.
I can’t guarantee you a long life eating well. But I can guarantee you a healthier life. Nutrition isn’t about length of life, it’s about quality of life.
People come in all different shapes and sizes. That’s so true. Love your body it’s yours! But remember to love your body from the inside out. Nourish it. 80% of the time have foods good for your body and 20% of the time have foods good for your soul. Learn how to follow a recipe or learn how to cook for yourself. And teach it to your kids. Put them in the kitchen as soon as they can hold something. Let them mix. Give them a butter knife, let them cut. Don’t force food down their throats and let them build a healthy relationship with food. And start building one for yourself. You’ll see, it’ll be hard at first, like anyone who’s tried to quit smoking. But once your over the hump and you love food for what it is and you don’t associate good or bad with food or yourself for eating food. You’ll find life is easier to navigate, your meals won’t be chores, and most of all. You’ll feel confident and powerful in the choices you make.
Begin a healthy relationship with food from any and all aspects. Don’t feel like you have to do it overnight. Don’t diet. Don’t diet. Don’t diet. Don’t diet. DON’T DIET. Build up to it and before you know it, you’ll love everything you eat, all of the time.