Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a glass of wine at the end of a long day. How about having a piece of chocolate or some ice cream when you’re feeling blue? Most of us have these “comfort foods”, things that help us to feel better and lift our spirits.
But did you know that this can actually be dangerous? These habits of eating food for comfort can create an unhealthy relationship with and dependence on food. Humans are the only creatures that look at food as more than a means of survival. We develop personal relationships with the food, using them to bring out emotions. This is called “emotional eating”. Most of us “eat emotionally” when we’re stressed or depressed, but food can be linked to many other emotions—even good ones.
“But,” you may ask, “what’s the harm in this? Isn’t it good to have something to use to unwind and relax?” Absolutely! The real danger is when you come to RELY on these foods for your happiness and relaxation. If food is the only way you can cope with stress or depression, you end up developing an unhealthy relationship with that food. In the long run, that relationship could consume you, and you may start needing more and more food in order to feel happy or relaxed. That’s when things get dangerous and you start gaining weight!
How to Have A Healthy Relationship to Food:
Step 1: Pay Attention. The foods you eat should energize you and give you the strength to get through your day. It’s always nice if they’re enjoyable, but that enjoyment isn’t the primary purpose of eating. Food is fuel! If your food makes you feel sluggish, lethargic, or even sick, you’re eating the wrong food. Pay attention to the way your body reacts to the food you eat.
Step 2: Be Honest. Ask yourself: Am I happy with my body? Do I feel healthy and vibrant? Am I eating foods that help my body and mind to thrive? If you answer no to any of these questions, reconsider what you’ve been eating and resolve to take baby steps by improving your meals with more healthy ingredients.
Step 3: Educate yourself. Learn about human nutrition and what your body needs to function properly. If you learn the proper foods to eat, you will feel empowered by your new resolve for a healthier lifestyle. Knowledge is power!
Step 4: Set yourself up for success. Prepare grocery lists that are packed with healthy foods, and which are free of emotional trigger/comfort foods. Plan your menu in a healthy way – and then stick to that plan! It’s going to be incredibly tough to say no to those foods you’ve loved for so long, but you have to in order to change your relationship with food.
Step 5: Quit that diet! Stop wasting your time on “diets”. Instead, purposefully modify the way that you think and feel about food. Saying goodbye to your favorite indulgences because you’re on a diet will only backfire! Eating in moderation and allowing yourself a little treat every now and then is what will keep your healthy eating consistent and on track.
Consider the Emotional Aspects:
What factors often shape our relationships with food?
- Media – TV shows, magazines, billboards
What habits often form our negative relationships with food?
- Poor self-image
- Emotional eating (comfort eating)
- Eating Disorders (Anorexia/Bulimia)
- Life changing event (death of family member, trauma)
Once you begin to follow these tips, you’re well on your way to improving your health and your happiness!