We'd bet you spend quite a bit of time and effort nourishing your relationships, whether it's with your significant other, your pals, your parents, your kids, or all of the above. Relationships take work and the more work you put in, the more it becomes clear that your efforts are rewarded with strengthened bonds.
But what about your relationship with food? This relationship impacts not only nutrient intake, but for many it's closely tied to -- and impacts -- other relationships (including that with our own body.) Because our relationship with food is so important to health, wellness, and happiness, we wanted to share our top tips for making your relationship with food a positive one.
1. Make something:
Get into the kitchen, tap into your inner artist, and create something. Or harness the power of your inner mathematician and craft something with elaborately measured ingredients. Or play mad scientist and put Alton Brown's food science recipes to work. Or, just lovingly slice up some veggies, toss some olives in a pretty dish, and serve yourself a nice hummus tray. You don't have to fire up the oven, but you can if you want to.
And you certainly don't need to be Bobby Flay (but hey, if he wants to join in, we won't argue). Our point is that getting into the kitchen to prepare something made with care, for yourself, with the intention of nourishing your body but also enjoying the experience of preparation and eating is really important in sparking a positive relationship with food.
2. Watch your language:
Can we just ban the term "guilt-free" right now? Saying something is guilt-free implies that food holds the power to make you guilty or that a food itself can be guilty. It doesn't make any sense, takes the pleasure out of eating, and puts a negative spin on many delicious foods. We'd also like to ban the food-related usage of the terms good/bad. If you're saying "Wow, I like that food. It's really good," or "Yuck, that milk has gone bad," that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about relating being good or bad to eating or not eating a certain food or calling a food good or bad based on its perceived diet-y-ness (made-up word).
Moving forward, try to accept foods for what they are -- food. If you like the way a food tastes, it makes you feel good, and you are in the mood for it, then that sounds like a great choice... no matter how much fat or calories it contains. If you don't enjoy the taste of a food, aren't in the mood for it, or it doesn't make you feel very good then it probably isn't a stellar choice for you no matter how many celebrities you've seen eating/drinking it.
3. Accept enjoyment/pleasure from food:
Food is awesome and it's ok to enjoy it. In fact, oftentimes if you eat foods that you genuinely enjoy, you end up eating less overall because you're not left pining after the food you really wanted. And again, there's no guilt in eating stuff you love -- just make sure that you're in the mood for food (as opposed to seeking emotional solace) and the food makes you feel good in the short term and long term.
4. Focus on feeling great:
One test that we use with our clients (and that we use ourselves) is to ask if what we're eating makes us feel good now? In two hours? Tomorrow? If the answer is yes to all three of these questions, then go for it. If the answer is no to any of these, then it's time to have an honest, supportive conversation with yourself about your relationship with that food, why you want it, what emotions are circulating currently, etc. Put the focus on feeling great and allow food to be a part of that.
5. Skip the "diet foods" (unless you love the taste):
There is a really cool study that found that subjects had increases in hormonal hunger markers after eating a food labeled "diet." But we probably don't need to tell you this -- most of us know that we'd likely feel more satisfied with the real deal. The truth is that there isn't any need for fake sugars, fake fats, etc. in a healthy diet. You can eat the real stuff, in appropriate amounts, and stay healthy and feel good. If you're struggling with the appropriate amounts, start using our three-question test above to tap into intuitive eating strategies.