Over the next couple of months, let us chat about our relationship with food. Have you ever thought about why we eat? Part of the answer is, of course, obvious – we eat for sustenance. But eating is a social and cultural experience that is strongly associated with our mood, health and self-perception. Our relationship with food is tenuous and can be linked with many factors. Some examples of disordered thinking about food include:
- I am upset, so I deserve to eat whatever I want to
- I am overweight and the dieting does not work anyway, so I might as well keep eating
- I should not waste this food so let me finish it
- I am going on a diet from tomorrow, so let me stuff myself today
- I ate healthy over the last few days, so I can cheat today
Negative thoughts about food lead to a vicious cycle, where we behave in ways that make the problem worse. For example, if we eat to feel better when we are feeling low, we may overeat and end up feeling physically worse. Or, if we give up on a diet because it does not work and binge-eat, we end up gaining further weight and defeating the purpose of the original diet. How, then, to improve an unhealthy relationship with food? Here are some tips.
- Be mindful of your eating. Slow down and think about the food you are having and how you are eating. Do not gulp down your food while tapping away at your phone or when driving to work in the morning. Enjoy your food. Enjoy the taste. Enjoy the company. Being mindful will also help you recognize when you are full and have had enough to eat.
- Satisfy your cravings. By allowing yourself to eat what you want in moderation, you won’t feel the need to binge eat later on. You can also practice the three-bite rule. If you are craving a piece of chocolate cake, take one, two and three bites and then stop. That way, your craving will have been satisfied but you will not have overeaten.
- Move your body. If you feel that you have had a few days of overeating, head to the gym or go for a run. Instead of feeling guilty and having self-deprecating thoughts, counter your unhealthy behavior with a healthy one. And, of course, exercise is essential irrespective of whether you are overeating. Find an activity you love and incorporate it into your daily routine.
- Eat a well-balanced and portioned diet. Your plate should feature vegetables, proteins and healthy fats and your daily diet should incorporate fruits and plenty of hydration. Meal prepping over the weekend is a great way to avoid last-minute unhealthy take-out, that is often greasy and salty. Home cooked meals are healthier most of the time.
- If you feel that you are preoccupied with your relationship with food, counselling can be helpful. Issues that food counselling can help with include comfort eating, negative body image and eating disorders.
Next month, we will discuss eating disorders and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of disordered eating that tell you to seek help. Till then, happy eating!