“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art” – La Rochefoucauld
Are you eating right? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of food?
- You become happy instantly, thinking of your favourite food with all its aroma and taste.
- You are so fond of food that you get an instant mood lift whenever you think of food.
- You suddenly have the urge to eat and head towards the refrigerator.
- You feel sad because if you eat what you like, you may gain weight and take a U-turn on your road towards a healthy lifestyle.
- You feel deprived because everybody seems to be eating what they like, except you.
- You think of food when you are stressed, tired, lonely or just plain bored or when you’re very happy or in a mood to celebrate.
This is just a sample of emotions associated with food! Our relationship with food is more complicated than it seems to be. And it is dynamic, in the sense that it keeps changing through different stages of our lives. In our journey towards good health, understanding our relationship with food is key to eat mindfully. It not only affects what we eat but also how, when and how much we eat.
Let’s look at each of the relationships and how to turn them into healthy ones:
You are tempted by food.
Especially with those ads everywhere you go, it is difficult not to be enticed by those giant-size pictures of burgers, fries, pizzas, ice creams and what not. Always wonder why we don’t see any attractive pictures of healthy food except by health bloggers:)
- One way to avoid the temptation is to pack your own food to work.
- Always have some sandwich or fruit handy when those hunger pangs strike, at work, while shopping, or wherever you go.
- You need to prepare yourself and set aside some time for eating right if health is a priority.
- When your hunger is taken care of, it becomes easier to resist temptation. Once you succeed, it gets easier and easier.
- Reward yourself (with something unrelated to food).
You want to entertain with food.
This is one of the trickiest, it might work against you if you are entertaining or if you want to please a host who entertains you with food. This can be avoided if you don’t look at food as one of the means to get together. Instead, you can do one of these:
- head to the nearby park for a stroll together.
- play an outdoor game.
- watch a movie or a favourite TV show together, not with popcorn, but with homemade healthy snacks.
- go shopping together.
- enjoy a play date or a trip to the amusement park.
You want to stay away from food
This is the most worrisome relationship with food. Most diet and weight loss programs list down what you shouldn’t eat rather than what you should. Of course, you cannot binge, but that doesn’t mean you go the other extreme and treat food as your enemy.
- It might be a cliché but always works: LIMIT YOUR PORTIONS.
- Your body will always remember the food that you are forcing yourself to stay away from, so there’s always the danger of binging if you don’t get your hands (and mouth!) on it sooner.
- At the same time, gradually increase your intake of healthy foods (so there’s lesser and lesser space in your stomach for the unhealthy stuff).
You hate to waste food.
Right from our childhood days, we’ve been told to finish whatever is on the plate. Some of us got rewarded, too! Well, what’s wrong with that? The problem occurs when we or someone else serves too much on our plates. We try to empty the plate, so as not to upset the host. Or when we try to finish off whatever has been served on our child’s or spouse’s or friend’s plate because they can’t finish it. Mindful eating can happen only when you serve mindfully on your plate.
- Using measuring bowls and smaller serving spoons can help here.
- Find creative ways to reuse the leftovers.
- While eating out, it’s always better to ask about the portion size before ordering.
- Keep a contact list of charity organisations or community centres who accept food, in case you are left with too much food after a party.
You succumb to emotional eating.
This is the most infamous one, but relatively easier to handle than the others. You eat when you want to find solace in food or share happiness with food. The best way to avoid this-
- Identify the trigger and find ways to deal with the source.
- Happiness can be shared and shown in many ways other than food.
- Speak to a positive person or get yourself busy doing chores or cleaning up when you’re stressed.
- Maintain a journal to keep track of what makes you binge and how many times. Review regularly.
- Also, keep track of what happened after that. You’ll find that it didn’t get any better and you were only left with guilt and more stress.
You are addicted to food
In any relationship, if you don’t have control over yourself and let the other person make all decisions, the relationship would turn sour in due course of time. The same goes for food as well. We all love food and relish good food when we find it. But there are things which can be more important than food. Food shouldn’t be controlling our lives. Some of the ways you can avoid this can be-
- Deliberately plan your day with people in mind, food can be secondary- unless it’s a party you’re planning.
- Get a buddy, spouse, mom (or anyone who cares about you) to help you take control. Get them to stop you whenever you go overboard with food.
- Eat only when you’re hungry, go slow and stop before you feel too full. Nutritionists say it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that the stomach is full.
- Again, don’t stop yourself from eating your favourite food. Just control the quantity. It may be the hardest thing to do but with practice, it’s definitely possible.
All this being said, we should realise that eating right is a priority and we are doing it for our own health and not for anybody else. Let’s build a friendly relationship with food that lasts a lifetime!
What’s your relationship with food and how do you feel about it? I would love to hear from you.