Learning how to change your relationship with food is not easy, not for me anyway. I’ve spent most of my life fighting a war between my stomach and my head and ever since I was very young, food has been a way of both comforting and entertaining myself.
In fact, even now I still struggle against my better judgement if I’m sad or I’ve had a bad day. It takes a fair bit of effort to stop myself just nipping into the shop on the way home to pick up a share bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk (the mint Oreo one, it is phenomenal).
However, these past few months I’ve been working on bettering my relationship with food and how I think about food. I’ve been making more of a conscious effort to, not just clean up what I’m eating, but actually think about what is going into my body and how it affects me.
I have a few dietary issues. I can’t eat a lot of dairy, sugary foods, beef or white bread. I’ve managed to identify these particular foods as ones that bloat me painfully or make my IBS flare up, but I’ve only managed to do that by listening to my body and paying close attention to how food makes me feel physically.
Right now, I feel like I’m in a pretty good place when it comes to food and having the balance between eating the foods that I love and the ones that are good for me. That’s why I wanted to share a few tips on how I got to this point and how you could start creating a better relationship with food!
Pay attention to how you FEEL after eating
Many of us will wolf down our food and continue on with the day, after all, we’re very busy people! But how many times have you devoured your lunch, only to find that you feel painfully bloated within an hour or two, or even lethargic and sleepy?
Taking note of what you’re eating and the effect it is having on your gut health and your energy levels is a great way to identify the right foods for you. Everybody is different, we all have different chemical balances, genetics, energy levels etc. which means that not all foods will agree with every single person.
You might have a friend that loves to snack on apples, but for you, they may cause bloating and discomfort. Choosing the fuel you put into your body is all about experimenting and analysing the results. Once you’ve identified the foods that make you feel awesome, you’ll have a greater respect and understanding of what you choose to put into your body.
Research what nutrients are in your food and what they do
I’m fairly lucky, in that I work with a client that deals with vitamins and minerals, which means I spend a lot of my time researching what vitamins are in different types of foods and what those vitamins do for the body.
Learning more about nutrition has helped me massively when it comes to choosing food. I’m more aware of what nutrients are in the meals I’m preparing and it helps me to make sure I’m giving my body everything I need.
Once you start to identify certain benefits that different items of food can offer, you start to alter the way you see it. You start to see food as a way of keeping your body in good condition, as opposed to just tasting delicious and easing boredom.
I am a massive overeater, whatever I put on my plate, I finish. It’s still a struggle for me to eat intuitively, especially now I’ve given up counting calories, but I am getting there.
Once again, it’s all about paying attention to your body and what your stomach is telling you. If you’re full, stop eating. Pushing yourself to eat something that you just aren’t hungry for will just make you feel uncomfortable.
If you make it halfway through a meal, why not put the rest in a Tupperware container, put it in the fridge and have it for lunch the next day? This way, you not only have lunch all ready to go, but you aren’t wasting food! Remember, you can always grab more food if you’re still hungry later, but once you’ve eaten too much, you can’t go back.
Substitute the bad for the good
Cravings can be consuming if they’re strong enough. I get them for sweet/chocolatey snacks and they completely take over, to the point where I can no longer think straight!
I’ve managed to find sweet, yet healthy alternatives, which I always try and reach for, before nipping out and buying chocolate. If once I’ve had it, I’m still craving chocolate, then I just give in. Sometimes you just need to have a little something that you’re craving, but just make sure it’s not just because your body is crying out for a certain type of vitamin or mineral. For example, chocolate cravings could be a sign of low iron, so eat a snack full of iron before giving in to see if that helps.
Take your time eating your meals
Inhaling your food not only increases your chance of bloating and indigestion, but it can also trick you into thinking you’re not full and you end up eating more than you need.
They say to wait around 20 minutes before reaching for more food after a meal, for me, it takes about an hour before my body registers whether I’m actually full. That’s why I always eat my main meal, then wait for an hour to see how I feel before deciding to eat a bit more.
Taking your time also helps you to enjoy what you’ve just spent about 20-30 minutes cooking. Make all the time and effort you put in worth it by savouring every bite!
Be aware of portion sizes
Portion sizes can be a difficult thing to get right, especially when you’re dealing with foods that like to expand when cooked, such as rice, pasta or quinoa.
As a general rule, I like to measure out 75g dry as a portion of any pasta or grains, then I just spoon it out by eye. If I want more once I’ve finished my food, then I’ll have a bit more, but usually, it gets put into the fridge for future meals.
Experiment with recipes
I’ve always liked cooking and baking, so I have a basic cooking skill that allows me to play around with recipe ideas. The best ways to find new recipes is to take one you like the look of, either off the internet or out of a cookbook, then change up some of the ingredients.
I do this a lot with things like smoothies, overnight oats and sometimes curries. This way, you can create unique and interesting meals, that will keep you interested in your meals, rather than just mindlessly eating everything on your plate.
How can these change your relationship with food?
All of these points, when pulled together, can massively help to change your relationship with food. They all help to change your perspective on the food you’re eating and help you to see the health benefits that are sitting on your plate.
If you think of your relationship with food as a relationship with another human, then it is a little easier to understand. Eating a meal is like having a conversation with a friend, you have to listen and acknowledge the effect it has on you. If someone said something to hurt your feelings, you’d probably do something about it, so why wouldn’t you do the same when it comes to food?
Creating a healthy relationship with food can not only help you to shed a bit of extra weight or build on your strength and fitness goals, but it can also improve your gut health, mental health and even improve sleep! What’s not to love?!