January 18, 2024

Many people would like to improve their relationship with food but it’s not something that can be achieved overnight.

There are many reasons why we don’t, can’t or won’t make the habit of eating foods that make us feel good both mentally and physically.

But if we can at least be open to exploring what may be our trigger or triggers and ideas to help create new healthy eating habits, that is a great start.

Normally a bad relationship with food has come about after a history of restricting or overeating foods, being a regular or yo-yo dieter and/or having feelings of guilt, stress or shame when you have eaten certain foods.

Some other reasons that may be influencing our relationship with food could be based around our belief systems. Many of these we may have had from an early age that were passed on from parents and grandparents or marketing messages that we are bombarded with:

  • eating red meat gives you heart disease
  • eating fat makes you fat
  • thinking that we have to count every calorie
  • thinking that we have to exercise more and eat less
  • having rules around when you can and can’t eat
  • thinking that you have to starve yourself to lose weight

None of these are true but eating starchy, fried, and fast foods are bad for your heart health, whether it includes red meat or not.

Eating excess fat or sugar, or both contributes to weight gain.

Calories do count, but with the right eating plan, you naturally eat less calories and so you won’t have to count them. You can lose excess weight without ever feeling hungry.

Exercise is important for your health. It just doesn’t cause weight loss. Eating less typically makes you hungry.

Some rules like “finish your plate” might work against you, and some “eat slowly” might help.

Our daily routines and habits shape our relationship with food. Success is about making mindful and informed choices about why, what and when we eat to achieve long-term sustainable weight management and health.

These 6 tips will help improve your relationship with food:

1.Prioritise protein in all meals and snacks. Most sources of protein (particularly meat, seafood and dairy) are full of essential amino acids and are very satiating. The essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body. Being satiated stops hunger between meals, normalises blood sugar response, helps stabilise mood and reduces the pull of cravings. A protein portion should cover the palm of your hand. Any excess fat and carbs you eat, the easier it is to overconsume, so focus on protein first.

2.Eat your meals at a table with knife, fork, and water jug. Put your knife and fork down between every mouthful. Chew your food slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your hunger fullness to kick in so if you eat too quickly you can easily overeat. Portion sizes should decrease when you start eating mindfully. You will also start to learn your body’s natural hunger and fullness regulation.

3.Daily regular exercise boosts mood, offers health benefits and stabilizes blood sugar response. Start with a 5-minute walk after every meal if you’re currently not doing any activity. Walk with a friend or listen to music or a podcast. Enjoy the scenery. Be careful not to fall into the trap thinking that because you’re exercising you can now eat more!!!!

4.Some daily sunshine increases mood and hormonal balance and helps with better sleep. A good night’s sleep reduces cravings for sugary and highly processed (packaged) foods. Enjoy a coffee in the sun or a walk with a friend or pet.

5.Staying hydrated morning to night can help reduce appetite. Best options are water, black tea or coffee, clear soups, or plain mineral or soda water. Add flavour with lemon or lime. Staying hydrated also helps brain function, skin, digestion and overall health and energy levels.

6.Journalling or recording what you eat can give you lots of ideas about which foods work best for your body. Note any bloating, energy drops, cravings or mood swings and use this to help recognise patterns (good and bad) to create informed and conscious improvements over time. If you experience any of these symptoms, review what you ate (or didn’t) in the previous meal or snack.

The combination of exercise, sleep, and recovery mutually support each other, creating a mental boost that gives clarity to make better nutritional choices. Lack of restorative sleep stimulates appetite.

Some people find by using a mantra it is helpful with staying with new healthy eating habits. A mantra can be written and displayed in a place that is visible and is read every time you see it. A fridge or inside a pantry cupboard are perfect places.

A mantra might be something along the lines of these simple sentences.

  • I seek to be at my best weight and in good health.
  • I eat foods that keep me satisfied after every meal and snack.
  • I have learnt how to use food and drink to nourish my body.
  • I enjoy the ritual of sitting down at a table with family and friends to eat.
  • I have regular mealtimes and I never go hungry.
  • I now know how to use food to help manage my reaction to stress.
  • I enjoy the company of close family and friends without using food as an emotional release.

Patience and time are needed to develop a good relationship with food. Take each day to learn what works for you and be kind on yourself.

The goal is to take control over what and when you eat and to learn the foods that fuel your body so that you can enjoy being at your best, both physically and mentally. We all deserve that.

If you would like the support of a coach to help you through this process, then reach out to learn more about our weekly coaching program incorporating nutrition with an overall health and wellbeing focus.