This fantastic blog post was written by Nutrition Student Elysia Kenyon!
To many people a healthy, balanced diet can seem restrictive and certain foods can be categorised as ‘bad’. However, this isn’t true! Food should be enjoyed and treating yourself occasionally is part of having a healthy relationship with food. No one is perfect and everything in moderation is a more realistic goal. When you indulge, it’s better to see it as a treat never a cheat, so no need to feel guilty! Achieving this positive relationship can seem daunting but what it really comes down to is your outlook on food. We forget that our bodies need food to function; food provides us with energy and vital nutrients which are used within the body for various functions such as growth, repair, and aiding digestion (1). Food is a tool we can use to help us achieve optimum health. This outlook encourages you to make wiser food choices and enjoy nutrient rich foods rather than constantly indulging in ‘empty calories’. This process will take time so don’t feel deflated if it doesn’t happen overnight!
Over our lives we develop mindless eating habits which can be associated with impulsive eating and weight issues (2). So implementing mindful eating habits may be your saving grace! Mindful eating is an awareness of the different sensations associated with eating, in which you take time to eat, to properly chew and taste your food (3). This approach also encourages you to listen to your body, and as a result you are more receptive to the sensation of fullness. Listening to your body prior to eating is also important. It can help determine whether you’re actually hungry or just bored! If it’s the latter, occupy your mind with something else, be it exercise or a hobby.
Another key consideration is your mood. Although everyone has different eating behaviours, I think I can safely say many of us are culprits of comfort eating (4). It has been found that when people feel angry, anxious or depressed they are more likely to binge eat (5). This coping mechanism may act as a distraction but is only a short-term fix. In the long term this can lead to a negative cycle of overeating or undereating and guilt-ridden behaviour (4) – but you can stop this cycle. Identifying and addressing the root cause of the emotional issues is where to start.
The diet culture that we see in today’s society can put pressure on people to look a certain way and lose weight fast – but this isn’t a positive attitude and is often ineffective. To achieve and maintain weight loss or fat loss, a change in lifestyle is required. Find enjoyment it eating nutrient rich foods such as fruit and vegetables and wholegrain carbohydrates This is where your newfound positive relationship with food comes in!
Top tips for a positive relationship with food:
- Moderation is key – no need to feel guilty!
- Eat mindfully! Properly chew and taste your food
- Listen to your body – eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full!
- Take emotion off the table – avoid finding refuge in food
- Enjoy food… Remember, it’s a treat not a cheat!
(1) Osborne, D.R. and Voogt, P.I., 1978. The analysis of nutrients in foods. Academic Press Inc.(London) Ltd., 24/28 Oval Road, London NW1 7DX..
(2) Jordan, C.H., Wang, W., Donatoni, L. and Meier, B.P., 2014. Mindful eating: Trait and state mindfulness predict healthier eating behavior. Personality and Individual differences, 68, pp.107-111.
(3) Framson, C., Kristal, A.R., Schenk, J.M., Littman, A.J., Zeliadt, S. and Benitez, D., 2009. Development and validation of the mindful eating questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(8), pp.1439-1444.
(4) Geliebter, A. and Aversa, A., 2003. Emotional eating in overweight, normal weight, and underweight individuals. Eating behaviors, 3(4), pp.341-347.
(5) Arnow, B., Kenardy, J. and Agras, W.S., 1995. The Emotional Eating Scale: The development of a measure to assess coping with negative affect by eating. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18(1), pp.79-90.