- We’re bombarded with information about food and dieting on a daily basis—this can cause one to be overcritical about their eating habits and ultimately develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
- Instead of focusing on the latest diet craze, losing weight, or crunching numbers, we should put our energy into cultivating a healthy relationship with food.
- You can accomplish this mission by first choosing to take a mindful approach to eating: don’t restrict yourself, but take a moment to think about what and why you’re eating.
- Once you get into this habit, you will start to feel empowered around food and naturally make healthier decisions.
- A few tips that can supplement mindful eating include getting rid of your scale, your calorie-counting habit, your off limits list, and your social media bingeing.
Last night, my roommate turned to me and said, “Is it just me, or does it feel you’re bombarded with information about food and dieting every second of every day?” She’s right. Everywhere you look nowadays, there is a conversation being had about food: the foods we should and shouldn’t eat, the latest diet crazes, the pros and cons of cleansing. Our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds are breeding grounds for these discussions, arguments, self-proclamations and promotions. And they are completely overwhelming.
Many of the people involved in or even initiating these conversations about food have good intentions. They truly believe they have valuable information to offer others about eating well and being healthy. But what they don’t realize is that they often have the very opposite effect on these people they wish to help.
The truth is there shouldn’t be a heavy emphasis on dieting, losing weight, or tracking the foods that we eat. Instead, we should focus on developing a healthy relationship with food—which involves eating mindfully, actually enjoying our food, and caring less about quantity, more about quality.
Be Mindful About Eating, Not Restrictive
Rachel Ann Dine, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and the owner of my mental health private practice Humanitas Counseling and Consulting, LLC, says that cultivating a healthy relationship with food is incredibly important: “Forming a healthy relationship with food is paramount in achieving mental wellbeing. We have to eat food to live and if a person develops a negative attitude toward food, it can greatly affect all parts of us—mind, body, and spirit.” And doing so requires being mindful of what, why, and when you’re eating.
“Learning to not restrict your eating or overcompensate with exercise after eating foods you feel guilty for consuming, all plays into forming a healthy relationship with food,” she explains. “One of the go-to tips I encourage clients to practice is to be mindful of the food you eat and to ask yourself the underlying reason for why you’re gravitating toward certain foods—whether it’s something sweet, salty, or carb-heavy, for example. Understanding the ‘why’ of what you’re eating is very important because it allows you to gain self-awareness on knowing if you are eating out of boredom, engaging in emotional eating, or if you’re eating to fill a void.
I’m a huge advocate of never restricting yourself from eating the foods you are craving but instead, practicing mindful eating. Enjoying that milkshake you’ve been craving by drinking it slowly and noticing the taste and sensations (temperature, texture, etc.). It may sound foreign and different to practice eating this way as most people are on their phones or computers or even watching TV when they eat, but mindful eating is all about staying present and being in the moment so you can fully engage in the experience. Learn to let go of the guilt that sometimes comes from indulging and stay in the moment. Most importantly, practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself, especially when it comes to your food choices!”
5 Additional Tips for Beginning a New Journey with Food
Sarah Petty, an integrative clinical nutritionist who specializes in helping women kick disordered eating and chronic dieting, offers the following additional tips, which will supplement your new mindful eating habits:
1. Throw your scale away
First, stop weighing yourself every morning. In fact, you should just throw your scale away, according to Petty. “The scale triggers disordered eating in many people,” she explains. Don’t focus so much on the numbers, but on how you’re feeling instead.
2. Don’t count calories.
You should also stop counting calories. “This removes your focus from the quality and enjoyment of food and focuses on clinical numbers (which aren’t 100% accurate anyway),” Petty explains. Again, don’t bank on the numbers to tell you whether you’re eating well or not.
3. Dive into a new recipe.
Empower yourself by choosing a delicious new recipe to enjoy. “Pick a food that you want to learn how to cook, find a recipe that has that food, and make it! This builds confidence around food and cooking,” Petty explains.
4. Throw out your “off-limits” list.
It’ll also help if you stop making foods off limits. “Examine your list of good and bad foods, then throw it out! Food has no morals.” Everyone deserves to enjoy their favorite snack and not feel bad about it afterward.
5. Get off social media.
Finally, take a break from social media. “Do a social media purge: those wellness bloggers, fitness coaches, and Instagram models often exhibit disordered eating habits,” Petty explains. “Whether you agree with them or not, they make you question what you had for lunch. That second-guessing takes away from your enjoyment of food.”