Changing Your Relationship with Food

food May 28, 2024

A lot of the time, our relationship with food starts as a child.

Emotional eating becomes a way of life and a habit.

There are four common causes of emotional eating. These include "eating our emotions," our need to "fit in," dealing with the stress in our life, and social and/or cultural influences.

The goods is there are things that you can do to overcome these causes. Here are some tips on how you can change your relationship with food and get back to eating for it's intended purpose - to nourish and sustain you.

Allow yourself to feel your emotions, to really go through them when they come up rather than trying to stuff them down with food. Allow yourself to cry when you need to, or get angry when you need to. These emotions happen to all of us. Sometimes it means finding someone that you feel safe enough to share those emotions with. Ask yourself this question - If I feel these emotions, what is the worst thing that can happen? Many times it is not as bad as what we originally thought. I keep a journal with me at all times so that when I know that something emotional is "eating at me," rather than "eating about it," I can write about it.

Keep a food journal to understand when and why you eat. Awareness is always key. It helps to see it in writing. It helps you to own your actions and really see when and where you reach for food. It might be right before a big meeting, or when you are with family or friends. It might be because you are bored or stressed. Writing it down and being aware that this is a habit that you can change  is so powerful. This exercise is not about self-judgement, but self-compassion. Something that too few of us allow ourselves to feel.

Once you have your food journal, look at the root cause of your emotional eating - most of the time it is not about the food at all. Many times it's about something that is missing in our lives. This could be things like being healthy, incorporating physical activity, having healthy relationships, having a job that you love or having a good spiritual practice. Many times when one of these "primary foods" are out of balance, our "secondary foods" - the actual foods we eat are also out of balance. To get to the root cause of your emotional eating, start by asking questions around the balance of your "primary foods."

Try to cut down or eliminate the stress in your life that causes you to turn to food. Stress can also increase our cravings, and our cravings become unhealthy for things like sugar-laden foods, fast foods, or processed and pre-packaged foods. Some ways to reduce cravings include getting more rest and sleep. For most people, that is 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Another way to attack cravings is to increase water intake. Many times when we think we are hungry, we are dehydrated, and just thirsty. It's so important to create space for self-care and relaxation and respect your schedule. Once again, understanding the root cause of your stress is key, so that you can deal with the root cause, rather than eating due to stress and cravings.

Get yourself back on track by listening to the hunger signals of your body. You can do this by starting out eating on a schedule, rather than eating all throughout the day. I found that by beginning to eat 3-5 small meals throughout the day at certain times, I re-set my body, and I begin to feel those hunger signals that the body gives. I now know when my body needs food, and I also know when I have had enough food.

Emotional eating can be tough, especially if we have done it all of our lives. It's hard to change habits, but it is possible, and it's not about deprivation and being on a diet for the rest of your life. If you will do these five things: allow yourself to feel your emotions, keep a food journal to understand when and why you eat emotionally, identify the root causes of your emotional eating by looking at the balance or imbalance of your "primary foods," cut down or eliminate the stress in your life, and incorporate more self-care. And, finally, get back on track by listening to your body's hunger signals, by eating on a schedule for a time to re-set your body's hunger signals.

As I always say - love yourself enough to take care of yourself!



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