My Top Five Tips to Heal Your Relationship with Food
For so many women, food is a source of anxiety and confusion rather than a source of enjoyment and nourishment.
For me, food and I have had quite an intimate love-hate relationship.
Eating what I felt like when I felt like it, was always second nature to me. Until that is, I found dieting as a way to control what I couldn’t control.
In the years that followed, food became a source of stress.
It became a source of isolation.
I stopped eating out and socialising with those I loved.
I only allowed myself to eat food I had labelled ‘good’.
And I let the number on the scale dictate my sense of self-worth and food choices, every single day.
Here are some of the things that helped me on my journey when I started to heal my relationship with food, and undoubtedly, myself.
I hope they help you as much as they helped me.
1. Eat dessert
This is something I do every night and advise my clients to do the same.
I want you to remember that healthy eating does not mean eating healthy, one hundred percent of the time. Rather, healthy eating does include going out for dinners with girlfriends or enjoying that bowl of ice-cream with your boyfriend but always ensuring that it is done so in a way that is mindful and without guilt or compensation.
What I see so often in my clinic is people living a Monday to Friday mentality. Where for the work or school week they eat incredibly “clean” but then come to the weekends, binge and blow it all out.
From now on, I want you to get rid of the all-or-nothing mentality and treat healthy eating as a lifestyle change. This means it has to be realistic, achievable and enjoyable.
When we deprive ourselves of certain foods, we end up craving these things more. Rather than entering that vicious restrict, deprive, binge cycle, I want you to allow yourself to have the foods you enjoy but in moderation.
That is why I make dessert each night a priority. I love it. It brings me joy and balance.
If you are someone that needs to bring more balance back into your life, I do encourage you to have something sweet or enjoyable at the end of each day, rather than blowing out over one or two days.
When you give up the all or nothing mentality around food, you will notice how much better your relationship with food becomes.
Tonight, I encourage you to brew a herbal tea, dig out a good book or TV show and enjoy a few squares of chocolate (it does not have to be the dark kind), a slice of my banana bread or whatever tickles your fancy.
Remember, eat mindfully and enjoy without the guilt.
2.Throw out the scales
In today’s thin-obsessed world, weight gain is seen as a personal failure.
We have attached a moral value that weight gain is ‘bad’ and that weight loss is ‘good’. But it shouldn’t be like this.
When I was at my worst, I would let my weight dictate my food choices and sense of self-worth, every single day.
If I had put on weight, I had failed. As punishment, I would both cut back the already limited amount of food that I allowed myself to eat, while picking up another class at the gym or adding in a sneaky walk with a friend.
If I had lost weight, I had succeeded. I was in control and control made me feel happy. No matter how brief the moment was.
Healing your relationship with food is impossible if you have a number staring back at you each day.
That is why I ask you to consider throwing your scales out.
I personally, wasn’t strong enough to do this myself and had to have my parents do it for me. If this is the case with you, ask someone you trust to take them away.
When you feel the urge to weigh yourself, I want you to consider what are you actually weighing? If your self-esteem and sense of self-worth is entangled in that number, is it really worth it?
Because the reality is, no matter how much weight you lose, it will never be enough.
Remember, there are people who have healthy, loving relationships, feel beautiful and achieve success at every shape and size. Don’t let society let you believe otherwise.
3.Change your thinking
From now on, I want you to match each negative thought with a positive one.
Rather than thinking of certain foods as ‘bad’ or calculating the calories to see how much exercise you will need to burn it off, I want you to start re-wiring your automatic thought patterns into something more positive.
For example, when I was at the start of my journey, eating red meat scared the bejesus out of me. Couple that with pasta, i.e. spaghetti bolognese and my mind would be sent into overdrive. Two ‘bad’ foods in the same meal, I couldn’t possibly.
Until I started changing my thinking.
Instead of automatically thinking of red meat and carbs as ‘bad’, unhealthy or fattening, I started to pull out the positives. For example, red meat was full of iron, and I needed iron to get my period back (yes the unglamorous side of being skinny). And carbs, well carbs are our bodies main energy source, and I needed lots of energy to study.
Try this one for yourself and let me know how you go. It may be hard to start with, but in the words of somebody wise, fake it till you make it.
4.Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about your body or life
Social media can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on how you control what you are viewing.
I used to spend hours obsessively scrolling through my insta feed, admiring the homemade almond meal, colourful salad bowls and the influencers in the latest activewear (abs a pre-requisite) telling you how “the only workout you regret is the one you didn’t do”.
Let me tell you; it was incredibly hard to change my habits, to bring in more rest days and to relax my eating rules when this was always staring right back at me.
As consumers of an edited highlight reel, we need to ask ourselves, where is the line between mindless scrolling and the subconscious comparing that is often damaging to our mental health?
I want you to ask yourself when do your influencers become a bad influence.
Spend some time decluttering your social media accounts and delete those that make you feel not good enough.
I am a firm believer of the saying a problem shared is a problem halved.
Telling someone you have a problem with food can be daunting, and you may not be ready, but when you are, remember that you deserve help and support and that it is incredibly difficult to do it on your own.
If you aren’t sure who to speak to, try a trusted family member or friend, a healthcare professional or even a teacher or colleague.
If you are someone who prefers to write something down, as opposed to talking to someone front on, try writing down what you want to say.
Start with what you are feeling.
How your feelings are affecting your food choices.
How long you’ve been feeling this way.
What you need from them, whether it be as simple as a hug.
Please know, you are not alone in this and struggling with food is not something to be ashamed of.
I am always here for you if you need that too.