The topic of our relationship with food has been getting more and more attention recently. Our relationship with food is one of the most important relationships in our lives. Everything and everyone comes and goes, while food accompanies us from the moment we are born to the moment we leave this planet. We depend on it for survival and health; it’s our fuel and our building material.
Since humankind has been in a relationship with food for as long as we have existed, you would think we would have mastered it by now. Instead, over the past few decades, millions of people have found themselves struggling with their relationships with food. Why?
The answer is that our relationship with food is no longer as simple and pure as it was when humans first evolved.
The food we used to eat, even a hundred years ago, is not the same as what we eat now. Click To Tweet Our lives are more complicated and our environment is hugely manipulated. Frankly speaking, it’s no longer just between you and food:
- The increasing pace and business of our lives is taking away the time you used to spend with food. At one point humans had to spend most of their time and energy catching, gathering and preparing meals. All you need to do now is to open your fridge, go to a restaurant, or dial a food delivery number. We eat our breakfast while rushing to work, our lunches in front of the computer, and our dinners while watching TV, surfing the Internet or checking Facebook.
- As human civilization developed, we moved from eating to survive and fuel our body to using food to fuel our emotions.
- The food we eat now is not what it used to be. Most of the foods we eat now still looks the same. Bread, sausages, burgers, cookies, dairy products- they may not have changed on the outside, but at their core these foods are far from what they used to be. I am talking about high levels of industrial processing, long ingredient lists with unrecognizable items on them, sugar being added to almost everything, GMOs, hormones…Food is meant to supply your body with vital nutrients and minerals, not empty calories and a whole load of chemicals.
- Big Food is a multi-million-dollar industry that encourages you to consume more and more. A hundred years ago you had to work hard to get yourself a date with food. Now, the food industry makes sure you run into food everywhere you go. It looks and smells very appetizing; the combination of ingredients and textures make your taste buds and your brain’s pleasure centre go crazy and crave more; and marketing messages persuade you to eat more.
- The fashion industry, TV and magazines, on the other hand, are telling us that love, happiness and success only come to those who are size 0.
All of this leaves many of us feeling pressured, confused, frustrated and guilty. That’s a lot to handle emotionally, am I right? No wonder, so many of us struggle with our relationship with food.
If like most of us, your relationship with food could use a transformation, here are a few ideas for creating positive and powerful shifts.
- Trade self-judgment for curiosity. You can’t change something you don’t know. Take a look at relationship with food: what’s out of balance, what’s working, what’s not? Is your eating behavior lead by conscious choices or automatic impulses? What is it costing you? Observe and find out what shapes your eating habits. Let go of being hard on yourself- negative self-talk doesn’t move you forward. Instead, get curious and commit to uncovering what triggers your bad habits, study your eating behavior patterns, and understand what gets in the way of you having a healthy and happy relationship with food.
- Be patient and compassionate with yourself. What took you years to build won’t change in a few days. Be realistic and don’t worry about the fact that transforming your relationship with food takes some time; time will pass anyway. Choose one or two things you would like to change and focus on the process. Small changes add up to big results.
- Get to know your food, and choose it as you choose your best friends or a partner for life. Would you choose to spend the rest of your life with someone you don’t really know? Or someone who is good-looking, sweet-talking and fun, but fake and nasty? Probably not. But this is what many of us do with food. We let food companies con us into friendships and life-long relationships with foods that are not what they pretend to be. These companies put a lot of effort into making their foods easily accessible, quick and convenient. They make them look and smell appetizing. They add sugar to improve first impressions and hack your senses. They add preservatives to make them look young and fresh. They dress their foods in attractive packages covered with messages you want to hear and cover up the ugly truth…. Don’t be fooled; look beyond all that. Question where your food came from and how it’s made; read packaging labels and ingredient lists carefully. Learn about how the food you eat affects your body, mood and health; Find out what is really on your plate and then decide if you want to be friends with it or not. Remove fake and toxic food from your life, as you would do with fake and toxic people. Love food that truly loves you back.
- Today, with food all around us, the association of eating with feeling good has turned food into a highly abused habit to feel good fast. Learn to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger and switch to non-food strategies to better manage your emotions.
- Are your relationships with food driven by fear to love? Do you choose to eat healthy because you are striving for lasting health and vitality, or are you are simply running away from extra weight and illness? The result might look the same, but the internal experience is very different. Fear brings desperation and impatience; it makes eating rigid and stressful. Love for yourself brings inspiration, energy and joy. Eat because you love your body and want it to be healthier, not because you hate it and want to be skinnier.
- Everyone’s story is different, and everyone’s solution is unique. Recognize that there is no perfect way to eat. Happiness isn’t diet- or size-specific. This is your life and you are the one who gets to decide what’s right for you. Let your values, lifestyle, preferences and bio-individuality guide you to create a happy and healthy relationship with food.
- Healthy eating is very important, but don’t let it consume your life. We eat to live, not the other way around. Food is here to support you on your life journey, not to control you. Build your healthy eating routine to fit your desired lifestyle, not the other way around.
- Spend quality time with food. It’s not just about what you eat, it’s about how you eat it too. We eat to fuel our body, nourish our cells and satisfy our senses. If you eat too fast or don’t pay attention to your food, your belly gets full, but your senses remain unsatisfied, which results in overeating. Slow down, take a few deep breaths, relax and allow yourself to eat. Bring your mind to the present moment and eat with all your senses: look at your food, notice colors and shapes, feel the aroma, and pay attention to textures and temperatures. Savor each bite and enjoy the whole process. Appreciate having this food available to you. This will help you to tune into your body, treat your senses, and eat less while getting more pleasure and satisfaction.
I hope this information helps you to look at your relationship with food differently and inspires you to make some changes. But remember, knowing doesn’t make a difference, applying the knowledge you have does. So, choose a couple of the points above that resonate with you the most and put them into daily practice.
Tatiana Kuvardina is an Eating Behavior Expert and Transformational Holistic Health Coach, a member of The American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and the founder of Your Wellness Path. Tatiana sees more than just calories and nutrients, she has a deep understanding of the mind-body connection. Her unique holistic client-centered approach combines her knowledge of nutrition, human behavior and the psychology of eating to help them transform their relationship with food.
Bottom photo courtesy of Tatiana Kuvardina.