If we could define our relationship with food on Facebook, many of us would update it to ‘complicated’. While it’s easy to define a healthy diet by the foods that we choose to eat, the real magic lies in how we feel about those foods. You see having a healthy relationship with food is just as significant to your health and happiness as your romantic relationships, family relationships and work relationships, and it plays a pivotal role in the most important relationship of all… the one you have with yourself.
Which relationship-style best describes you?
- The Serial Dieter: You’ve tried every diet under the sun. They might work for a little while, but you get bored easily and move on. Or perhaps you’re constantly on the hunt for something better, brighter, easier and faster; you see something shiny and new that makes outrageous proclamations like ‘instant weight loss’, ‘easiest diet ever’ and ‘body like Miranda Kerr’ and you’re restocking the pantry, clearing out the fridge and convincing yourself this is ‘the one’… Sound familiar? Dieting is one of the biggest relationship crimes we can commit when it comes to food. Not only does research show that you’re more likely to pile the weight back on, but you mess with your metabolism, lose touch with your body’s natural rhythms and cycles and put your hot bod in a constant state of fight or flight, because it’s not sure what torture you’re going to subject it to next.
- The Romantic: Food, glorious food! You love the stuff, it’s all you think about, and it’s not an infatuation or a phase, you’re a self-proclaimed foodie. Loving and appreciating food is a healthy position to be in, but it can also be quite precarious. Foods purpose is to nourish and nurture our body so that it can function at its full capability. When we ignore the role that food plays and our day is full of one gratifyingly indulgent foodie masterpiece after another it’s easy to lose perspective on our health. I am most definitely a foodie, but I ensure that the foods I eat every day are deliciously nutrient-dense, so that I can indulge guilt free on lavish dinners and decadent desserts on special occasions. Indulgence should absolutely be a part of every healthy eating plan, but the trick is finding a healthy balance.
- The Perfectionist: Green smoothie with at least five superfoods for breakfast. A salad with a palm-size amount of lean protein, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of chia seeds for lunch. One homemade bliss ball and a cup of green tea at 3pm and grilled salmon with ½ cup of brown rice, 10 snow peas, two broccolini stems and a drizzle of tamari for dinner. Sounds ideal and quite frankly quite delicious, and if we could all achieve diet perfection like this day in and day out what a very different world we’d live in. But here’s the thing, it is no easy feat, and sometimes the stress of constantly striving for perfection is far more detrimental to our health than having the occasional slip up. Social media paints a picture of diet and fitness perfection, but the reality is that it simply doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) exist. When we are constantly striving for diet perfection all we’re doing is setting ourselves up for inevitable failure. So loosen the reigns a little, stop being so strict with yourself and get comfy with the idea of ‘good enough’.
- The Closet Cheater: Do you regularly commit food infidelity? I’m not talking about cheating on your breakfast, I’m talking about cheating yourself. Do you conveniently forget the 3pm chocolate incident that started out as three squares and ended at half the block? Perhaps you choose not to count the two large lattes before breakfast, and the sneaky glasses of wine you drink while cooking dinner. I always encourage my clients to keep a food diary, not because I want them to be militant with their food consumption, but because many of us are delusional about how much we actually consume throughout the day. If you can’t consume food consciously, don’t consume it at all.
Perhaps you don’t fall into any of the above categories. Perhaps you and food are on to a good thing and are set to live happily ever after. Good for you! If you’re not quite there yet, here are my top tips for improving your relationship with food:
- Be intuitive: Nobody knows your body better than you. Just because a certain diet works for our bestie doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. If you tune into how certain foods make you feel, and only eat the ones that leave you feeling vibrant, energetic and brimming with health then you’ll never have to diet again.
- Stop Idolising others: While it’s great to be inspired by others, it’s super important to remember that everyone is human and deals with the same issues that you do (whether they show it or not). When we place people on a pedestal it almost diminishes our own value. Nobody is perfect and it certainly doesn’t serve you to treat them as if they are. Your relationship with food is about you and nobody else.
- Eat with intention: Do you eat because you’re hungry? To fuel your body with energy? To nourish your body with nutrients? Or because the clock says it’s a meal time? Having a clear intention behind why and what you’re eating shines a revolutionary light on meal times. Once you realise how much mindless eating you’re doing, commit to adding intention to every meal instead.
- Be present: Many of us sit down to eat with our smart phone in one hand, while watching TV and replying to emails. In doing so we’re showing little respect for our food let alone ourselves. Being mindful and present with your food makes you aware of what you’re eating and when you’re full.
- Chill out! No seriously, a sustainable diet is one that you can maintain for the rest of your life. If it feels like a constant struggle you’re doing it wrong. So no more counting calories and quit feeling guilty for ordering toast with your Saturday morning breakfast. The stressing out bit is far more detrimental to your health than an extra square of chocolate.
Jordanna Levin, creator of The Inspired Table, is a holistic lifestyle coach whose focus is to heal people’s ‘complicated’ relationship with food. She believes food should inspire and nourish, not be a source of stress and anxiety. Through her coaching programs, cooking workshops, inspiring speaking gigs and popular food blog she’s rewriting decades worth of misleading messaging and creating a new movement of mindful and inspired eating.