What is one of the longest and closest relationships you will ever have in your life? Your relationship with food. Yes, you are in a relationship with food – the question remains, how healthy is that relationship, is it a happy or a love-hate relationship?
Here are 5 questions to start you thinking about your relationship with food:
1. Do I hear myself saying (out loud or to myself), “I was good today (or bad) because I ate ______”?
This is a common mindset in today’s society. Labeling yourself as bad or good depending on what you ate, or on a more basic level, classifying food as good or bad has become tragically common. Food is not an ethical or moral issue. Certain foods may have differing nutritional compositions, but that doesn’t make them inherently evil or morally superior. Its all about moderation, balance and circumstance. For example, if you were stranded in a snow cave, you’d be much better off with a candy bar than a bag of salad.
2. Do you feel shame or guilt after eating certain foods?
So many times people base their decisions to eat or exercise on what they ate that day or the day before. Using food as a reward or punishment is not healthy, nor does it lead to a happier life. Sadly, companies have cashed in on guilt through their media and marketing campaigns. Slogans like “sinfully delicious”, or even the term “clean eating” have very negative, shameful connotations.
3. Have I given up any favorite foods because they weren’t “healthy”?
Long-term deprivation is one of the key motivators for breaking a health resolution. If I were to give up chocolate, a little chunk of my happiness would fall away. There are all sorts of special-occasion foods that carry personal and cultural importance in our lives. One family tradition I was raised with that still continues is chocolate chip cookies on Sunday night. It is a delicious, happy, family and friend-filled tradition that provides much more than 110 calories. And knowing that cookies will happen again allows you to eat just what is satisfying and leave the rest on the plate.
4. Do I feel anxious about eating at social functions or around other people?
When eating or anxiety over food starts to interfere with your interactions with other people, a red flag should go up as a warning signal that all is not well and happy with your food relationship. Do you alter what and how much you eat depending on who you’re with and what they are eating? Do you find it hard to eat at family dinners or social events because you follow a self-imposed restricted diet? (Allergies and diagnosed medical conditions do not apply here as they are a different matter altogether when it comes to eating and valuing food)
5. Do I look forward to, slow down and savor mealtimes?
Food is so much more than just a checklist of nutrients. It should be an enjoyable, anticipated event. Do you inhale your food on the go? Do you really enjoy the flavors and textures of the food you are eating? Our bodies are even physiologically designed to gain optimal nutrition from foods that we find appetizing. Food is meant to be enjoyed.
So if you are a food lover – take heart. Chances are your healthy relationship with food is leading you toward life-long health and happiness.