You can see that our relationship with food is not unlike our relationships with people. Healthy relationships = feeling happy, unhealthy relationships = feeling junk. Instead of getting overwhelmed by thinking there is something “wrong” with a complicated relationship with food, that we need to fix once and for all, we can gently work towards improving our food relationship in the same way that we would go about improving our people relationships.
To get you started, here are 8 things you can do you can improve your relationship with food (or people):
- Really get to know them. How much do you REALLY know about the food you are consuming? Do you know where your food came from and what it’s really made of? You can’t know unless you take the time to ask. Ask your server what’s in your food. Research online about the companies you purchase from. Read labels. Get curious, investigate, dig, learn, be thorough, and then make your food choices based on the information you find.
- Dump the ones that are full of crap. Listen, life is too short to waste your time on the fake Franken-foods that you know are full of stuff that is scientifically proven to do you harm. There is plenty of evidence and your body intuitively knows that partially hydrogenated oils, excessive artificial food dyes, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, toxic chemical sugar substitutes, and those crazy things you can’t pronounce on the labels are killing us and making us fat. You deserve higher quality in your life. Period. Kick these to the curb. And if you avoid these, but still feed them to your children because “they won’t eat anything else”, really ask yourself if this makes sense. Kids’ bodies are even more sensitive to toxins, and they need you to protect them until they can understand the harm that these things do to their bodies. Would you let somebody you kicked out of your life for being abusive to you watch your kids so that you could go spend time with some quality friends? I didn’t think so. Kids and adults both need and deserve high-quality, nutrient-dense foods. Period.
- Look for authenticity. Are the foods and food sources in your life authentic and well-intended? In this day and age, the reality is that we have to be watchdogs for marketing hype, sneaky labeling, and straight up bullshit. I hate to break it you, but not all people, food companies, restaurants, or government agencies, have your best interests and health in mind. They want your money. Say no to these creeps and report them (and follow awesome chicks like Food Babe, who are passionate about this), and follow your heart and intuition to those establishments that truly want to change the world and make it a healthier, happier place.
- Spend less time with takers and more with the givers. It’s important that we guard our health and energy by not filling our lives with those foods (or drinks) that take more than they give. Excess sugar, caffeine, alcohol, empty carbs, gluten, processed soy, inflammatory foods, to name a few, can drain our bodies and take more than they give, especially over time. Truly healthy foods give us more energy than they take, and leave us feeling nourished, not zapped. Hanging with these foods on occasion is cool, but too much and we start feeling beat down. Choose your time with these foods wisely and balance them out with the things that nourish you.
- Know which ones can lead to trouble. Some foods are healthy, delicious, really fun, and good for us in moderation, but can lead to BIG trouble…do you go nuts with nuts? Does one glass of wine turn to three and then lead to more nuts? Can you stop at one homemade raw vegan cupcake or do you end up having to throw them in the trash and cover them with soap to stop from eating them (totally not speaking from personal experience). We all have those trigger foods (a.k.a. party friends) that we love and can continue to rock with once in a while, so long as we set limitations and commit to being aware of their affect on us. Know the difference between your fun-time party foods and your real, not-as-sexy, but super reliable foods that bring out the best in you ALL the time.
- Stop labeling. While it is important to get clear about what your food standards are and what effect certain foods have on your body, we have a tendency to want to label food as “good” or “bad”, which can lead to feelings of confusion, frustration, and disappointment in ourselves if we eat something from the self-titled “naughty” list. When we label foods as good or bad, we start to view ourselves as being good or bad, and this black-or-white thinking can lead to extremes in behavior that rarely serve our long-term goals or bring us happiness and fulfillment. Like everything in life, there are benefits and challenges to everything (and everything we eat) and there is always going to be conflicting opinions about what’s true, and what will bring us health and happiness. This is your journey and it’s vital that you get clear about what YOUR body, mind, and spirit want and need to thrive. Avoiding the labels helps us to be open to our expanding awareness about food, keeps us from being preachy and annoying, and helps us to be easy on ourselves as we travel our own personal path.
- Say goodbye when it’s time. As we evolve, it’s important, and totally normal, to say goodbye to foods that we have outgrown. There may be foods that you used to spend a lot of time with, but that just don’t align with who you are now. It’s important to check in and ask yourself regularly if your food choices support your current goals and values. Eating cereal everyday in college may have aligned with your goals to save money at the time, but does this align with who you are today, and your current goal to increase your protein intake? Late night trips through the drive through after a night of drinking may have been in alignment with your social goals at some point, but may not support your current goal to become a professional athlete today. Eating Ben & Jerry’s every night after dinner may have been bonding for your family, but no longer aligns with your goals to lose weight and get fit together now. Re-evaluate your values and goals and then eat in alignment with your new truth.
- Ask if they make you happy. Most importantly, do the foods you eat bring you joy? Do they make your taste buds sing and your body vibrate at the highest level? Are you eating things because you truly enjoy them or because you feel like you should. Don’t resign yourself to boring, unfulfilling meals! There is a whole world of choices out there, and endless tantalizing options for you to discover! Get out there and explore, taste, enjoy, and savor. At the end of the day, what makes any relationship healthy is that it brings us happiness.