Let’s be honest, we all overeat sometimes.
What I mean by “overeat” is that we all eat past physical fullness not just eat more than the recommended serving size or eating more than usual during the holidays.
Some even eat past fullness daily. Some at every meal. This often causes people to feel out of control with food. Many cannot understand how they can be so disciplined in most areas of their lives, but they cannot seem to get it together with their eating.
For those who struggle with this, I understand because this used to be my life. On the outside, I seemed all together but, on the inside, I was struggling because my eating was so unbalanced, and I often felt out of control.
When I finally learned that there was something wrong with my relationship with food instead of with me, I was able to make significant and life-long changes in my life.
In this article, I will share 10 tips that helped me to begin healing my relationship with food, so I could finally live harmoniously with myself and with what was on my plate. To improve long-term physical and emotional health and feel better in your body, I encourage you to try out these tips instead of trying a new diet this year.
Here are 10 Tips to Begin Healing Your Relationship with Food:
- Stop Dieting or Restricting Foods.
While many worry that without dieting (counting calories, fats, carbs, etc.) or restricting (strict rules and regulations around food) themselves from eating “unhealthy” foods, they will be even more out of control. Research indicates that the opposite is true. Believe it or not, dieting and food deprivation is often what causes this type of disordered eating, not the act of eating.
- Eat for Satisfaction.
Eating foods that satisfy your palate and your heart and soul is imperative. While this tip encompasses tip #1, it goes beyond it. Many choose foods based on their ability to keep their waistlines in check or because they are deemed healthy”. While there is nothing wrong with eating nourishing foods, if these foods are not satisfying to the palate, heart, or mind, out of control eating often ensues until the body’s needs are not met.
- Be Mindful.
Many do not take the time to really savor their food. Instead, eating is something that is done in haste. The average person does not take the time to engage with their food or appreciate the flavors, textures, or aromas of the foods they’re eating. This is absolutely a sign of the rushed societal pressures many of us feel daily, but it can be different. Being more mindful of what is going “down the hatch” can help us feel more aware of our fullness and help us to gauge food satisfaction with more awareness. As a bonus, eating mindfully often results in improved digestion.
- Acknowledge Hunger and Fullness Signals.
Paying close attention to the body’s natural hunger and fullness is another important factor. Most people are so disconnected from their bodies that they aren’t even sure when they are physically hungry or when they are approaching fullness. Just because there is still food on your plate does not mean you are obligated to eat it. If you are full, do your best to honor your fullness by either leaving food behind or taking it home to be eaten later. If you are accustomed to eating past fullness often (and you are not alone in this), it will take time to retrain your body to do this, but it is possible!
- Get Enough Zzz.
Research indicates two hormones in your body play an important role in controlling appetite and satiety. When we are sleep deprived, these hormones are improperly stimulated or suppressed which can also cause you to feel out of control with your eating.
- Beware of Sudden Urges to Eat.
While we sometimes get sudden urges to eat, when this happens during times of high stress or when we are bored, it is often a sign that we are eating for emotional reasons or to soothe ourselves. To help discern this, next time a sudden urge to eat hits, ask yourself one simple question: “Am I hungry?” While this may not always stop you from eating, it will allow you to pause, ask the question, and check-in with your body to see what else it might need instead of food.
- Avoid Skipping Meals.
While this is not always possible, it is best to feed your body on a regular (try not to exceed 5 hours or more without eating) basis. Why? Because it is important for our bodies to know that it will be fed and nourished on a regular and consistent basis. If it is not, when it does get the chance to eat again, it will very likely do so with force and ferocity because it is not sure when it will get another chance to eat.
- Beware of “See” Food Hunger.
Sometimes the mere sight of delicious food stimulates the appetite. This is often referred to as “see” food or sight hunger and it is completely normal. Before you go and grab the food just because it is nearby or on TV, if possible, remove the food from sight and give yourself a 10-15-minute break before deciding what to do next. If you decide to eat the food even in the absence of hunger, remember to be kind to yourself. It is not the end of the world and the guilt and self-flagellation is far worse than anything you could ever eat!
- Practice Self-Compassion.
Even when your eating feels out of control, practice self-compassion. By doing this, you are holding space for yourself to discern what could be causing the eating. This is when you will begin to identify and dismantle the patterns that may be stimulating the eating.
- Forget Perfection (Embrace Messiness).
Healing a relationship with food is complicated and takes time and patience. It is not about perfection but about learning to identify what our bodies need and honoring them as often as possible. Sometimes during this process, things will feel messy and hopeless. However, do not be discouraged because our minds and bodies are amazing creations that, given the opportunity and the right circumstances, are able to heal. Take your time and get support from a professional, especially if your eating is causing you to feel more dissatisfaction than joy in your life. Know that you deserve to feel joyful. Food is intended to delight, nourish and fuel us not stress us out and fill us with dread.