So many of us are subconsciously attached to the idea that eating is a shameful act. Diet culture associates eating with guilt, failure, addiction, bad habits. We are bombarded with “tips and tricks” and the importance of dieting and looking thin.
As a result, many people find that food is no longer an enjoyable part of life, no longer a tool to fuel our bodies, but a controllable means to achieve the desired body. Food becomes a set of numbers that we spend immaculate amounts of time calculating in our heads, making sure each day is “just right”.
Mind over food: The mind-body connection:
How and what you eat is a reflection of your thoughts and perceptions. If your thoughts are destructive and harmful, your eating will be harmful, no matter how “healthy” your food choices are. A healthy and happy body begins with a healthy and happy mind.
Letting go of these toxic thoughts will allow you to enjoy food again, free of worry.
1. Using food as a reward, restriction as punishment
Food is not something that you have to earn. You do not have to spend 3 hours on the treadmill in order to eat dinner guiltlessly. You do not have to eat salad all day in order to earn the meal out with your friends later. Food is a part of life, essential for living and thriving. Our body depends on food as fuel, we do not need to earn it.
On the other hand, eating less in order to “punish” yourself for overeating will only reinforce the notion that you have been bad and you should feel guilty, keeping you caught up in the realm of food anxiety and worry.
Instead of beating yourself up after overeating is to practice self compassion. There is a reason behind the binge episode, try to pinpoint what you needed or what you were feeling that made you over eat. If it was out of boredom, think of what you can do next time you feel that way. If it was because you hardly ate anything all day beforehand, make note to avoid doing that in the future. Forgive yourself, learn, and let it go. There is nothing good that will come out of rumination and self-loathing.
2. Seeing food as “off limits”
As soon as we deem a certain food “forbidden” or “bad”, that food becomes 10x more desirable. Instead of us having the control, food is now in control and causes unnecessary amounts of stress. Have you ever noticed that when you go on a diet, you just can’t stop thinking about food? That’s because food restrictions increase temptation, and distract us from being able to enjoy the food that we are “allowed” to eat. Then when we DO indulge in the "off limits" food, it can lead to feelings of failure, temptations to binge.
Not to say that you should go gung-ho and eat without any parameters. Instead, focus your mental efforts elsewhere. Rather than labeling the foods you CAN’T eat, focus on the healthy foods you want to become more abundant in your diet. More whole foods, less processed junk. You didn't change your food, you just changed your mindset from a restrictive mindset to a more open mindset. With this simple reframe, it will be much easier to make the healthier choices, enjoy those choices, and be at peace.
3. Using food for comfort
First, we have to be honest. Food IS very comforting. It feels good to eat, it’s nourishing and fulfilling. There is no denying that and there is no shame in that. But when we start to believe that food is what makes us happy, that is when it becomes problematic.
When we use food to cope with discomfort, it can become addictive. We know that food is good at distracting us from what we are feeling and consoling us, and this is why its so common to fall into the trap door. The longer we use food to cope, the harder it becomes to stop...and you can’t “just stop”. If you are stuck in this, try to think of ways you can REPLACE the habit. What are other coping methods that you can use? What do you like to do? How do you like to treat yourself? Relying on food as a consolation blocks out the option of working through problems in a meaningful way.
4. Mindlessly eating
When you are plopped down in front of the TV at the end of the day, noshing on a bag of popcorn, are you fully aware of the eating? Probably not. Did you grab the popcorn because you were hungry, or because its a habit to eat something while winding down with your TV time? If you keep associating eating with entertainment, you will keep mindlessly eating for entertainment and keep over eating as a result.
Eating mindFULLY means being fully aware while eating and enjoying the experience of eating. Distracted eating does not allow for mindful eating.
5. Judging your "willpower" based on your eating habits
Food does not have that kind of power over you, to judge your strength, potential, and self-worth. The thought that your eating habits define your self worth is exactly what is stopping you from making progress, stealing your happiness, and keeping you battling with food.
If you haven't been eating as well as you wish, you have the power to decide to take steps toward change whenever you want to.
Food is your friend, not your enemy. If you give it the power to steal your happiness and control your life, it certainly will. On its own, food is there to nourish you, support your life, heal ailments, and help you to feel happy and healthy.