There's a fine line between thinking carefully about what we put into our bodies and obsessing over it or restricting it dangerously.
Whether our particular issue is emotional eating, binge eating, disordered eating or we just can't seem to get a handle on the whole nutrition thing, we can all stand to learn a few things about what constitutes a healthy relationship with food. Here are a few things to consider:
No Food is Forbidden
Foods are not inherently 'good' or 'bad.'" Chocolate is just chocolate, French fries are just French fries, and a salad is just a salad. It isn't food that's good or bad, it's the experience around specific foods that create habits that can be good or bad. Recognize foods and eating situations that you find pleasant; they can help inform your future choices. Eating is a chance to nourish your body and mind, not merely a set of rules to follow
But timing is important However, if you do decide you're in the mood for fries or pizza or chocolate, enjoy it when you’re not hungry for a full meal. If you're famished when confronted with a favorite food you'll consume a lot more of it. The same can happen if you go to the grocery store hungry, you’re much more likely to buy foods that you wouldn’t normally buy if you had eaten a snack before going. A perfect segue into my next point.
Don’t keep problematic foods in the house. I love Sprouts milk chocolate covered honeycomb. I mean LOVE the stuff. But if I go to sprouts and they don’t have the self-serve option where I can pick one or two pieces and buy them in a small amount, I really shouldn’t buy them at all. I know that I will overeat on honeycomb, so my strategy is to not keep it in my house. Problem averted!
Don’t sit down with the bag.
If you can, buy single-serving packages of your favorite chips, cookies or candy (or chocolate covered honeycomb). It’s way too easy to overeat when you sit down with the family size bag of Doritos!
Learn the difference between a snack and a treat. Letting yourself get too hungry is a recipe for overeating -- especially those foods you most want to keep to smaller portions. Snacking is a smart way to make sure you're not hungry by dinnertime. But snack choice is crucial to both keeping you full and keeping your healthy eating plans on track. A treat is purely for enjoyment, while a snack is something you eat between meals to stave off hunger. Nuts or fruit or cheese could be a good snack, but chocolate? That would be considered a treat.
It’s good to enjoy eating.
These tips are useless if we forget to value food and the eating experience. So many times we forget to take the time to eat, and eating does take time. Look ahead at your day and make sure you have enough time carved out to eat, rather than planning to scarf something down in the three minutes you have between afternoon meetings. It's about truly believing we are worth taking the time to sit down and eat.
Don’t 'make up' for a meal. When we find ourselves feeling guilty about a food choice, there's this instinct to make up for it by either overdoing it at the gym or being very restrictive at the next meal. Instead of punishing yourself for the brownie you ate at lunch by not eating dinner, just choose to eat lighter. People with healthy relationships to food will have a lighter meal later in the day if they decide to indulge at brunch, for example, but they won't restrict that later meal so much so that they end up binging later because they've made themselves excessively hungry.
Your food concern shouldn’t interfere with daily life.
After a list of habits like the above, even the healthiest eaters might feel a little overwhelmed. The key to taking in all this advice healthfully is remaining balanced. Being too rigid, restrictive or strict about nutritious eating can also cause problems, including disordered thoughts or behavior that could be classified as orthorexia. If you're missing out on normal social engagements or sleep in order to maintain a certain lifestyle, that's crossing the line.
It's just like Mama said “Everything In Moderation”.