Do you have a healthy relationship with food? Is mealtime a time for relaxing, savoring tastes, and connecting with friends and family? Or are you too harried and stressed, too busy, or too rushed to cook?
Build a Healthy Relationship With Food
Do you live in an urban area where you are surrounded by fast food joints? Do you fall into the trap of eating for convenience, and end up eating take-out, because you just don’t have time, or energy, to cook?(Source)
If you do cook at home, is cooking something you do because you have to, or is it something you do because you love it? Is it a chore or a pleasure?
Do you buy the packet meals where you just “add water,” or where you just need to “boil in the bag,” or do you simply preheat the oven and bake for 30 minutes? Or do you take the time to make a meal from scratch? Maybe you’ve been cooking for your family for many years already and you are just plain burnt out?
Are the majority of your meals nutritious and good for you? Or are you surviving on junk and processed food, hoping for the best.(Source)
There are many reasons why our healthy relationship with food might be less than ideal. On the one hand, we have been told since the fifties and sixties that we have to look a certain way and be a certain (svelte) ideal shape and weight in order to be seen as an “acceptable” human.
Models have been too thin and anorexia has become a serious social problem for some tormented youngsters. We have been given the message that unless we conform to these social stereotypes we are not okay.
On the other hand, we are bombarded in the media with images of delicious looking treats, recipes for calorie-laden cookies and heavy desserts. We are told to indulge ourselves, and enjoy ourselves with food that is laden with sugar and carbohydrates.
Fast-food joints are everywhere you look and the images there are colorful and tempting. Yet the food is high in unhealthy fats and carbohydrates, with very few vegetables.
As a result of the industrial revolution, fast ways to make food and the creation of factories that mass produce food products, eating has become a negative cycle of overindulgence in unhealthy and non-whole food, followed by guilt and shame and self-flagellation. Yet after resolving to do better next time, the cycle starts all over again and we end up overweight and miserable.
Many people have succumbed to slimming fads only to fall into that terrible place where you start yo-yo dieting. You lose weight successfully, but very soon gain it all back again, plus several more pounds than you started with. So you try again, and the same thing happens. Eventually you have gained fifty pounds that weren’t there in the beginning. (Source)
On top of all of that, there is the aging process.
Aging causes changes in our hormones and our metabolism, which makes exercising, losing weight and keeping it off, that much harder.
More and more experts are starting to recognize that dieting simply doesn’t work and that we have to take a new approach to eating and food. Essentially, we need to reclaim the joy of eating well.
Eating Well Is An Art And A Science
Eating well is an art, and indeed a science too, that needs to be cultivated and nurtured so that we can feel nurtured, not to mention nourished, by food, by eating, and by our relationships to ourselves, to others and to the food itself.
Here are some ways to get you started on your new relationship with food, and your path to a new, vibrant, joyful you.
You can get most of your nutrients from food, but only if you buy organic. Local is best. A simple rule of thumb is this: one half of your plate should be covered with leafy greens and vegetables; one quarter of your plate will be a starchy veg like yam, or a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa, the last quarter of your plate can be lean meat or fish. This is a simple way to ensure you get a balanced meal.
Slow Food as an Alternative to Fast Food
Slow food is becoming a concept in scratch kitchens, where food is sourced locally, is preferably organic, is very fresh, and is cooked from scratch. Slow food is a mindset that you can apply to your lifestyle and to your kitchen at home. Food is more than fuel to keep you going from one job to the next, from one stressful day to the next.
When we alter our relationship to food, our whole approach to life can change. Food is life. Without food we wouldn’t be here, right?
It stands to reason that the higher quality our food, the higher our quality of life. By the mere fact of choosing to use high quality ingredients, we raise the quality of our eating experience.
Combine that with taking the time to cook from scratch, and then deciding to share our meal, and by default our time and our company, with others, we improve our quality of life.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
⦁ It makes you slow down. In slowing down, you start to destress. Your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, allowing the digestive process to perform better.
⦁ Your body assimilates more nutrients, making you healthier than before.
You breathe. This also helps slow down the toxic response of too much adrenaline.
⦁ You focus on the colors, the textures, the tastes, and the smells of the food. Right away, the pleasure factor kicks in and you start to enjoy your food more, as you notice what it is you are putting into your mouth and into your body. Make sure you savor your food and how it feels in your mouth and in your body, as well as, how it smells, looks, and tastes. Where does your food come from? Where does it go?(Source)
Cultivate Food Gratitude
Practice gratitude for the food on your plate. Consider how it got there. Give thanks to the cook; if you are the cook, give yourself acknowledgment and a pat on the back for doing a great job. Give thanks to the servers and cashiers in the supermarket who sold the food to you.
Give gratitude for the drivers who delivered truckloads of fresh produce to the store. Give thanks to the laborers who packaged the food and loaded into the trucks. Give thanks to the laborers who harvested the food. Be thankful to the farmers who grew the food.
Remember how fortunate we are in North America to have food on our plates each and every day, and fresh running water to clean the food and to drink to quench our thirst.(Source)
Scientists now know that picturing yourself doing something is almost as powerful as actually doing the activity itself. That is why Olympic athletes are known to use visualization techniques to quite literally “see” themselves into winning the gold.
Try using visualization to imagine how and who you will be when you tap into the joy of eating once more.
How will you look? Radiant, eyes sparkling, energy brimming and full of vitality? Content, serene, beautiful?Healthy.
Whatever images you’d like to bring to mind, do so with as much detail as you can: imagine colors, textures, sounds, smells and perhaps even tastes as you envisage yourself as someone who enjoys food as one of life’s great pleasures and one who derives great satisfaction and nourishment from it. Do this exercise daily, for just a few minutes.(Source)
Changing Core Beliefs
Psychiatrist David Hawkins maintains that you are only subject to that which you hold in mind. He explains that if you buy into the idea that food will make you fat, or that you have a slow metabolism, or a thyroid problem, the body will manifest what the mind believes.
Accept Your Body
Happily, there is a trend in the media now depicting “normal,” every day women modelling clothing and lingerie. The new message is that real women come in all shapes and sizes and we can celebrate our diversity, our uniqueness and our undeniable beauty, being comfortable with our bodies, just the way they are.
Practice self-acceptance. Establish healthy relationship with food. Be kind to yourself. Instead of beating yourself up for being different from the skinny stereotypes, dare to reclaim your power by acknowledging your beauty, no matter your shape and size. Everyone has beauty. It is up to you to commit to seeing it in yourself.
Ditch the Scale & Focus on the Pleasure of Eating
Obsessing over the reading on the scale is not that healthy . . . It can be very demoralizing when you hit one of those plateaus and the weight just doesn’t budge for weeks. Consider “health” as that which brings you more joy in your life! The occasional piece of pie or slice of cheesecake is good for your en-joy-ment levels!
And, if you are going to indulge, be sure to savor every morsel. Rather than focus on the numbers on the scale, focus instead on the pleasure of eating, your gratitude and healthy relationship with food, which is making you well and happy.(Source)
Work On Your Self Esteem
When you really start to be kinder to yourself, accepting yourself just the way you are, right now, and gifting yourself with love, compassion and appreciation, your self-esteem must increase. Practice giving yourself genuine compliments.
Everyone has beauty. Embrace your own unique beauty. Thank your body for carrying you through each day, for working hard to support you on your journey through life. Learn to love yourself. Instead of putting yourself down, build yourself up. Become your own best friend and your self-esteem will sky rocket.
Setting Boundaries Around Treats
No foods are to be taboo, but there is some common sense around how much of the richest, fattiest foods to eat. Consider deciding how much of a certain food you will indulge in as an occasional treat: say 25 g dark chocolate. Portion up the bar and allow yourself your treat. Remember to eat mindfully, taste, and savor every bite.
Develop Social Bonds to Optimize Your Health
One of the biggest blessings of the eating experience comes from sharing food with others. A simple meal, shared with neighbors or friends, helps to build community, and increases your feelings of connectedness and belonging.
When you feel part of a loving community, your heart is warmed and you feel loved. You are less likely to experience the emotions of sadness and isolation that lead you to unhealthy behaviors like comfort eating.
How can you build these social bonds? Organize a potluck, a summer picnic, or a “safari” meal, where you have the starter at one person’s house, the main course at the next and the dessert at another’s.
Host a cooking night, where everyone brings an ingredient and together you share the task of cooking, and then of course the pleasure of the eating.(Source)
The Meaning Of The Meal
Ritualizing mealtime can add depth to the experience and increase the level of enjoyment to be had from the food. A simple way to ritualize your meal is to bless the food. This simple act helps you pause, have healthy relationship with food, become mindful and grateful about the meal you are about to eat.
Another way is to create ambiance: lighting candles, adding napkins or special wine glasses can raise the level of the occasion to a whole other level. A beautiful bouquet or flower arrangement can be uplifting and remind you of the passing seasons.
Honoring the turning of the year, or the feast days and annual festivals through décor or special ingredients can increase your pleasure dramatically. Remember to celebrate with food!
You Are What You Eat
Does this food deserve a place in building up your body? Is that the kind of body you want to have? Knowing that you are what you eat can be helpful in regulating what goes in to your body. Do you want a light, energized, life-filled body?
Then eat light, life-filled, energized foods. This may very well translate as fresh (energized), raw (life-filled), organic vegetables (made with light).
Using Food To Stuff Emotions Doesn’t Work
Clinical Counsellor Ella Morelle advocates giving attention to your arising emotions before they get the better of you and you start making an unconscious dive towards the refrigerator. “Tune in to your feelings. Imagine you are turning towards them and seeing them,” she says. “Give them unconditional love, and let them know they have every right to be there. (Source)
Ask them what they want.” Nine times out of ten, explains Morelle, your feelings want to be loved by you. If you can practice, loving kindness and compassion towards yourself, then as you grow this skill, your cravings and desires to comfort eat will naturally diminish.
Listen to your body…it will tell you when it’s full!
If you have been an emotional eater, you may have found yourself eating without really tasting anything. Even though you are not really enjoying that ice cream, you keep on stuffing it down you until the tub is empty, almost as though you are in a kind of trance.
Your full stomach provides you with a temporary feeling of relief, a kind of satisfaction that soon dissipates and leaves you emotionally hungry for something else. Not to mention the accompanying sense of guilt and shame when you realize what you have done for the hundredth time.
If you get “emotionally hungry,” discover how to fill the void in truly joyful ways. Find foods that taste good and are healthy. Fill the fridge with ready made healthy snacks. Don’t buy ice cream. Discover what brings you to a place of joy, without food, and do more of it.
Getting Creative In The Kitchen
New tastes, ethnic foods, the unexpected, find ways to get adventurous with food. Ask yourself “What can I do differently?” Dare to try out those exotic vegetables in the supermarket: broccoli Romanesco, chayote, purple potatoes, fiddle head ferns, wild mushrooms you gathered yourself, lady fingers, persimmon, lychee, kumquat, durian, passionfruit, and starfruit.
Take your taste buds on a journey around the world, without leaving home. Research your newfound fruit or veggie, pick a new recipe and experiment; create a colorful palette for your palate.
Have fun with the abundance of herbs and spices available to you: cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, chili; bay, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice; dill, basil, garlic, parsley, thyme, marjoram, savory and oregano. Grow some in your garden.(Source)
Rebuild Your Healthy Relationship With Food
Getting in touch with the joy of eating and having a healthy relationship with food can be a truly life transforming experience. Not only will you feel better on the inside, and look healthier on the outside. You will enrich your life with the colors, scents, textures and tastes of inspired culinary adventures. You will have the friends, family and community you invite along to share in the journey.
Eating well without restrictions leads to healthier choices. Slowing down to savor the pleasures of eating as an art and a social pastime encourages you to be mindful about each bite, and grateful for all the people involved in helping bring food to your table. Mindfulness increases your pleasure and your digestive juices.
As you establish your healthy relationship with food, some of your most deeply held limiting beliefs will need to go. Visualizing your future healthy, vibrant self and learning to love yourself and your body just the way you are, right now, leads to self-acceptance and self-compassion. Your mind is so powerful that your beliefs around food and eating can cause changes in your physical appearance and weight, according to psychiatrist David Hawkins. (Source)
Leaving the scales behind and focusing on boosting your self-esteem will help to avoid getting demoralized and help to break the downward spiral of emotional eating. Appreciating your own unique beauty and loving yourself are key skills to acquire to help you on your way.
Indulge yourself occasionally with small predetermined portions of the treats you especially love.
Remember to listen to your body and let your body tell you when it’s full. Your body knows what it needs quite well, and rather than ignoring it, pay attention to its wisdom. Your body knows.
Give a deeper meaning to your meal by celebrating festive occasions, the ever changing seasons of the year and special dates and holidays. Décor, candles and lighting can all add to the ambiance. Invited guests bring an additional dimension to food that connects people, forges closer bonds, and even increases intimacy.
Work with your negative emotions. Instead of letting them drive you to the fridge, acknowledge them, welcome them, allow them the space to be, and to be heard. Don’t ignore them. Send them unconditional love and support. Listen to your feelings and what they are trying to tell you. Be so kind to yourself. Find ways to reward yourself and love yourself that don’t involve food.
Make cooking a delight, and an adventure into unknown territory: experiment with new flavors, ethnic cuisine, and new combinations of herbs and spices. Know that what you put into your body determines the kind of body you are going to have.
In getting in touch with the joy of eating well, you will uncover a passion for food that is central to your daily life. No longer will eating be a stressful chore or a convenience stop-off: Eating well will become a life-affirming celebration of the abundance, the social connections and the fulfillment that is available to you. Enjoy!
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