For many people with binge eating disorder, or similar conditions, developing a happy, healthy relationship with food is incredibly difficult.
Fortunately, there are many ways to fix your relationship with food and most often, they begin by being kind with yourself and setting realistic expectations. If you’re struggling with developing a healthy relationship to food, it’s important to remember to consult your doctor accordingly. Once you’ve sought proper treatment, though, you can take a series of small, daily steps that can help transform your eating experience. If you’re struggling with food and eating, here are some simple tips to help you get to a better place:
1) Be Realistic
If you’ve developed unhealthy eating habits over the years, it’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. In order to set yourself up for success, you need to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. This helps you avoid disappointment borne from unrealistic expectations. By setting small daily goals (noticing when you feel full after lunch, for example), you can ensure that you begin your new relationship with food from a place of compassion and understanding.
2) Eat Mindfully
So much of unhealthy food relationships can be traced back to unmindful eating. More often than not, people eat alone, in their cars, in front of the television, or while doing something else like reading or typing. To do away with this, focus instead on eating mindfully.
This means sitting down to eat, eating slowly, focusing on tasting every bite, and not doing other activities like driving or watching television when you eat. Doing this can help you recognize the physical cues that tell you when you’re full and can help you lose weight naturally.
3) Focus On Moderation Rather than Blacklisting Foods
We’re human and we know that when we’re not supposed to do something, we often want it more than ever. To avoid this and foster a healthy relationship with food, focus on enjoying everything in moderation rather than forbidding certain foods.
One of the biggest steps to developing happy relationships with food is simply ensuring that you’re enjoying your favorite foods in moderation. To put this another way, if you love pasta (and there’s no medical reason you can’t eat it) enjoy it in moderation on a weekly basis rather than telling yourself you won’t eat it and then binging on it during a burst of emotional eating. This prevents you from developing dangerous food cravings and makes eating fun once more.
4) Eat Only When You’re Hungry
This seems too obvious to be true, but it’s an important tip. Many people at compulsively – meaning they eat when food is available or when other people are doing so. What’s more, some people eat more when the people around them eat larger meals. To avoid the unhealthy weight gain and blood sugar spikes this creates, focus instead on eating only when you’re physically hungry. Doing this can help you avoid emotional eating and ensure that you’re making healthy food choices.
5) Stop When You’re Full
You’ve got a plate of something delicious in front of you. It’s only natural to want to eat the entire thing, right? Unfortunately, doing this can lead to unhealthy eating patterns. Our bodies’ satiety signals start quiet and get louder and louder until they’re screaming at us.
Unfortunately, however, many people don’t notice that they’re full until they’re uncomfortably “stuffed.” To avoid this, focus instead on paying attention to your body’s signals after every bite of food and getting to a place where you’re okay with the idea of leftovers. You don’t need to clean your plate at every meal, so focus instead on stopping when you’re full. Doing this can help you maintain a healthy weight and develop healthier eating patterns.
6) Eat Breakfast
There are several unhealthy food myths flying around the universe. One of the particularly problematic ones is that skipping meals can help you lose weight and be healthier. While it’s true that not eating breakfast may help you lose weight (in a very unhealthy way), it’s also true that people who eat breakfast on a regular basis have better memories, lower cholesterol, and higher energy levels. They also typically weigh less than people who skip breakfast.
With this in mind, it’s important to begin your day with a healthy breakfast. Be sure to eat one that includes balanced levels of proteins, fats, carbs, and low sugar levels. This can help maintain your energy levels throughout the day and ensure that you avoid the dreaded mid-morning crash.
7) Make Your House a “Safe Zone”
If your pantries are stocked with junk food, it’s going to be difficult to avoid problematic cravings. For this reason, keeping your house free of problematic foods can help you avoid emotional eating patterns and develop healthier food relationships, instead.
If you’ve noticed that your house is a junk food zone, focus on cleaning your cupboards of excessively processed, sugary, or fatty foods and replacing them with healthy alternatives like nuts, dried fruits, nut butters, fruit, healthy dips like hummus, and whole-grain crackers. This simple step can help ensure that you’re not falling victim to emotional eating and that when you do need a snack, you’re reaching for healthier alternatives.
8) Pay Attention to Portions
Paying attention to portions goes hand in hand with mindful eating habits. If you sit down in front of the television with an entire bag of chips, for example, the likelihood that you’re going to overeat is much higher than it would be if you got a small handful sized portion, placed it in a bowl, and sat down to eat at the table. If you have difficulty avoiding overeating, consider purchasing snacks and treats in individual serving-sized packages (available at stores like Costco) or always serving yourself from a bowl rather than the package or bag.
9) Don’t Eat For the Scale
When you eat according to the numbers on a scale, you’re inherently depriving yourself of nutrition, healthy meals, and enjoying your food. Rather than eating for weight loss or gain, focus on eating what makes you feel good.
Your meals should be balanced, healthy, made from whole-food ingredients, and eaten in a conscious, mindful setting. Doing this helps ensure that you’re eating for the health of your body rather than for the number on the scale.
10) Allow Yourself to Enjoy Eating
One of the main traits of people who have healthy, happy relationships with food is that they allow themselves to enjoy the act of eating. All the other tips on this list aren’t worth anything if you can’t allow yourself to enjoy the act of sitting down to eat a delicious meal.
Instead of scarfing your meals, eating on the go, or grabbing something quick every time you feel a hunger pang, focus on truly making time for your meals. Give yourself at least a half hour to enjoy your lunch every day and, whenever you can, focus on making your meal times private, uninterrupted, and leisurely. Enjoying your meals in a peaceful, leisurely setting can help you avoid bingeing and can translate into better food choices.
While the relationship between eating and food can be difficult for many people, there are plenty of surefire ways to ensure that your relationship with eating is as healthy as possible. By following these tips, you can make better food decisions, avoid emotional binges, and set yourself up for healthy eating patterns for life.