As a baby and toddler, we have this innate ability to eat when we’re hungry, stop when we’re full, and eat foods that we enjoy. Somewhere along the way we are taught to restrict those foods we may enjoy the most and refrain from our natural hunger cues in order to not eat too much. This inevitably leads to overeating and feeling guilty for not stopping when we’re full. Not to mention the physical discomfort and emotional turmoil that comes after frequent episodes of overeating. The good news? We can break this cycle and really enjoy food again. No guilt, no shame, no fear. It may not be easy (I’m still working on it, too!), but our body is worth the perseverance, right? Here are some tips you can implement today to heal your relationship with food and enjoy eating again. *Happy dance!*
10 Tips to Enjoying Eating Again
1) Ditch the diet. They just don’t work for the majority of people. A resounding theme you’ll hear me iterate is that restriction leads to overeating and dissatisfaction. Diets are founded on restriction, whether it be food groups, portion sizes or calories. This restriction teaches you not to listen to your body and its hunger cues, and takes away the joy that comes with eating.
2) Eat at the table as often as possible. Try not to eat while standing up, driving, sitting on the couch watching TV, while trying to multitask chores or other responsibilities, etc. This isn’t always possible (thinking of you busy mommas!), but make the effort whenever possible to eat only at the dining table. This gives you the opportunity to be relaxed while eating and to really pay attention to how your food tastes, smells, and makes you feel. BUT, don’t feel bad if after a long day you plop down on the couch with a bowl of Chinese take out. It happens. It’s okay.
3) Avoid distractions while eating. No phone, TV, books, etc. Easier said than done, right? Sometimes life gets in the way and you have to multitask, but attempt to make meal time a time for YOU. When we’re distracted we aren’t able to pay close attention to our hunger and fullness cues. Plus, how can you fully appreciate the flavor and experience of eating if you’re paying attention to what’s on TV or scrolling through social media? No distractions = full satisfaction while eating. Family meals are a great way to enjoy a meal together, catch up on events from earlier that day, and bond. That’s not a distraction, that’s part of sharing the eating experience.
4) Put down your calorie counter. Food is so much more than just calories, and diminishing it to just the amount of energy it provides negates all the other factors of food that make it enjoyable. Plus, by counting calories you are telling your body you are only allowed to have “this much” whether you’re still hungry or not.
5) Choose your words wisely. Food is not “good” or “bad.” Food is just that, food. Some foods have more calories and some have less. Some foods have lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, while other foods have much less. What do all of these things have in common? They’re all food and they all have a place in our diet. If you label some foods as bad, typically those that are higher in calories, fat and sugar, it’s likely that you will crave these foods even more. Don’t feel bad for enjoying food no matter its calorie, fat or sugar content! Once you remove these labels you may find that all food brings you greater satisfaction.
6) Cook or bake a new recipe. Sometimes our meals can become repetitive and we lose interest in the foods we are always eating. Change it up and try something new! This may mean you don’t meal prep for the week to allow yourself to be more spontaneous and in tune with what your body wants in that moment. If you need some new recipe inspiration, check out my recipes page.
7) Don’t compare what you are eating to others. This can be so hard when social media is filled to the brim with pictures of beautiful acai bowls and “super food” smoothies. Let those photos lend you inspiration of things you can try instead of making you feel guilty for eating something not as picturesque or healthy. Again, eating foods that are deemed as less healthy does not make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you less healthy. Our health goes beyond what is at the end of our fork. You could be eating all the healthiest foods but be struggling internally with feelings of guilt or low self-esteem.
8) Slow down. If you love eating, why rush it? Take a bite and put your fork down. Chew that bite well. Enjoy every flavor, texture and nuance of the food. This is so much more satisfying! Take another bite; repeat. Eating slow is good for digestion, for recognizing hunger and fullness cues, and for savoring the flavor.
9) Eat the slice of cake. Or the chocolate chip cookie. Or the greasy cheeseburger. Whatever it is that brings your heart delight. You may think this sounds counter intuitive to your healthy eating goals, but long term you are much less likely to overeat these foods or feel completely dissatisfied with your meals.
10) Relax. Take 3 long deep breaths before eating. Bring yourself to a calm and relaxed place. Eating should feel good, not stressful. Do you feel anxious? Maybe it’s about what you’re eating, or maybe it’s about something awful that happened earlier that day. No matter what it is that is making you feel anxious, take those 3 deep breaths and bring yourself back to the present. All you are doing in this moment is eating. No matter the food in front of you, it is going to bring nourishment. It may be more physically nourishing or it may be more emotionally nourishing. Either way, trust your body to digest it and utilize the nutrients it provides.