Changing our relationship with food

In our last blog, we talked about eating mindfully and being aware of what we are putting in our mouths, instead of rushing our meals at our desks or in front of the TV.

However, simply being aware of what you are eating is only half the battle when it comes to self-care. We also need to address the complex relationship that we have with our food.

Emotional eating
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An emotive bond

From when we are first fed as a crying baby, we develop an emotional relationship with food that has nothing to do with its nutritional value. We grow up associating food with comfort, family time, reward and a whole bunch of other emotions, to the point where the food itself becomes largely insignificant.

From birthday cake and high fat buffets at parties, to treating the kids to McDonalds, we attach all kinds of good associations to our food. We reward ourselves for a hard week’s work with a full English breakfast at the weekend or a Chinese takeaway on a Friday night.

The problem is that these associations blur our thinking when it comes to choosing healthy options. As colon hydrotherapists, we often see clients who know that the food they’re eating isn’t good for their digestive health, but they simply can’t get past the emotional bond that draws them to it.

The food police

All too often, our reaction is to label foods as ‘bad’ and make ourselves feel guilty when we eat them. Many diet clubs and plans label foods as ‘sins’ or have a traffic light system to warn you of the dangers. The trouble is that this stands in such stark contrast with the ‘good’ feelings we have from our emotional relationship with food, and we end up feeling conflicted and ultimately doomed to fail.

The problem is that making something ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ only makes us want it even more. Just look at the original food ‘intervention’, when Adam and Eve were told not to eat the apple. That didn’t work, and that was God talking, so what chance do we mere mortals have of staying away from the ‘bad’ stuff?

Knowing it is half the battle

As juice guru, Joe Cross, explains, we all need to go easy on ourselves every once in a while and spend some time in the fun part of town – as long as we understand that this is what we are doing. This starts with conscious, mindful eating, where we pay attention to what we eat, why we’re eating it and how it makes us feel, both emotionally and physically.

When you really pay attention, you’ll find that most ‘feel good’ foods, like cake or pizza, will give you a high at the time, but that doesn’t last. If you listen to your body, what you are usually left with is a heavy, bloated feeling, as well as a few extra pounds that will make you feel even more tired and unhealthy.

If you eat this kind of food all the time, you may not even notice these feelings, it will just be a way of life. However, as soon as you stop, and start eating a healthier, more balanced diet, those feelings will become really obvious to you whenever you go back. The stronger your connection with your body, the weaker your emotional connection to food becomes, the less easily it will be able to lead you astray.

Develop a new relationship

We all need to develop a new relationship to our food; one that understands the good that nutritious, natural food does for our bodies, and the harm that excessive fat, salt and sugar can cause.

Once you learn to appreciate how good healthy options make you feel, you’ll find yourself buying them in the supermarket and ordering them in restaurants, not because you think you ought to, but because you want to, because they taste great and make you feel fantastic.

At that point, your new relationship with food has begun, and you can start to look forward to a healthier future…

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