After having discussions with a couple friends who are on training programs, and after thinking about my own baking and cooking obsession, I thought I would discuss the relationship people have with food. To be clear, this is not to discuss eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. If you feel you may suffer from a serious eating disorder, please seek medical attention right away. Eating disorders can cause many health problems, including fatal ones, if left untreated.
This post will discuss average food relationships. People's lives revolve around food, whether they realize it or not. Fitness people know their lives do, with all the meal-prepping and macro counting, its hard not to be thinking about food all the time. When you get together with friends and family, food is always involved in some way. Events, special occasions, etc. all involve food. So much of our social life revolves around stuffing our mouths. This can make it difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan, especially if you battle a food addiction in some way. Then you have unhealthy eating habits and actual cravings working against you.
First I will discuss my own relationship with food, and that of my friends', then give tips on how to improve an unhealthy food relationship.
For me, food is either a necessity or convenience. I love food, especially when I don't have to cook it. I'm also a bored eater, so when I have nothing to occupy my time, I choose food to keep busy. I'm sure you've heard of mindless eating before, such as eating in front of the TV. If I don't have anything cooked, I will go for something convenient, and usually unhealthy and overly processed, before I cook for myself. On the flip side, when I am busy, I often forget to eat. If I'm stressed, upset, or feeling another negative emotion, I lose my appetite.
So where's the healthy balance? Its in meal planning and prepping. You know what you are going to eat and its already made and portioned out. There's no overeating from boredom or forgetting to eat because its sitting there waiting.
Now I am on a strict diet for contest prep, so even with my flexible dieting, I am deprived. I've developed a desire to cook meals and bake when I didn't like to cook at all before. I get pleasure from seeing other people enjoy my cooking. I don't struggle with overeating as long as I remain aware of what I'm doing- no mindless eating.
Now, my friends have a different relationship with food. Both are emotional eaters. Then, overeating because they felt bad makes them feel worse. This can cause self-loathing and a vicious cycle occurs.
It's harder for them to let go of the food addiction because they've been using it as an emotional crutch. This is a common unhealthy relationship. If you recognize it, you can control it. Sometimes it is more extreme and you may need to seek outside help and find resources to rely on to get it under control. Whatever you need to do- the goal is to rewire your brain and form healthy eating habits.
For those that recognize they have an unhealthy relationship with food and have the ability to do some self-tough love, here are some tips:
First, recognize the issue. If you are cheating on your eating program more often than following it, you may need to reevaluate your relationship with food. In order to stay consistent, you can't feel as if you are depriving yourself. So don't count calories of macros when you are starting the rewire process. However, there has to be some form of control. Use an "eat this, not that" approach to food sources. Keep sources clean and run away from refined sugar, fried food, and overly processed food. Your body will start detoxing itself and as it rids itself of those toxins you will feel better overall. Make sure your food throughout the day is balanced in each food group*.
Don't mindlessly eat. Even too much of a "good" food source will counteract the changes you're looking for. While you are eating clean, say "I DON'T eat that" rather than "I CAN'T". You are rewiring your brain and "can't" is a deprivation word while "don't" is a control word. Also, focus on the food you can have rather than what you are choosing to cut out of your life. You'll be surprised at all the new flavors you'll discover.
For all this to work, plan your meals and prep. This way you know what you're eating and won't grab convenient junk because you already have your clean food cooked and ready. If you feel the need to eat more than what you had prepped that day, its okay. Don't beat yourself up for eating more. Just keep it clean. Once you develop the habit of healthy eating, you can start fine-tuning with tracking and counting macros. *Following posts will discuss food sources in relation to allergies and sensitivities and elimination diets.