My inspiration for writing and giving workshops about a relationship with food, as part of developing healthy personal relationships, was twofold:
- I noticed some of my clients could cure everything… but taking care of their body. They would get well from a general mental health perspective, but going all the way to being physically good to themselves seemed to require an extra step.
- After my book, Get Married This Year: 365 Days to I Do, was published, I began writing articles about “training to get married” – attaining your best shape mentally, physically and emotionally. I believe these three are tied together, and that what it takes to succeed is similar in all categories: knowing why you are making the choices you are making, developing a positive attitude, behavioral change, and stress reduction.
One of our most important life tasks is to know what we care about the most. And attaching our true responses – not necessarily the ones we’ve learned or been told we should feel – to emotions can be a significant achievement.
Feeding your emotions with food doesn’t help your emotional state and is the antithesis of thinking thin. Hand a sad, thin person a doughnut and they will definitely assess you as less than compassionate. Comfort food just isn’t as comforting as a good cry, seeking out sympathy, or making a change that would produce more happiness.
For those unable to cope with anger or conflict, stuffing food in their mouths can be a way of silencing their voices. So, being upset gets hidden from others and sometimes even themselves. Waiting to express anger can be a great idea, but that would be a pause… not silence. To successfully handle conflict, you need to speak up with authenticity and act with determination, or flee the scene.
Feeling glad is something you can relish and enjoy without champagne or cake. Elation has no connection with hunger, and food and alcohol can dull the happiness. Getting outside, shouting for joy, singing, dancing, or sharing your good news are more satisfying expressions.
Take this quiz to assess your current attitude toward food.
Is Food Your Friend?
Answer yes or no to each of the nine questions below to determine whether or not you have a satisfying relationship with food.
- Do you believe food is food and not a substitute for expressing anger or feeling sad or glad?
- Have you stopped dreading dinners out or parties because you only eat what you want to eat and are guided by internal urges not external lures?
- Will you pledge to stop the diet yo-yo and get off the scales for good?
- Can you become a champion chewer who savors every bite?
- Do you waste food?
- Will you make all necessary effort to give yourself pleasing, satisfying, healthy meals or snacks every time you eat?
- Is drinking 8 8oz. glasses of water a daily health habit?
- Do you stop eating the moment you are no longer hungry?
- Are you ready to accept the challenge of conscious eating?
If you answered yes to all the questions, congratulations – you have a healthy relationship with food.
If you have some no answers, list three steps you can take to change. Set goals and meet them. Procrastination about achieving your goals can sometimes be a factor in weight gain, but for certain it is a psychological burden.
Use these “9 Food Rules” below as a guide, but the first rule is… ignore me and anyone else with rules that don’t fit your life! And when you change, as we all do, break your own rules and get new ones.
9 Food Rules to Live By
- Don’t mindlessly read the menu or search the pantry or frig – that is grazing. Ask the server what they recommend for low salt, mostly vegetables, low simple carbohydrates, or heart healthy selections. And at home keep your wisest choices at eye level.
- Never hoard. Eat for the moment. You aren’t in a remote region. Even if you won’t have time for a big meal later (and that’s good), keep food available at home, in your car and at the office.
- Allow your brain time to know you’ve eaten – chew thoroughly and slowly. Take small bites and talk, gaze, or stand up in between them.
- Cancel your membership to the Clean Plate Club. You won’t solve world hunger by getting overly full and uncomfortable.
- Two-for-one deals are no deal if you eat both of them. Waste food. Throw or give away what you don’t want, it’s better off in the trash than your stomach. This isn’t really wasting: it’s food sanity.
- Want instant weight loss? Drink your 8 8 oz. helpings of water everyday. Water is a detox that helps reduce false hunger pangs. How can you distinguish the difference between dehydration and hunger? When you first feel hungry, drink a glass of water before you eat. Question answered.
- Always determine if you are truly hungry, then eat only what you want – healthy choice preferred but not mandatory – and stop the instant your hunger is sated.
- Limit weighing to once a month or less. Muscle weighs more than fat and weight fluctuations occur. One good restaurant meal can leave you with 2-3 pounds of salt retention that will disappear as soon as you return to your usual habits. Your clothes and the way you feel are adequate measures of your size.
- Make all meals happy meals – plan, prepare, present, savor.
My philosophy is not about food – it’s about joy. Food, glorious food, is to be enjoyed in the quantity and quality that suits your body and your desires. When you discover the good habits that really work for you, keeping them can become effortless.
Attitude really is everything. Maybe we are what we eat, but we are certainly what we feel and what we believe. Being comfortable in your own skin helps life and love go well.