In today's bustling world, our relationship with food can easily become strained. Balancing the demands of daily life while nurturing a healthy connection with what we eat often proves challenging. However, fostering a positive relationship with food involves a holistic approach that encompasses both the mind and body. Here, we'll explore the top ten aspects that can significantly enhance this relationship, focusing on five physical and mental strategies each.
How to improve your relationship with food on a physical level
1.Blood Sugar Management
Maintaining stable blood sugar levels significantly impacts overall health. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, disrupts this balance, causing energy fluctuations throughout the day. Consistent intake of balanced meals at regular intervals avoids energy crashes, supporting continuous productivity and naturally curbing cravings without relying on willpower. Persistent irregularities in blood glucose control may contribute to conditions such as diabetes, mineral deficiencies, and a range of mental health issues including depression, mood swings, diminished concentration, and confusion.
Nourishing our bodies with essential nutrients is fundamental. Prioritising a balanced diet and meeting nutritional requirements can play a crucial role in stabilising hunger cues. Embracing a diet rich in diverse fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats ensures that our bodies receive the necessary vitamins and minerals for optimal functioning.
3.Gut Health Maintenance
The gut plays a pivotal role in overall health and in one’s relationship with food. Incorporating probiotics, prebiotics, and fibre-rich foods supports a healthy gut microbiome. That said, this can be tricky for some if gut health is compromised and can exacerbate symptoms such as for example bloating or abdominal discomfort. Also, for example, IBS symptoms can lead to food restriction in an attempt to resolve symptoms and can constitute a major driver of poor relationship with food due to fear of debilitating symptoms. Professional guidance might be required especially in these cases to resolve any digestive symptoms once and for all to ensure optimal digestion, absorption of nutrients, and promote overall well-being.
Prioritising quality sleep is indispensable. A lack of sleep can disrupt levels of hormones ghrelin and leptin, leading to increased hunger and cravings for unhelpful foods. Moreover, even a single night of partial sleep deprivation can hamper insulin sensitivity, impairing the body's ability to regulate blood glucose and amplifying hunger and cravings the following day. Strive for consistent sleep patterns, ideally aiming for 7-8 hours each night. This practice not only supports metabolic health but also enhances overall vitality, empowering you to approach each day with renewed energy and focus.
5.Mindful Eating & Chewing
Mindful eating is a practice that encompasses savouring each bite, immersing oneself in the array of flavours, textures, and the holistic eating experience, away from the distractions of electronic devices. Research indicates that eating in company of electronic devices like TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones can result in increased food intake compared to eating without these distractions. Engaging in mindful eating not only fosters better digestion but also heightens our sensitivity to hunger and satiety cues, encouraging a more balanced approach to eating habits. By deliberately focusing on the meal at hand, free from technological diversions, we can truly appreciate the nourishment and experience the satisfaction of a well-enjoyed meal.
How to improve your relationship with food on a Mental Level
Chronic stress can disrupt the delicate balance of hunger hormones, often leading to altered eating patterns. Incorporating stress-relieving activities into your routine, such as yoga, meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, or engaging hobbies, actively reduces cortisol levels. Lowering stress minimises the tendency to turn to food for comfort or stress relief, promoting a healthier relationship with eating habits.
Developing a positive mindset towards food begins with acknowledging the body's fundamental need for nourishment. Reflecting on past mealtime experiences from childhood can provide valuable insights into shaping healthier relationships with food. By understanding and appreciating one’s ‘food story’ including the influences and emotions attached to eating habits, individuals can establish a more positive and fulfilling approach to consuming meals.
Recognising the hurdles that hinder positive changes in eating habits is pivotal. Identifying these barriers lays the foundation for devising effective strategies to overcome them. Whether it's time constraints, emotional triggers, or lifestyle factors, understanding these obstacles allows for tailored solutions to foster healthier eating practices.
Food and emotions often intertwine in complex ways. Acknowledging the emotional connections to food is crucial. Recognising if food is frequently used as a coping mechanism for stress, boredom, or other emotions is an essential step. Exploring alternative, healthier coping mechanisms enhances emotional well-being and contributes to a more balanced relationship with food.
Understanding the broader role of food in life's context is significant. Setting personal goals that integrate mindfulness practices into daily routines enhances self-awareness. This approach helps align food choices with overall life objectives, fostering a deeper connection between eating habits and personal aspirations. By identifying how food aligns with broader life goals, individuals can make conscious choices that support their overall well-being.
By addressing these mental and mindset aspects, individuals can develop a more mindful, positive, and purposeful approach to their relationship with food. Recognising the impact of stress, fostering a positive mindset, identifying barriers, becoming emotionally aware, and aligning food choices with personal purpose collectively contribute to a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.
If you would like to discuss anything you've read in this blog in relation to your own concerns around your relationship with food, then please book a call with our Eating Disordern Nutritional Therapist.
Registered Nutritional Therapist, Health Coach,
Eating Disorder and Obesity Specialist
Irina has a special interest in eating disorders and disordered eating, such as binge eating, bulimia, chronic dieting, restrictive eating, emotional eating, and poor relationship with food in general. To provide support in these areas and any co-occurring health conditions, Irina offers a personalised approach, which combines nutritional, behavioural, and psychological interventions.