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Do you have a healthy relationship with food ..learn to nourish not punish
September '16

 

 

Unhealthy boom and bust or yo-yo dieting eating cycles along with body image issues mean many of us have developed unhealthy relationships with food often from a young age. This works on both subconscious and conscious levels.

 

Consciously we try to eat less, feel stressed and no longer truly enjoy food as there is also guilt attached. Subconsciously our bodies are not designed to calorie restrict so our hunger mechanisms kick in, both hormonally and physically. This results in craving high calorie ‘unhealthy foods’ to make up the deficit. Also as we eat less, we don’t feel full and go on to associate fullness with failing at our goal instead of being our body's natural way of telling us that we have had enough to eat.

 

Breaking this cycle and recreating a healthy relationship with food is therefore one of the most important factors in the road to health. Here are my top tips to nourish your body not battle with it.

 

EMBRACE MINDFUL EATING

Consciously tasting and enjoying food, rather being on autopilot when you eat, often distracted by people, phones, TV, work, computers etc.  Try to only eat when sitting at a table while not doing anything else. Writing a food diary also brings constant awareness to food choices. It can be easily done by writing notes or diary entries in your phone. If you have a craving or are tempted by ‘junk’ foods, wait ten minutes, do another task and then ask yourself again whether you really want it.

 

COUNT NUTRIENTS, NOT CALORIES

Creating a positive relationship with food should be all about what you are ‘putting into your body’ i.e. a nutrients/food counting mentality, not what you are ‘taking out of your body’ i.e. a calorie counting mentality. Focusing on creating a healthy diet with as much ‘good’ stuff as possible will mean that you will be filling up and crowding out the not so healthy stuff.

 

EMPLOY THE 80/20 RULE

It is unrealistic to eat ‘healthy foods’ all the time and total abstinence is psychologically difficult to maintain. Allow space to enjoy less healthy foods.

 

Employing the 80% healthy to 20% more relaxed mindset is a better balance and allows for ‘treat days’ as well as social and work occasions. If you do have a ‘cheat’ enjoy it - do not see it as ‘failure.’ Make a note of it in your diary to see how often you are doing it. Make eating a conscious and pleasurable action.

 

DON’T EAT JUST FOR THE SAKE OF IT

Eating can become a habit that is emotional, eating because we want comfort, or we are bored. Connect to your hunger mechanism. It takes 15 minutes to feel satiation. Therefore, eat your food slowly, chew carefully to aid digestion and wait at least 15 minutes until deciding whether you have had enough to eat or if you are still hungry.

 

A combination of complex carbohydrates with proteins and fibres will make you feel fuller for longer by balancing your blood sugar levels. Start listening to your body, note how and which foods and drinks make you feel good, light and energised and what foods make you feel sluggish and hungrier. Once you tune in, you will start to crave the foods that make you feel good.

 

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MEALS

Eat enough at your meals, don’t restrict meaning that you end up in a snack binge later in the day. Vegetables and plant proteins are low in calories but dense in physical size, micronutrients, water and fibre. They will physically fill up your stomach much more than starchy carbohydrates, unhealthy fats or animal proteins. Having lots and lots of these healthy plant-based foods as the basis of your meals with smaller amounts of healthy fats, wholegrains and lean animal proteins will fill you up, thus reducing cravings and snacking.

 

PRACTICE ‘LETTING GO’

We are our own harshest critics, often what we want to achieve is an unhealthy level of perfection. A healthy body is not necessarily a ‘perfect’ body. Start to love your body for its ability to amazing things everyday, for the way it makes you feel and health and vitality. Let go of unrealistic asthetic ideals. 

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