Updated: Sep 6
Imagine if eating were as simple as refueling your car.
You'd know when you were hungry.
And you'd never eat more than your fill.
It'd be obvious what was good & bad—
Taste wouldn't be a differentiator.
What a dream!
When I think about having a healthy connection with food, I think about a relationship that's mostly uncomplicated by the rules of diet culture.
I remember comparing myself to other girls when I was younger. When I was worried about my body image, I was always jealous of my girlfriends. Unlike me, they had "normal" relationships with food: They ate if they were hungry and left food on their plates if they'd had enough. They didn't get obsessive over the scale…ever. They ate what they wanted, and they enjoyed a variety of foods like spaghetti with meat sauce, cookies, fast food, and of course, ice cream. I don't believe they ever calculated calories, restricted eating, or went on a diet. My girlfriends just ate, and it was so normal.
And by "normal," I mean making choices about food that come from your own feelings, desires, cravings, and needs, as opposed to fad diet rules.
Eating "normally" has everything to do with your relationship to food and nothing to do with your actual diet. Everyone's diet is unique, but normal eating isn't about the food we choose, it's how and why. Normal isn't the same as healthy; it doesn't mean eating tons of vegetables or tracking official nutrition recommendations. It's about your emotional relationship with food and eating.
You might not know this, but if you're a chronic dieter, you might not even remember HOW to eat according to your internal signals. People who have been on restrictive diets lose their body's natural hunger and fullness cues.
Kim Tanzer, M.S.W., R.S.W., a Toronto-based psychotherapist and owner of This Messy Life, says, "Dieting makes it all too easy to ignore our bodies' messages; we override hunger or disregard satiety. When we go on a diet, we very often sacrifice the pleasure that food brings to our lives."
Tanzer says that "normal" eating is tuning in and learning to trust the body's wisdom. It allows for, and honors, the ebb and flow of appetite and different food selections. Enabling us to be flexible in our method of eating, which, in turn, provides the pleasure of food and enjoyment of a healthy mind and body. So...
How can we change our relationship with food?
The answer comes down to simplicity.
Reconnect with your hunger.
Don't let anything but hunger drive your schedule—If you're not hungry (even at "lunchtime"), then don't eat!
Feed your body what it's craving.
Tune the world out for a second. Stop dieting, binging, and watering your palette with junk food. Instead, really LISTEN to your body. You might be surprised by what it craves.
Try not to use food as a reward or punishment.
Food is fuel. Remove the emotion, and celebrate in ways that have nothing to do with food. Because it's your emotions that drive your habits.
Change your relationship with food, and your relationship with yourself will follow naturally.
Special thanks to Eve Lahinjani for talking on this subject for TED and inspiring this post!
Watch her TEDx Talk here 👇