I vividly remember the day I thought I was going to have to just “give in” and “let myself go” because restriction was so miserable! I was a yo-yo dieter for all of my teen years. I couldn’t trust myself around food. So I was either starving myself or overeating and being sad about it... If you can relate, you're not alone... But I have to tell you that it is not how life is supposed to be!! You deserve to live with FOOD FREEDOM and THRIVE!
We live in a society obsessed with attaining and idolizing thinness, which means that when our own bodies don’t measure up, we become dissatisfied, and take measures to repent for our “dieting faux pas.”
These restricting eating patterns quickly shift into disordered eating behaviors which leave us feeling guilty, ashamed, and ultimately powerless. But it doesn’t have to be that way!!
Take a moment to think about your FAVORITE food. What would happen if you were to allow yourself to eat that food, when you craved it, without associating negative, shameful, guilty feelings with it?! What if you could trust yourself with food again?! And be that girl that just eats!! Here are a few tips on how to have a healthier relationship with food.
Let Yourself BE FREE! There is a place for everything in your diet.
If your goal is to heal your relationship with food, the first thing you have to internalize is that no food is “bad” food. Seriously... just ditch the concept of good and bad foods it is not helping you get where you want to be.
Also, food does not exist solely for the purpose of powering our bodies. There is a place for everything in your diet—as long as there are no allergies or medical issues present.
The best place to start is to get comfortable eating a wide variety of foods, experimenting with new foods, and eating for both nourishment and for pleasure.
Some foods taste good, some foods simply make us happy—these are valid enough reasons to eat those foods. In fact, getting pleasure from our food allows us to associate positive feelings to our experiences with food, which helps us create a healthy relationship with food in general.
Ask Yourself What Dieting Means To You.
For most people, dieting means restricting, cutting back, abstaining, and sacrificing. It means purging your pantry of all the foods you love and replacing them with less flavorful, less fulfilling, less happy-making foods.
It could mean passing on dessert - not even allowing yourself a bite - because you’re afraid you’ll lose control. It could mean settling for a glass of water when what you really want is a glass of lemonade.
It usually means slapping yourself on the wrist when you “break” your diet rules.
What’s missing? Compassion.
When you’re dieting, you’re typically in a state of high alert, paying close attention to what foods you come across, and whether those foods are “safe” or “dangerous” to be around.
In order to break your unhealthy food habits, you have to shift from strict dieting to relaxed eating.
What is relaxed eating? I didn’t know what this what until long after I had figured it out on my own.
Relaxed eating responds to changes in your routine, changes in your mood, and changes in your physical demands with compassion and ease. Some days, you’ll expend more energy than usual, and be hungrier! On these days, allow yourself to eat more food.
Some days, you’ll feel like snacking on a bar of chocolate. Let yourself.
Some days, you’ll feel like ordering a salad to go with your burger. Other days you’ll feel like having a side of fries. Allow yourself to eat what you want.
Show yourself compassion, and don’t beat yourself up for making these “wrong” choices. Doing so is an extension of self-care and body acceptance.
Doing so helps you create a relaxed relationship with food, which will allow you to eat more intuitively, gain a better understanding of what your body needs, and develop a deep sense of self-trust that will inevitably benefit you in all areas of your life.
Ignoring Hunger Cues Can Lead to disordered eating habits.
An important step in creating relaxed eating habits is learning to honor your hunger. We all hear arbitrary facts about how many calories we should be eating each day based on our gender or age. As a result, even if our bodies are telling us to reach for seconds, we believe that we “shouldn’t” eat anymore. This is especially true when we’re eating in the presence of others, where some people are more likely to restrict themselves. Unfortunately, partaking in these habits (not feeding ourselves properly) can lead to binge eating, triggering feelings of guilt, and adding to that negative cycle that diet culture relies on.
I now try to get as many vitamins and nutrients from food as possible to heal my thyroid... So, rather than trying to fight through my hunger, I am always eating before I get hungry... This change was EVERYTHING for me and really helped me make better choices // not eat too quickly!
One meal won’t make a difference!
A note that I’d like to make because I used to SWEAR that one meal made me gain 5 pounds…. Eating that extravagant, fatty, delicious, carb-loaded meal isn’t going to ruin your chances of reaching your health goals. In fact, an occasional indulgence is an important tool for helping you maintain a healthy and sustainable food plan.
Enjoy your meal and don't feel guilty about it! It should be a treat. Not a part of your lifestyle! Remember, ENJOY IT, it is not ruining anything unless you allow it to.
Make sure you’re eating enough.
A few years ago, if I wanted to lose weight I could just minimize my calories and lose a few pounds…. then one day I tried to do that and I started gaining weight.
An important part of finding peace within your relationship with food is learning how to know when you’re full.
This likely means that you need to eat more than you’re currently eating.
That’s right. You likely need to eat more food. Most people have an overwhelming fear of overeating, this prevents them from actually getting enough to eat, which keeps them stuck in disordered eating cycles.
As a rule of thumb, I always like to eat half… Then if I’m still thinking about food once I’ve eaten, or I am not sure whether I’m full, I’m probably not!
Consider How Your Eating Habits Developed.
Did your parents insist that you clean your plate no matter what they put in front of you?
Did you grow up with a family member who was constantly commenting on or criticizing you for your weight or appearance?
Did you grow up with people who used food as a source of comfort?
Did people in your life shame themselves for eating certain foods?
Was someone in your family always on a diet?
Think about how your caregivers felt about food, and how those attitudes shaped your beliefs.
Once you’ve had a chance to think about HOW your thoughts about food, eating, and dieting have been shaped, it becomes that much easier to pinpoint and clarify your own disordered eating habits.
NOTE: Your eating habits are probably very similar to the eating habits of your caretakers!
Check-In With Your Emotions
For most of us, we’ve been fed a steady diet of the following set of beliefs:
Being fat is bad.
Food makes you fat.
Therefore, food can be bad.
In reality, food is a necessity in order to survive. This means that these negative feelings we’ve associated with food can actually cause us a lot of harm and undue stress. In fact, it can create a cycle that might feel familiar to you:
- You feel hungry.
- You eat.
- Maybe you eat a food that you’ve learned to associate as “bad,” so you internally feel “bad.”
- Or maybe you eat too much of a food that is “fine” but not “good/clean/healthy/low-calorie.” So you still end up feeling emotionally unwell.
- Or perhaps you only eat “good/clean/healthy/low-calorie” foods but still don’t feel full, which makes you more likely to gravitate toward “bad” foods later.
- Or it’s possible you don’t eat because all that you are craving are “bad” foods, but you won’t allow yourself to eat those foods because you believe that “giving in" to your cravings is bad.
Remember, food is not put on this planet to stress us out - its supposed to help us thrive and survive!
There is no ideal weight! There is only your body's Ideal Weight.
For example, just because your sister has never weighed more than 125 pounds in her life and your best friend stays at a solid 140, doesn’t mean that it’s a “bad” thing if you fluctuate between 160 and 175.
In reality, health comes in many different shapes and sizes, and what constitutes a “healthy” weight is different for each one of us! In fact, you’ll be in the best place to take care of your own health and well-being when you learn to reject the cultural fixation on thinness and reclaim what “healthy” means for you.
This is hard work. This won’t happen overnight. You will need to put in the effort to rewire the way you think about food, but your body (and your mind) will benefit greatly from doing so!
Whatever weight you FEEL your absolute best at, is probably your ideal weight.. And it is okay to want to change a body that doesn't feel good to you, but don't stress about it! Just take note of it and start to explore different foods / healthy habits! You could be eating foods that cause inflammation and make you feel sluggish and your body slows down. Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you!!
Know What Happens When You Skip Meals
People skip meals for many reasons. Sometimes, it’s because they’re so busy that they forget to eat. Sometimes, they don’t have food available to eat. Other times,
people forgo food with the intention to “save their calories” and indulge later in the day... So, does restricting food actually aid in weight loss?
When you skip a meal, your blood sugar decreases, which interrupts your ability to think clearly. Your brain needs glucose (sugar) to run efficiently, and when there’s not enough glucose, your body stops functioning at 100%...
Low blood sugar also causes people to feel irritable, confused, and fatigued, which makes the body increase its production of cortisol, a stress hormone. THIS IS WHY I STOPPED INTERMITTENT FASTING! When it comes to intermittent fasting, I personally believe it is beneficial for a few weeks/months at a time but shouldn't be a lifestyle! And women should definitely not fast long term. I'll dive deeper into this in another post.
Basically, when you skip a meal, your body goes into survival mode, sending stress signals and making you crave foods that are high in fat, carbs, and sugar - basically
anything that will give you the instant energy you need to balance back out.
To summarize, skipping meals or not allowing yourself to eat to true satiety will leave you tired, stressed, and craving high-calorie foods, so try and avoid it whenever
If you're like me and don't want breakfast most day, have a banana or apple! I swear the change happens when you eat regularly throughout the day. You have more energy to do things and life is so much more fun. You also end up burning more calories because you can do things at a higher consistency!
Stop Demonizing Certain Foods
Repeat after me:
Carbs are not bad. (VEGGIES ARE CARBS!)
Fats are not bad.
Protein is not bad.
Seriously, throughout history, we have been wrong about every macronutrient which is why it's so important to trust that you know best for your body! When you feel stressed about food/weight... Take a second to slow down and then ask yourself what you need. It sounds silly but it helps so much!
Processed foods (are not the BEST fuel for your body). But if that's all that available for you -- enjoy! It is good for your mental health!
French fries from your favorite fast fast-food joint are delicious and happy-making.... That slice of birthday cake brings a smile to your face, and honestly, that’s important.
When you demonize certain foods or food groups and restrict yourself from eating them, you’ll crave them even more, which leads to binging when you do “allow”
yourself to eat, which leads to guilt, and more restriction as a result. This binging and guilt is not good for your health AT ALL.
What are some foods that you’ve mentally noted as “bad” or “off-limits?”
Share in the blog comments!
As soon as you allow yourself to eat whatever you want, you will start to crave healthier foods that make you feel good!
Set Positive & Attainable Health Goals
We all have health goals, and we each set those goals for different reasons. However, all too often people set their health goals with the explicit hope of losing weight,
and that’s where they go wrong.
Think of the last health goal you had, whether it was an exercise routine you wanted to try, a diet, or something else. Did you stick with it? Or did you stop because you
didn’t see results fast enough?
Most likely, it was the latter.
We’re obsessed with instant gratification, making it easy for us to fall for gimmicky diets and challenges. Once I realized my lack of patients was a big part of my unhealthy eating patterns... I was able to call myself out and focus on the long term!
Unfortunately, there is no magic workout routine, supplement, diet plan, or industry secret that will effectively and sustainably slim our bodies and get us feeling better. It takes time, and it takes a strategy.
This is why I do 1-on-1 coaching and created a program with resources for people to follow along and find out what works for them!
One of the best ways to create a plan that works for you is to work in step with a wellness professional (LIKE ME) who can assess your current lifestyle habits and help you create a strategy for moving forward toward goals that make sense and are realistic for you.
What Is Orthorexia?
Orthorexia, or orthorexia nervosa, is a form of disordered eating that involves an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Unlike anorexia or bulimia, people with
orthorexia are rarely focused on losing weight. Instead, they are obsessed with eating foods that they consider healthy or “clean,” while systematically avoiding foods
believed to be harmful. When people create these rules and structure around their diets, they feel surges of confidence when they’re able to exhibit control; however, when they falter, the kneejerk reaction is to tighten the reins, ultimately setting themselves up for failure. Also, these types of restrictive diets can quickly turn into micronutrient imbalances and deficiencies in the body.
*It is important that you work with a professional when trying an elimination diet or are altering your diet for health purposes. For example, having Hashimoto there were times on my journey I felt a little bit too extreme -- but there is a difference here. I'm happy to talk to anyone that wants to talk about their personal journey.
Find Healthy Ways To Deal With Stress.
This is something I talk about often... Stress is just the WOT (worst of all time).
When we have an emotional relationship with food, it’s easy to use that food as a tool for coping with stress. For some of us, that might mean restricting certain foods to feel a sense of control... For some of us, that might mean turning to food to bring you pleasure... For some of us, it might be both these things, neither, or something in between.
Here’s the bottom line. We all have stress, and we all need to find ways of dealing with that stress that doesn’t involve interrupting the way we feed our bodies.
Currently, what’s your way of coping with stress?
For example, when you have a bad day at work, what do you do about it?
Feel free to respond in the comments!
Stop Negative Self Talk.
You probably don’t realize how often you talk down to yourself! Whether it’s a little dig at your weight when you see your reflection as you walk by a mirror, or a full-blown breakdown you have in the dressing room when you no longer fit into your usual size of jeans, every piece of negative talk adds up and builds unhealthy thought patterns in your mind!
If I were to ask you right now, “What do you think about your body?” What would you say?
BREAK UP WITH THE SCALE!
If you’re in the habit of weighing yourself every morning and hyper-focusing on the number that pops up in front of you, your eating habits will certainly be affected.
Say that you hop on your scale, and you’re five pounds heavier than you were the last time you weighed yourself - what’s the first thought or feeling that might come to mind?
“I’m not eating the rest of the day.”
“I need to go on a diet.”
“How did I let this happen?”
Sound familiar? If so, these feelings will likely result in behaviors like restrictive eating, skipping meals, counting calories, or creating other arbitrary rules for ourselves that just makes us unhappy and stressed out. Then that stress ends up causing us to gain more weight! And we lose motivation! But if you never know, you will make better choices... even if you end up LOSING weight.
Think about it when was the last time you weighed yourself? How did that number on the scale make you feel?
Understand social media is supposed to inspire you and improve your quality of life through connection.
Honestly, for every photo, I post on my Instagram... I probably take like 100 photos?! And my Instagram is average lol. I also don't post when I feel gross and bloated because I don't want to have my photo taken on those days?! Sometimes I will post on days I feel gross and then delete it later. I also work pretty hard to live a healthy lifestyle so I don't think my body on those days is an accurate representation of me HAH. I think that Is fair?!
MY POINT IS you don’t see a majority of people on Instagram when they're having a bad day, getting bloated, feeling stressed, and breaking down... and sometimes we see those posts but I don't find them inspiring... they make me sad.
But yes, because we’re only exposed to the highlight reel, it’s easy to compare ourselves to the images we see, and quickly start to feel bad about ourselves. Other people shouldn't make us feel bad about ourselves! I encourage you to get to the root of that feeling. When you are YOUR BEST SELF, you'll realize you ARE ENOUGH.
Talk About Your Feelings & Write Them Down!
Humans are social creatures, and we have an innate need within us to share and bond with other humans. This intersocial dialogue is what our brains require to properly process our thoughts and build resilience to keep surviving.
This means that in order to stay mentally well, we need to process (and talk about) our feelings.
If you have a trusted friend, family member, or partner who has expressed interest in hearing about your life and your well-being, talk to them about your feelings.
If you don’t feel as though you have anyone in your life who can take on the emotional labor of talking through your thoughts, consider reaching out to a counselor, therapist, support group, or wellness specialist who can provide you with professional support and guidance.
In addition, or as a first step, try journaling. Write down your thoughts when you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, afraid, unworthy, or anything else. Our thoughts will
bottle up and knock around our minds unless we find ways to release them and allow them to come full circle; writing these thoughts down is a great way to help this
process move along.
I also love a morning pages exercise -- first thing in the morning right down every thought you have on your mind. The good & Bad!! If you want, you can tear it up afterward.
I covered a lot in this post so if you have any questions, I encourage you to leave those thoughts in the comment below, because I’m sure you’re not the only one wondering!
How will you begin reclaiming and redefining "healthy eating" in your life?
I am always happy to speak with you and work with anyone who is looking for one-on-one nutrition and fitness coaching. Book a free consultation and we can chat!
If you or anyone you know needs support with an eating disorder, check out these resources:
Resources referred to in this post:
How to have a healthy relationship with food: