Changing Your Relationship with Food

Posted on November 18th, 2013 by in Healthy Living, Nutrition

mindful_eatingWhat if food was your friend, not the enemy? A source of nourishment and pleasure, rather than angst and self-loathing? For many women and girls, that’s hard to imagine.

Recent studies show that 81 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat and 51 percent of 9- and 10-year-olds say they feel better on a diet, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Do you seek a healthy, happy relationship with food and your body? A long-term solution might require a new, counterintuitive approach.

Stop Punishing Yourself

A common mistake people make when trying to lose weight is attempting to create change through willpower and self-discipline. Unfortunately, that often results in a feeling of deprivation, which triggers a response to eat more, according to Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member Susan B. Lord, MD.

Susan says that being kind to yourself and approaching old eating habits with curiosity, not blame, yields better results.

Instead of cutting things out of your diet (“I will never eat sugar again”), start experimenting with a feeling of abundance by adding more veggies and fruits, says Kripalu Lead Nutritionist Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT.

Kripalu invited presenter Charles Eisenstein suggests taking a more holistic approach to eating—“to bring into alignment, into union, what you need and what you crave, what your body wants and what you actually eat”—instead of creating conflict between yourself and the food.

Can you start to let food into your life as a source of nourishment? Can you allow it to take on a meaningful role by sharing it with others? As your attitude shifts, so will your attachment to unhealthy habits.

Why It’s Not About the Food

In her immersion program Women and Food: A Journey to Nourishment, Susan says “we don’t even talk about the food [at the beginning]. We talk about the underlying issues, the stressors in your life.”

What are your triggers? Are you eating because you’re stressed, bored, or lacking other sources of pleasure? Or, are you avoiding food to gain a sense of control that you don’t feel in other areas of your life?

Either way, you need a clear understanding of what’s really going on. Practices such as yogic breathing, meditation, journaling, and mindfulness can help you bring clarity to the present moment.

These tools are crucial, Susan says, because poor eating habits are almost always unconscious—most people aren’t even aware of what they’re doing while they’re downing a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips. Being present to your patterns of eating can be both painful and liberating. But it’s not until you understand what you’re putting in your mouth, and why, that your relationship with food can truly transform.

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About Jennifer Mattson

Jennifer Mattson is a journalist, writer, yogini, and kirtan junkie. A former volunteer resident at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, she’s a former broadcast news producer for CNN and National Public Radio. Her reporting and writing have appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, USA Today and the Women’s Review of Books.