Have you ever felt like your biggest challenge each day is figuring out what to eat? I hear so many friends and family, both face to face and on social media, say that eating is their biggest struggle when it comes to staying healthy. They have a difficult time steering clear of unhealthy foods or feel that they must restrict themselves from their favorite foods. I’m here to show that it doesn’t have to be a struggle; you can make peace with food.
Part of the reason I created Eating Enchanted was to help people see that there is a completely different way of looking at this issue. Eating can be a gift you give yourself rather than a hindrance or hurdle you have to jump over each day. When you shift your perspective, you can make peace with food. Yes, you really can! Approaching food and healthy eating as a gift requires a bit of a departure from the norm. We have fallen into a pattern where we villianize certain foods, champion diets, and subject ourselves to restriction and guilt. Why is this and how did we get here? How did we get to a place where food is a struggle and eating is a chore? How do we make peace with our food?
First, we need to realize that a diet mentality is all wrong. Limitations, restrictions and guilt do not make a happy person. They make a stressed out person. The word diet implies deprivation and negativity. You will see that I don’t use the word “diet” to describe what we eat; I prefer to use the term healthy spectrum. Deprivation, guilt and restriction should be a thing of the past. Second, your goal should be to build a sustainable healthy lifestyle, not a temporary situation so that you can look good on a particular day or fit into a particular dress. Third, making peace with your food requires a shift in mindset to the positive; you must release all guilt, self loathing and negativity that is attached to dieting, and instead create a loving positive environment that surrounds your food and your eating habits.
How do we do this? The answer is quite simple actually, but takes a bit of self awareness. In order to change your perspective to the positive and release all the negativity that has been thrust upon you by the diet industry, you will need to listen to what you are saying to yourself about food and what you are saying to others. First, embrace healthy eating as a gift you give yourself each day. For an in-depth description on this concept please read the Eating Enchanted Philosophy. Once you have resolved to give your self the gift of healthy eating, you will want to change your vocabulary about eating and use positive language to describe your eating. Please see the Eating Enchanted Vocabulary As you begin to tune in to what you are thinking, feeling and saying about food, you may notice that you are inclined to be very judgmental with yourself and others about food. I hear people say all the time, “I was so bad today, I ate…” Well, guess what, why is it bad to have ice cream, a doughnut or pizza? What if we look at it differently?
If you are giving yourself the gift of healthy eating, then if you are out on a date, at a party or just really wanting a doughnut, you can give yourself permission and enjoy it. You know that you have been giving yourself the gift of healthy eating, and that you will continue to do so tomorrow, so you can happily enjoy this meal, party or treat without any guilt, or an ounce of negativity. Keeping it positive is not only being kind to yourself, it also fosters a balanced sustainable healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, if you are giving yourself permission and are establishing a positive relationship with food, this helps eliminate the feelings that lead to things like binge eating. If you are eating within your healthy spectrum each day, and you know you can give yourself permission when you want to or need to, then you are in a positive, balanced situation. There is no need to deprive yourself. If you are creating a positive environment around your eating and having a loving attitude toward nourishing yourself, you will most likely find that your desire for treats or less healthy foods may be reduced because you know they are allowed. You can give your self permission when you need to. With nothing off limits, you may crave things less because nothing is forbidden! We’ve all heard the stories of how the power of positive thought can heal people with all kinds of illnesses. Well, embracing a positive attitude with regard to eating and nourishing your body can heal your spirit and help you make peace with food.
The process of making peace with food takes some time to master. It takes a daily effort from you to listen to what you are saying about food and hearing the messages you are sending yourself about food. It starts with feeling good about the choices you are making to eat nourishing whole foods, and acknowledging that doing so is a good thing for you and for your heath. It is about noticing when negative thoughts start to creep in. “I shouldn’t have eaten that”; “I was bad”; or “I feel fat.” Negative thoughts can develop, and you are allowed to feel them, but answering them with a positive loving attitude is all I’m asking you to do. Think of treating yourself the way you would treat a friend who was struggling with something. You would be kind, caring, patient and positive — right? Well when negativity, self doubt, or worse – self loathing thoughts creep in, pay attention, and consciously decide to nuture yourself in that situation instead of knock yourself down. At first this may feel weird, but little by little, it will become second nature. I know it is possible, because I did it myself. It’s why I know the magic is in the mindset. When you shift your mindset about food to the positive, amazing things can happen.
Since eating is fundamental to our existence, there is no wonder why it can be so difficult to change the behaviors we associate with eating. It is one of the first human interactions that we experience. Eating is one of the first ways we connect with our new born infants. It is very common to nurse or bottle feed a baby very shortly after they are born. Very early on we learn that food is connection; food is love; food is family; food is life. This is central to why people experience so many emotions when they are asked to change their eating habits. It is easy to see how people often fail when they are trying to resist or or limit certain foods. Something so rooted in the fabric of our being gets attached to and centered around emotions and judgements.
Fortunately, the human mind and body is both powerful and adaptable. Shifting your mindset toward food and embracing healthy eating as a gift will lead to making peace with food, and most likely lead to other positive changes elsewhere in your life. Food and its affect on your body and mind play into this a lot. As you choose nourishing whole foods, eat meals that are high in vitamins, minerals and life giving compounds found in healthy fats and lean proteins, you may be surprised how quickly you start to feel better both physically and mentally. This becomes a self perpetuating cycle. You choose nourishing foods that help your body and mind function better, and because you are feeling better, you will naturally gravitate toward those foods that make you feel your best. When you feel the positive effects of the nourishing food choices you are making, you will want to continue giving yourself the gift of healthy eating each day. Eating foods that nourish your body and improve the way you feel may carry into other areas of your life. If you are feeling great because of how you are eating, you may find that you are more relaxed at work, with your kids, or with your partner. It is amazing how eating well and nourishing yourself properly can lead to so many positive side effects other than just feeling great and reaching a healthy weight.
The key to making this change in mindset a lasting state of mind is practicing this process each day. Just as you know you will brush your teeth twice a day, giving yourself the gift of healthy eating will become part of your routine too. Adopting a positive mindset where you give your self credit for nourishing yourself, as well as give your self permission for less nourishing foods when you need to, will create a balanced loving approach to eating. In this positive and nurturing state, it is easy to make peace with your food.
Any departure from the norm can be hard to wrap your head around. I’d like hear your thoughts on this idea and if you think you’ll give it a try? Also, what are your challenges with eating if any and where have your successes been? Please leave a comment below and let’s start the discussion. When it comes to having a positive relationship with food, the magic really is in the mindset!