Do you struggle with your relationship with food? Sometimes we don’t think of it this way when we’re determined to lose weight, because we’re laser-focused on seeing results when we stand on the scale. When we’re in this frame of mind, we treat any negative feelings we have as just “part of the necessary struggle” towards weight loss.
Negative feelings surrounding food include: Feeling guilty after you eat, feeling out of control when you eat (like you would be better off if someone else was making your food decisions), feeling stressed out at the thought of your next meal, eating to curb boredom, anxiety, frustration, or sadness, or “numbing out” when you eat (eating without thinking about what you’re eating).
If this is you, I want to help you get to the bottom of this, because you’re not alone! I struggled with my relationship with food for my whole life. Even as a kid, I was already thinking about my weight and how I wasn’t good enough. I ended my war with food and my body using primarily one technique: Mindful eating.
Before you think I’m trying to sell you yet another “too-good-to-be-true” solution that doesn’t work, mindful eating is not that. It’s one element of a whole new way of approaching your meals, your body, and your mindset. If done properly, mindful eating is a jumping-off point that trickles into your whole life, and I truly stand by that… I’m living proof! Imagine that instead of maintaining negative feelings as “part of the necessary struggle” to lose weight, you could turn that entire notion on its head and stop struggling so hard? Sounds pretty good, right?
The whole premise of mindful eating rests on a fact that no one talks about in North America: food is one of the top five activities that bring us joy. Why would we take this away from ourselves? In our crazy multi-tasking world (ESPECIALLY in North America), we’ve adopted the belief that food is an inconvenience at best, and a vehicle for weight gain at worst.
In my mind, you have two options. The first option is fear-based. You can throw more money into the black hole of dieting, live like a hermit to avoid temptation, plan each meal, weigh each calorie, and despise every bite you take. If you choose this option, you will only feel like you’re succeeding when you’re restricted, unhappy, and hungry, and you will measure your happiness based on a number on a scale. Essentially, this option means you will spend your life running away from food in the fear that you’ll enjoy it too much and, as a result, gain weight.
The second option is rooted in love, and it’s the complete opposite approach. You can seek the enjoyment of food on purpose and embrace it. Dive into every bit of it. Revel in the mixture of each crunchy, buttery, salty, sweet, spicy, sour, cold, hot, fresh, hearty bite, and enjoy how all these tastes and textures mingle around and create a delicious experience. When you do this, you don’t get fat; instead, you get satisfied and stop eating when you’re full.
Not sure if this is true for you? Think back to the last time you ate too much food. Maybe you had an awful Tuesday at work, so you ordered a pizza, parked yourself in front of Netflix, and proceeded to eat a LOT of pizza. How were you able to eat that much? Can you remember the thought that went through your head before you picked up the next slice? Probably not, because you weren’t really there, were you? Your brain was thinking about earlier that day, about the show on TV, about your schedule tomorrow, about sleep, and about your career path in general. Maybe you were texting, Facebooking, and paying your phone bill WHILE you were watching TV and eating pizza. But you did have a thought about the next slice of pizza, even if you don’t remember. It probably sounded like “not enough.”
When we don’t take the time to fully experience something, we feel like we’re lacking in that thing and naturally want more of it. For example, when you’re sidetracked by texts at your kid’s baseball game, you think, “I should really go to more games.” You’re already there right now! When you’re eating and only thinking about the next helping, or trying not to think about it at all, you’re in a constant state of “not enough”. In fact, it’s not that you’re not getting enough quantity of food (you’re probably getting an over-abundance of it), it’s that you’re not getting enough quality enjoyment from the food. This is the fundamental difference between feeling “full” (as in you’re stuffed but still somehow need more) and “satisfied” (as in, you’ve had enough and you want to move on with your day).