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How to Maintain a Long-Term Healthy Relationship with Food

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Healing your relationship with food isn't always easy, but it is possible. Here, registered dietitians explain how to do so — and when you should consult a professional.


Back when you were a toddler, you probably didn't give your hunger much thought.When your stomach growled, you ate a snack, then stopped when you were full and satisfied, and repeated the process throughout the day.

However, as you've gotten older, your intuitive approach to eating may have gone awry.




That is, they have influenced how you think about and choose what to eat. That, I believe, has a significant impact on your relationship with food because you're constantly asking yourself, 'Okay, am I eating correctly?'


  Should I cut back on my eating? 'Should I eat something different?' "She elaborates. "You're losing touch with yourself."


Registered dietitians break down the signs that your relationship with food isn't as healthy as it could be, as well as how to start healing it.



What Does a 'Healthy' Food Relationship Look Like?

First and foremost, there is no one way to have a healthy relationship with food, and each individual is free to define what "healthy" means to them, according to Mia Donley, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., a registered dietitian who specialises in disordered eating.


In general, she believes that a positive relationship involves viewing food as a source of both fuel and fun.


Food provides us with nutrients that give us energy — it benefits our bodies — as well as sensory pleasure and comfort.


A healthy relationship with food, then, ideally, combines the two. Spence goes on to say that with this mindset, you'll be more at ease listening to and acknowledging your hunger and fullness cues.

 



So, ideally, a healthy relationship with food combines the two.


 Assume your stomach starts rumbling an hour after you eat breakfast. She suggests that if you have a healthy relationship with food, you might seek out a snack that satisfies you both mentally and physically.In a bad relationship with food, you'd be afraid of that feeling "She continues. "'Wait, I just ate about two hours ago, so I shouldn't be hungry,' you might argue.

 I'm going to ignore my body's signals because I always feel like I'm overeating ".


The way you think and talk about food can also reveal information about your relationship status. Donley suggests categorising foods as "good," "bad," "clean," or "junk" in a tense relationship. 



However, in a healthy relationship, you might be able to be flexible and eat a piece of the pie, knowing that straying from your preferred eating style for one single meal won't change your health — and doing so "is not a reflection of your lack of self-control," Donley adds.

It is foods that simply feel satisfying, that are good for our bodies, and that sound delicious to eat. It will not make us feel guilty."


Similarly, the amount of mental space you devote to food can indicate the state of your relationship. In an unhealthy one, you may find yourself thinking about what to eat and what not to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat — and not because you can't wait to eat the delicious meal you've planned, according to Donley. 


That is a more complicated or unhealthy relationship with food, in my opinion."


In the short term, an unhealthy relationship with food, especially one that consumes a significant amount of your thoughts, may make you more prone to dieting, which can exacerbate your negative relationship. 


Disordered eating habits are unhealthy food and body behaviours that are typically done to lose weight or improve health but put you at risk of significant harm. 


These behaviours can also contribute to low self-esteem and body image. Our relationship with food does not exist in a vacuum; it can also affect how we perceive ourselves and how we treat our bodies.


Source: SHAP
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