A new year, a new you, a new diet, a new set of goals.
It’s so tempting to get swept up in the early New Year momentum of setting goals and taking action…but fast forward to a month or two down the track and if you’re anything like most people then those best laid plans can easily go by the wayside.
But what if you could do 2019 different around food? What if you didn’t need a ‘new’ anything but instead worked on the things you had? What if this year you worked on your relationship to food.
Instead of treading the same old path of cutting foods out, being ‘good’ or white-knuckling your way to change how about going deeper. Looking at the thoughts and behaviours behind eating rather than just what you put in your mouth.
What we eat is important but why we eat can have a bigger impact. It’s actually the key to getting it together around food.
Ditch the restriction
Whether it’s physical restriction of foods or even just the mental restriction of “I can’t have that,” it’s going to get in the way of your eating. The evidence shows that restriction leads directly to an increased desire to eat, pre-occupation with food and eating without connection to our body’s cues. Basically restriction sets us up to disconnect from eating and our bodies. Restriction is definitely worth letting go of in 2019
Practice mindful eating
We all know how powerful mindfulness can be for our health and that extends to food too. Be in the present moment around eating. Use all your senses around food, slow down and be aware of what, when and why you are eating. Take time over your meals and above all enjoy the eating experience.
Learn your body’s cues around food
Did you know you were actually born with the ability to know what, when and how much to eat? Unfortunately, for many of us, this inbuilt food navigation system gets undermined by the messages we get around food, our bodies and our selves.
One of the most powerful tools in your interaction with food is rebooting this food-body connection. Start to build awareness around what hunger feels like in your body and how much of a role it plays in your trigger to eat. At the other end of the meal, cue into your fullness and satisfaction signals. This isn’t meant to be a tool for control but merely a way to get curious and connect to your body around food.
Lose the food labels
Food isn’t good or bad. It didn’t steal your TV or cheat on your bestie. When we label food as good or bad, we are placing a moral judgement on something that is essentially neutral. But even worse, we judge ourselves by extension. That’s not a recipe for improved self worth or health for that matter. You aren’t a ‘bad’ person because you ate a donut and neither are you a ‘good’ person because you started the day with a kale smoothie.
Let food be food and instead, connect to how different foods feel in your body. What foods don’t you like? Stop eating as much of them. What foods make you feel nourished? Eat more of those.
We’ve gotten so used to controlling our food that we can forget to connect to it and to actually enjoy it. Food is more than fuel; it’s something that connects us to people, places and time. It’s something that should be enjoyable.
If you’ve lost the enjoyment of food or it’s constantly overshadowed by guilt then it’s time to change all that. And not just because food is darn tasty but because a connection to the enjoyment of food is good for our health.
It’s no coincidence that cultures with a strong food connection also have healthier relationships with food and often better health outcomes than cultures that don’t.
Time to reconnect to the pleasure of eating. Whether it’s trying new foods, eating more variety or adding in some old favorites you are allowed to have fun with food. You can adopt my motto if you like: eat everything you enjoy and enjoy everything you eat.
Schedule in self care
Self care is an essential tool for life. When it comes to food, a lack of self care shows up in a really big way: emotional eating. If you struggle with emotional eating it probably has nothing to do with the actual food and everything to do with how well you are taking care of yourself and how many tools you have to do that. If the only way you can manage stress, loneliness and unhappiness is via food then you might need to build yourself a bigger self care toolkit. Food is a good part of it but you don’t want it to be the only way you look after yourself.
Flex your self compassion muscle
Often judgement is our default around food and our bodies. It can be hard to simply stop judging ourselves and our actions as we move towards a healthier relationship to food. So, instead, we can find the path of least resistance and build up our self compassion muscle instead.
How? Basically treat yourself like you would your best friend, your sister, your mom. If you wouldn’t say it to them or treat them in a certain way then don’t do it to yourself.
Sure it’d be easy to rehash last New Year’s diet, jump on a detox or make some vague resolutions about ‘eating better’ but we both know how that would end. Instead, start working on your relationship with food and eating so that you can truly GYST around food for 2019 and beyond. You are worth it.