Renewing Your Relationship With Food

Renewing Your Relationship With Food

If you have found yourself battling food for most of your life, you are not alone! Our society has been drilling thoughts into our minds that we should eat only “good” foods and banish the “bad” ones. This black-and-white way of thinking actually works against you in the end. When we define foods as “off-limits”, we actually crave that food even more

Today, let’s learn about how to renew your relationship with food. You’ll learn how to enjoy food with balance, variety, and moderation. You will lose weight without food deprivation or restrictive diets.

plate with one single piece of broccoli as food and woman cutting it with a fork and knife

What do food deprivation and restrictive diets lead to? Well, let’s take a look at this example:

Someone on a rigid diet is craving a chocolate chip cookie. But, because of all the “food rules”, this person tries to push that feeling away and opts for rice crackers, raw carrots, diet cereal, and continues to go down a rabbit hole eating anything else that feels “safe.” 

But – this craving is still not fulfilled and this person finds themself insatiable! Ironically, the person ends up eating way more calories than they would have if they had just honored their craving and eaten that cookie! This cycle of self-sabotage occurs almost every single time.

tons of boxes of pizza and burger food

Sustainable Nutrition

Optimal nutrition that is sustainable for life is composed of 3 important principles:

  • Balance
  • Variety
  • Moderation

These three principles will allow you to free yourself of the diet mentality and rigidity around certain foods or food groups. All nutrients are equally important and should be varied throughout the diet. Variety is what keeps the eating experience fulfilling!

Keeping portion sizes moderate and reasonable will allow you to eat until satiated and avoid overeating

Having a balance of ALL food groups will keep you from feeling deprived or bored. 

  • Whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, multigrain, and oats
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Animal or plant-based proteins, such as chicken breast, turkey, and tofu
  • Legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Heart-healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado
  • Low-fat dairy, such as skim milk, low-fat cottage cheese, and 2% yogurt
  • And yes – sweets and snacks

basket of plentiful healthy foods

The greater variety of food groups on your plate, the more variations of vitamins and minerals you will consume! Each food offers different benefits, so the more you expand your palette, the better.

Any “meal plan” or “diet” that declares that a certain food group should be eliminated (ie; no-carb, zero-fat, sugar-free) should immediately raise red flags! In mindful eating – all foods fit! Remember, the key to optimal nutrition is balance, variety, and moderation.

What Causes Food Cravings?

Cravings can be caused for many different reasons. They can be biologically driven or they can arise from external factors. 

External Factors

  • An ad or commercial on television 
  • The aroma of food that someone is eating nearby
  • Upsetting or other stressful situations

Biological Factors

  • Physical hunger – it has been a number of hours since your last meal
  • Hormonal changes – shifts in hormones such as during pregnancy, menstruation, etc.
  • Nutrient imbalance – for instance, if you are constantly craving bread, it could mean you are not getting enough carbohydrates in your diet
  • Lack of sleep – when the chemicals and hormones involved in sleep are disrupted, cravings for sugar can occur. This is your body’s way of trying to receive some sort of pick-me-up
  • Dehydration – inadequate fluid intake can lead to cravings for salty foods in order to balance electrolytes
  • Physical activity – with increased physical activity, the body has increased needs for protein and carbohydrates in order to properly recover and allow muscle growth

Acceptance of Food Cravings

Starting to accept and honor your cravings can sound really intimidating! Especially if you have been conditioned to push those thoughts aside for so long. How can we accept cravings and determine whether they are biological or solely based on emotions?

woman deciding between a bowl of salad green and donuts for food and looking stressed

Try using these 6 simple steps next time you feel a craving arise:

1. Acknowledge

Try saying to yourself, “I am having a craving.” Whether you like it or not, the craving has arrived. How you process it is what matters most!

2. Accept

Tell yourself that it is ok to feel out this craving. Do not try to push the craving aside or judge yourself for it. Remember that exerting judgemental thoughts will prevent you from truly eating mindfully.

3. Alert

Take a few minutes to tune into what you are feeling. Did something happen earlier that triggered negative emotions? Did something upsetting happen at work? Are you going through a break-up or loss? Ask yourself how your current mood is. 

4. Observe

Try to notice how you are physically feeling as you crave this food. Where do you feel this craving? Is it in your stomach? Your chest? Your mouth?

5. Wait

Don’t tell yourself that you “can’t” give in to the craving. Just allow yourself 5 minutes to wait it out. Does the intensity of the craving subside as you wait? Sometimes, if you don’t respond to the first urge to eat, the craving may become less intense or even diminish completely.

6. Savor

If the craving is not based on emotion and the urge has not passed, allow yourself to indulge in that craving. Be aware as you consume the food and allow yourself to savor the taste and feeling in your mouth. Take a few moments between bites to acknowledge your senses and thoughts. This will help to avoid any mindless overeating.

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Albers, S. (2020). Mindful eating handouts. Eating Mindfully.

Martens, Ashley. (2022, February 8). What causes food cravings? biological triggers for Cravings. a SweatLife.

Meule A. (2020). The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation. Current nutrition reports9(3), 251–257.

Tribole, E., & Huber, H. (2021). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. Blackstone Publishing.

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