6 Keys to Changing Your Relationship with Food
A Path to Changing Your Relationship with Food
How to Do I Change my Relationship with Food – A Recap
Throughout this course, we’ve approached changing your relationship with food through a number of different lenses. From learning to trust yourself, to rethinking dieting, to managing stress, to cultivating mindfulness—we’ve covered so much! So today, we’re tying it all together: How do I change my relationship with food & health?
Of course, there’s no single ‘right’ path when it comes to changing your relationship with food (or any kind of personal change). Rather, there are a few key components that I’ve found essential on my own journey, and that have led me to greater peace with time.
Overall, what’s important is not the order in which we work on these components. The key is this: committing to cultivating these skills and perspectives in our lives, and continuing to practice them. Your path to changing your relationship with food will look different than mine. But, what’s important is that you continue showing up and getting to know yourself.
In today’s video, we’re diving into some of the limitations of outer wisdom tools, like specific diets and expert advice. Outer wisdom tools are absolutely important and helpful! But I encourage you to maintain a curious, questioning attitude as you learn from these experts and tools.
Remember, navigating how to change your relationship with food requires getting in touch with your inner wisdom. This is how we learn to make the best decisions for ourselves. Is this outer wisdom tool working for me on my journey, or not?
6 Keys to Changing Your Relationship with Food
#1 Get in Touch with Your Inner Wisdom
Most of us have learned to turn to outer wisdom tools on our health journeys—like nutrition science and education, expert knowledge and advice, dieting, meal plans, and recipes. Yet, these tools are most supportive to our health journeys when we have a solid foundation of inner wisdom on which to build.
Inner wisdom is the ability to listen to your body, its sensations and signals. It’s an attunement to your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Taken altogether, inner wisdom a sense of inner knowing and trust in yourself. So many of us have learned to disconnect from our bodies, and to not trust ourselves!
Changing your relationship with food requires reconnecting with yourself and learning to trust yourself again. And, in doing so, we gain the capacity to decide which outer wisdom tools work for us and which don’t. To know when we’re hungry and when we’re full. To distinguish between our physical hunger and our emotional hunger. This is true food freedom.
To get a sense of your reliance on inner and outer wisdom, here’s the Inner and Outer Wisdom worksheet & quiz from earlier in the course.
For those who completed this exercise at the beginning of the course, check back in now to see where you’ve made progress! Or, if you haven’t had a chance to try it yet, get a sense of where your strengths lie and where you can improve.
#2 Cultivate Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive, facilitate, understand, and manage emotions and feelings. Basically, it’s an awareness of our emotions and a capacity to respond to them healthily. If you think about it, any interpersonal relationship requires a level of emotional intelligence. And, changing your relationship with food does as well.
All too often, we think of our physical bodies as separate from our minds and our emotions. When, in reality, humans are complex interconnected systems. Our emotions not only impact our eating behaviors (i.e., emotional eating & stress eating), but they can also impact our overall health—even our weight loss efforts! If you’re asking yourself how do I change my relationship with food, it must involve a commitment to developing emotional intelligence.
And remember, this isn’t just my opinion! It’s also supported by research, indicating that higher emotional intelligence is linked to healthier food choices, healthier lifestyle habits, and even lower BMI (body mass index). So, how can you cultivate emotional intelligence? One of the most effective tools (and my favorite) is discussed next.
#3 Make Time to Practice Mindfulness & Meditation
There’s loads of research supporting the benefits of mindfulness and meditation: for managing stress, for managing chronic pain and illnesses, and even for changing the size and structure of our brains. On top of this, these practices can also help us to get in touch with our inner wisdom and develop emotional intelligence. Personally, mindfulness and meditation are the main tools I turned to in developing these skills.
Mindfulness is simply a nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. It’s just paying attention to whatever is going on right now, to all of the sensations, without any judgment and without a storyline in my head. Meditation is simply one tool to practice mindfulness. (And, a tool that’s changed my life!) But, there are loads of other opportunities to practice mindfulness in daily life, too.
When it comes to changing your relationship with food and health, making time to practice mindfulness is one of the most fundamentally beneficial things that you can do. Mindfulness and meditation can help us:
- Develop emotional intelligence, which can help us live with less stress, greater health, and greater happiness.
- Notice our judgments and rules around food, and empower us to let go of them so they no longer control us.
- Recognize the urge to eat to fill an emotional hunger, as well as reduce binge eating behaviors.
- Change how we relate to food and think about different foods, which has the potential to even change how we metabolize the foods we eat.
You can find all 10 of the downloadable guided meditation tracks from the course included at the end of this lesson!
#4 Dieting Leads to Dysregulation & Fuels Binge Eating
Your “diet” is really just a word to describe the foods that you eat regularly. But “dieting” is a word that has now become synonymous with restriction. As in, limiting the amount we eat or restricting the kinds of foods we eat, in the pursuit of some health goal. (Usually, weight loss, fat loss, muscle gain, or some other alteration to our bodies.)
Instead, dieting leads to harmful dysregulation in our bodies. This means the healthy feedback loops in our bodies are interrupted, and we become disconnected from signals like hunger and fullness. Because we’re restricting what we eat, we have to learn to ignore our bodies’ signals. And, that restriction can confuse our bodies, pushing them into a “starvation mode” in which the body holds onto nutrients in an effort to survive.
On so many levels, the dysregulation produced by dieting makes it harder to lose weight and takes us further from our health goals. On top of this, food restriction is a primary driver of binge eating! A hungry body wants to get all of the nutrients, and we get caught in a frustrating binge restrict cycle. One of the best things you can do in changing your relationship with food is investigate the role of dieting in your life.
#5 Understand Your Habit Loops & Rewire Your Brain
Navigating how to change your relationship with food can be frustrating. Whether you struggle with binge eating, or highly restrictive food habits, or emotional eating, or even sticking with your goals—know that all of these habits are changeable. Habits are what we do regularly, the actions that come to us naturally, whether its biting our nails or exercising or snacking watching TV.
Some habits are intentional, others we’ve developed unintentionally, but all habits are changeable. One of the most empowering things I’ve learned is that we all have the capacity to change our brains. This is neuroplasticity: the human brain’s natural capacity to “re-wire” itself in response to new experience and learning.
By understanding the habit loop, we can learn to map out habit loops that we’d like to change or build, and then work on breaking or building those habits with intention. And, another of meditation’s many benefits: a regular meditation practice is one of the best ways to re-write neural pathways and enhance our brains’ capacity for neuroplastic change.
#6 Learn to Manage Stress
Alongside a regular practice in mindfulness and meditation, this is perhaps the most crucial takeaway of the entire course: We must commit to learning to manage our stress. Chronic stress is one of the most damaging factors for our overall health. Not only can it disrupt immune function, circulation, and our mental health, but it can also affect our metabolism, how we retain fat, and our efforts at weight loss.
Stress is a condition that affects our entire system—body, mind, and emotions. We can eat well, exercise, and still struggle with health conditions or weight gain if our stress isn’t managed. On top of this, we add to the chronic stressors of daily life by stressing out about food and health. And, we also put our bodies through physical stress with dieting and food restriction.
One helpful thing to keep in mind: we don’t know as much as we think about nutrition science, weight loss, metabolism, and health! Why do we stress about calories, macronutrients, fasting, etc.—when there’s so much evidence that nutrition is not an exact science, and that stress itself is often the root of the problem?
Changing your relationship with food starts with that foundation of inner wisdom. Is this stress helping me in my life and on my health journey? Or is it hurting me? What if the most helpful thing we can do for ourselves is not a diet, or a meal plan, or an exercise regimen, but actually taking care of ourselves?
As I’ve moved along in my journey, I’ve come to believe that the best things I can do for myself are things I’d do for a dear friend: make space for my feelings, make time for self-care and stress management, and nourishing both my body and mind.
Integrating Inner & Outer Wisdom
Getting in touch with your inner wisdom is an essential task on the path to changing your relationship with food and health. But, as you develop a connection with yourself and your body, how do you start to integrate outer wisdom tools into your life, too?
Honestly, it’s a balance that will be a bit different for each of us. But, to help you in navigating the interplay between inner and outer wisdom, here’s a list of reflection questions to ask yourself when you’re considering making use of an outer wisdom tool.
Remember, outer wisdom can be so helpful to us! The key is to think critically about these tools and tune in to our inner wisdom, so we can make choices that are healthiest—physically, mentally, and emotionally—for each of us individually.
All Guided Meditation Downloads
- 5-Minute Mindfulness Meditation
- 15-Minute Guided Meditation
- Gratitude Meditation
- Working Out Your Mind Meditation
- Lovingkindness Meditation
- Guided Mindful Eating Raisins Exercise
- Guided Mindfully Eating a Meal
- Cravings Body Scan Meditation
- Stress Meditation
- Walking Meditation
Today’s Journal Prompt:
Take a moment to reflect on all the new information you’ve taken in during the last month during this course. A great deal of your growth will come from experiencing your body and mental patterns in a new way. Reflect on one or more of the following:
- What have you learned throughout this Food Freedom course?
- Have you noticed shifts in your relationship with food? With exercise? Your body? With stress?
- Write 3 things you appreciate about the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made this month.
- What is an area in which you’d like to improve? Brainstorm 3 actionable steps that you can take towards this goal.
- Keto 101: What is Keto?
- Intermittent Fasting 101
- What is Whole30? + Whole30 Recipes
- Craziest Diets to Never Try