Lauren Seat, Dietetic Major ’18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
As Nutrition Coaches and Dietetics Students we hear a lot of food rules. Food rules are the beliefs that people hold surrounding their eating habits, things like “I know I shouldn’t eat so late,” or “That’s really bad for me, isn’t it?” or “I was really bad, I ate…” or “I don’t eat fruit because of the sugar.” Food rules and diet culture come from a lot of different places, social media, the news, celebrities, friends, family members…there’s a lot of information out there that can be really overwhelming.
While all these food rules may seem simple or easy to follow they frequently cause a lot of stress, frustration, and/or guilt around food. Restrictions and limitations can lead us to obsessing about and craving “forbidden foods” until we eat too much and feel sick and guilty. This happens so often and is one of the reasons diets don’t work. When we restrict certain food groups or limit our energy intake our bodies will eventually fight back, causing intense cravings to push us to eat in an effort to get the energy the body needs.
Ditch the rules and start listening to your body instead. You are the expert of your own body, since you are the only one that can feel what your body feels. So it’s time to start listening to it. If you give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, what would it be? Have you ever allowed yourself to do that? People frequently believe that they’d go wild eating cookies and ice cream forever and they’d be really unhealthy. But if you’re really listening to your body there will be a point when your body wants something else. Now, this probably doesn’t mean that if you never ate salads growing up you’re suddenly going to crave tons of vegetables; but it does mean that if you give yourself permission to eat what your body wants you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
A Healthier Approach
As University Health Center Nutrition Coaches, we believe you can have your cake and eat it too. Because having a good relationship with food is arguably more important than what you’re eating. Removing guilt, shame, and stress around food is so important to finding pleasure and feeling nourished from what you eat. When you embrace what you’re eating and feel good from it there’s no need to over indulge, because you know you can have it again and your body knows when you’ve had enough.
4 Steps to a Healthier Relationship with Food:
- Acknowledge any food rules you’ve been following, or feeling like you should follow
- Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want and enjoy it, mindfully.
- Pay attention to your body – How do you feel when you’re eating? How do you feel after eating? Do you have enough energy throughout the day? Are you happy with how your food makes you feel?
- Keep learning – there will be times when you eat too much and don’t feel great or don’t eat quite enough and need to eat again soon, and that’s ok. It’s just more information for you about what your body likes and needs.
Each experience will help you figure out what works for you and what doesn’t…keep paying attention. It can be really intimidating to go against diet culture and find a new way of interacting with food. But when you stop fighting your body and begin to listen to what it needs you can finally find peace with food.