Food is fuel, but food is also an emotional experience. Think about your favorite foods from childhood or a classic holiday recipe. With one bite, you can be transported back in time to a laugh, a moment or shared experience with family, friends and loved ones. We partnered with Registered Dietician, Olivia Wagner (MS, RDN, LDN) to explain how having an emotional connection with food can help us eat mindfully and maintain balance in our approach to food and body image.
Food and Emotions are Interconnected
We all have the power of choice. We can choose whether or not we live like the Blue Zones, follow the plant-forward movement or practice a vegan diet. With the power of choice, we have the ability to choose how we respond to cues, emotions and triggers. Wagner explains that we always have the opportunity to make choices with how we respond to food. Sometimes that simply means enjoying a favorite family recipe that is comforting and nostalgic. Other times it means enjoying a freshly prepared salad that is filled with nourishing, leafy greens.
Wagner summarizes it best, simply give yourself permission to eat, make choices and listen to your body and emotions. By tuning in and being honest with yourself through this process, you will be just fine. If you are looking to better support your relationship with food, Wagner offers four tips you can explore and start practicing today.
Tips Towards a Healthier Relationship with Food
The first step to supporting your relationship with food starts with a general awareness. Wagner recommends paying close attention to what you are experiencing around certain foods or meals. It can be a certain emotion, energy, feeling or reaction. Once you have determined what you experience around certain foods, start a food diary or journal so you can better keep track of your emotions, feelings and experiences surrounding specific foods and meals.
After you have created a general awareness surrounding food, acknowledge it and label it. Perhaps you enjoyed a bowl of your grandmother’s homemade soup that made you feel comforted or you had a handful of your favorite snack from childhood that made you happy and feel light hearted. Maybe you had a slice of leftover take out that made you feel sluggish and tired. Calling an emotion a specific name can remove power from a feeling, especially if the feeling is particularly negative.
Next, make a choice. Based on what you have uncovered by tuning in to the current moment, make a choice. Wagner says, standing in a clear light with your emotions before you make a food choice can give you the space to choose another habit that may more effectively address an emotion. For example, if you are feeling lonely, instead of munching mindlessly, you could call a family member or friend. You could journal, listen to your favorite podcast or watch a television show or movie that makes you laugh and provides nostalgia of a happier time. All of these options are wonderful ways to connect to your community and provide support for yourself.
Lastly, take ownership of the choice you made and simply leave it at that. Even if that means choosing a sweet treat over a fresh smoothie. Take a deep breath and allow yourself to stand in a space of acceptance is empowering and reminds us that we always have the ability to make a choice. Give yourself permission to listen to your body and your emotions. Remember, everyone is different, which is why tuning in to your body and being honest with yourself are important factors in the process of making choices that are right for you, your emotions and your overall lifestyle.
Mindful eating and maintaining balance in our approach to food and body image doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply remember to practice awareness, acknowledge how you feel, make a choice and accept it.
Tag us @SimpleMills and show us how you eat mindfully and maintain balance in your approach to food.