5 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Food

Did you ever notice that you have two different relationships with food?  One is physical, and it is based on the type of diet you follow and the different types of foods you choose to eat to satisfy hunger. The other relationship you have with food is psychological, or emotional, based on how you think about food and how your thoughts affect your weight, health, and body image. If you overeat, or routinely have negative feelings about food or your body, neither of these relationships can be healthy or happy. The good news is: you can take steps to change that.

  • Put the reins on random eating. Schedule all of your meals and snacks at regular times every day.  Space your meals no more than four hours apart, advises Susan Dopart, a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist in Santa Monica, CA.  If you're not hungry when it's time to eat, you can wait up to another hour before eating, she adds, but don't let yourself get too hungry or you will probably overeat.
  • Reconnect with your true feelings of hunger and fullness. Dopart points out that everyone's stomach has "muscle memory," which means that the wall of your stomach gets used to holding a certain amount of food before it starts to distend, at which point nerves in your gut send a signal to your brain saying, in effect,  "Stop eating; I'm full!" By eating more slowly and stopping just before you start to feel full, you can retrain your stomach to get used to less food and it will start sending those "I'm full" signals a little sooner.
  • Delay the indulgence.  Lora Sasiela, a New York psychotherapist who counsels women on food and financial issues, suggests setting a timer for at least 5 minutes to put a wedge in between the impulse to eat and the action of doing so.
  • Keep a journal. During those five minutes while you delay eating, Sasiela advises writing down what is going on inside your mind. This way, if you're not actually hungry, you can start to understand what is fueling your impulse to eat and sit with those feelings for a while so you come to recognize them better in the future.
  • Deal with your emotions.  Stress, along with feelings of anger, sorrow, loneliness, anxiety, boredom and sometimes even positive emotions such as happiness or a feeling of success, can drive unhealthy eating behavior. If emotional eating interferes with your health and the quality of your life, the solution is to come up with nonfood ways to cope with emotional situations, such as getting more physical exercise and seeking professional counseling with someone who specializes in emotional eating issues.