The relationship you share with food is the second most important relationship after the one with yourself and believe me it has the power to influence all other aspects of your life. A well fed stomach is a breeding ground for creativity, productivity and a better life and ‘HANGRY’ is a real emotion, we all know that.
As we transition from being ‘fitness-aware’ to ‘fitness-obsessed’, the one thing that takes a hit is how we perceive food and our relationship with it. It is for this very reason, one needs to work consciously on developing a healthy relationship with food. Which means that the relationship should be devoid of guilt, compensation, punishment, abandon and elimination and should invite gratitude, pleasure, health and over all well-being.
Here are four things that helped me develop a sustainable, healthy relationship with food and I sincerely hope it helps you too:
Look at food beyond nutritionism
Nutritionism is the practice of categorising food merely into nutrient groups such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats and micro-nutrients while absolutely overlooking the other characteristics of food. While it is good to be aware of the nutritional benefits of various foods, obsessing over the macros and isolating foods merely on the basis of the nutrients is short-sighted and unsustainable. It is this obsession with nutritionism that allows FMCGs take advantage of consumerist behaviour that further fuels over consumption of certain food groups, leaving the consumers over fed but under nourished. This is also the basis for a lot of fad diets that are in and out in a whiff.
A fine example of this is the obsession that people have with ‘high protein’ diets, thus a huge section of the population abandons rice and hoards on dal or eats just boiled eggs (also, only the whites) for days together. Another food group that was previously a villain but is suddenly now crowned as a hero is ‘fat’ and with that comes our obsession with ghee, so much so that people prefer the tasteless bullet coffee which is a mix of coffee and ghee over their regular, tasty dal, rice, ghee and pickle which is a complete meal in itself and ticks the box for all nutritional requirements by providing an amazing nutrient profile.
Gain a more holistic perspective of food
The problem with our renewed approach is that food is no more what it used to be. It is no more something that not just satiated you but is also something that brought people together and was the centrepiece of memories. Reducing food merely to fuel completely disregards the story each meal has and not only is that sad, it’s also dangerous, because the moment we are detached from this story, we are inviting an unsustainable lifestyle. Sparing a little time to understand how each meal we consume came into existence, how were the raw materials harvested, where were they traditionally sourced from v/s how they are sourced now, how it was traditionally prepared v/s how is it prepared now, what is the cultural and seasonal significance of the meal you consume? Do you really enjoy the taste of the food you consume? These questions open our mind and our approach towards food. It helps us understand that food works in more ways than one, it connects us to our roots. It is not just a fuel, it is also a great comforter, medicine, a thread that connects us to the farmers, to our history and to our family.
Avoid categorising food as good and bad
Again, a myopic lens forces us to categorise food as “forbidden” and “must-haves” and what this does is that we eliminate what is forbidden and over indulge in what is recommended. Another thing that this obsession with good and bad food does is that it forces deprivation and longing for foods that are categorised as forbidden, leading to guilt when consumed (often in excess because you haven’t consumed them in a long time). The key here is to consume everything in moderation (will discuss this in detail in another article). Staying tuned into your hunger and satiety signals let you know when you are full and no matter how good a certain food group is, excess always does damage. Eating your favourite foods in moderation helps you feel in tune with your hunger and taste buds and in general helps you stay in great mental health too.
Avoid using food as a reward or punishment
In other words, emotional eating is a habit you do not want to fall prey to. Depriving yourself today because you over ate the other night or rewarding yourself with too much food because you worked out really hard just makes food a currency, not what it is really supposed to be. To be able to do that we need to stop associating food as an outcome of action and consciously speak to ourselves and correct ourselves when we fall into that trap. We literally need to stop obsessing over the quantity and holding up to slip ups because most of us lead busy lives, that need to be backed by adequate consumption of food that’s devoid of negative feelings. Each one of us deserves healthy, tasty and comforting food at all times and that does not depend on how hard we work out, how much we weigh or how lean we look. As I said earlier, staying in touch with our hunger and satiety signals help us enjoy the yummiest and the most calorie dense foods in moderation and when we feel like it without experiencing guilt.