Building a Healthy Relationship with Food: 3 Common Misconceptions

“Make deep connections, not deep attachments.” — Yung Pueblo

As social creatures, we want to build a healthy relationship with people. In our different spheres of interaction, we innately as aspire for belonging, connection and growth. During times of confusion, we strive to identify kinks and work through our misunderstandings to develop an organic, sustainable and real relationship. There are no shortcuts to building a genuine connection.

Our relationship with food is no different. Often times, how we treat food is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. Our relationship with ourselves may lean towards being too seriously or too relaxed, too attached to pleasure, or too detached and hopeless. In any case, our relationship with food– what we put in our mouth, how much and how often tell us about how we attach to pleasures or how we connect nutrition to self-care.

Personally, I tend to be very hard on myself. I get less things done by always wanting to be perfect. That inner critic’s voice rings louder during new ventures and I often think I am not giving people their best experiences. And when it comes to food, I can be over analytical, always checking if the ingredients, calories and protein content! Is that cookie is gluten-free? Because of my restrictive nature, I tend to stay on the safe side of things and then impulsively jump headfirst. I can follow a strict nutritional plan multiple weeks in a row but then allow myself to binge when the final straw breaks the camel’s back. All that pent up stress has got to give one way or another!

Discipline gives us structure, a wiggle room to do what we want. While discipline is good, overdoing it has many unpleasant consequences. The very means to give us freedom to eat becomes an obsession or worse, a torture chamber. Fat loss, health goals or self-love are not about control. Rather, it is about letting go. To love ourselves we must let go of our idea of who we are. Let go of the things we do for ourselves but also let go of the things we detach from and get involved in life! Fitness is a journey and indeed we must seek the middle path.

“Love does not seek to control or dominate… Insecurity does.” — Steven Bartlett

So let’s unmask 3 subtle but very common misconceptions that sabotage our relationship with food and with ourselves.

Food is addictive, but only because it is made to be. At the dawn of the industrial revolution, food became fast, highly processed and engineered with chemicals to become highly palatable and addictive. Consumers are hooked, demands rose and manufacturers got rich. Sadly, this is what economic growth has done to our biology. Always know that you can hit the reset button. Eating fresh vegetables, fruits, spices, organic and sustainably grown animal products will revert your body into its natural state–a state where it does not crave, but instead, is easily satisfied with simple and natural ingredients.

Food gives us comfort, but only if we fail to manage our stressors. How common is it today that we turn to food whenever we feel stressed? We live in a dopamine-driven world and each task we accomplish gives us an addictive hit that makes us want to accomplish more. Often in doing so, we fail to recognize our body’s warning signs of breaking down. We take on more deadlines even if our hands are full. We turn to food for comfort and end up eating for consolation. Calories pile up “unknowingly”. What’s even troubling is that processed food itself also gives us a dopamine hit trapping us in a loop of addiction to work and comfort. Sounds devastating, but do not fret! The key is to break the cycle! Manage your stressors before they manage you. If you find yourself stuck deep within the trenches, I recommend consulting with a seasoned fitness coach to help you get back on track. (I offer free consultations, just head over the the Contact Me tab above).

We can out-exercise a “bad diet”. Our 21st century lifestyle demands us to work 24/7. It’s not our fault if we got hooked into our jobs, sometimes it’s the only way to survive. But choosing to stay hooked and then punishing ourselves through exercise and calorie restriction is another story. Punishment is for something bad, but food is neither good nor bad. The harmful effects of food only depends on the amount we consume. Nobody got healthy from eating a bowl of salad, and nobody got fat from eating a pound of cheeseburger. A healthy relationship with food is eating what we want, but not how much we want. To attain freedom we must be responsible. Exercise to celebrate what your body can do, to be functional in daily tasks and to feel good. Working out isn’t a means to simply burn off what you eat. Food is not just something to be burned off. Food is fuel for socializing, movement and health.

“Don’t downgrade your dream to fit your present reality. Upgrade your attitude, discipline and skills to match your destiny.” — Jim Kwik

There’s no secret sauce to building a healthy relationship with food. It takes a lot of honesty and letting go of short term pleasures for long term rewards. It also means letting go of limiting beliefs like you’re stuck in a weight forever, and regaining a sense of trust with your own abilities. Your own body can get into a healthy state. No body is hopeless until they think they are.

If you’re like me, loosen up and don’t take dieting, training or yourself too seriously. Instead of ceaselessly working to get to point B, pause and just be present. Once you’ve gotten back in touch with yourself, you will hear your body’s needs. Taking care of yourself becomes self-respect instead of an obligation.

“Maybe we’re not supposed to be constantly striving to become “better”. Maybe that growth naturally happens when we fully embrace who we’ve been and who we are, right now.” — Lisa Olivera

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