It's the holidays- a time for laughter and love. This time can be so joyous, yet many of us cast a food-sized shadow over it.
Food is such an incredibly hard thing to find a good mindset around and the holidays don't help. Between being around family and so many more foods than usual, any food insecurities you have can be especially apparent at these times.
That's why now is SUCH an important time to learn how to allow food to just be food. What that means is not attaching a "good" or "bad" value to food. Food is food! It's something that satisfies a need, whether that need is physical, emotional, social, or a combination of all three. Therefore, no matter if you're eating a bowl of broccoli or a Big Mac, you shouldn't feel super negative about what you're eating.
I've learned this lesson in two big ways:
1) Eating "Unhealthy"
Of course I've had a stint with eating "unhealthy". Who hasn't?
What I learned from my times eating "unhealthy"- meaning eating lots of foods that are calorie-dense and/or lacking nutrients- is that my body suffers for sure. Not only do I put on weight, which comes with a slew of emotional baggage, but my skin starts breaking out, I start to feel low energy & sluggish, and my body is still hungry because it's craving the nutrients it so needs.
However, there were definitely plenty of foods I enjoyed eating during these times and I've noticed that during these times I'm not so on myself about what I'm eating, which definitely helps in the mindset category.
2) Eating "Overly Healthy"
During these times, I find myself eating "healthy"- meaning foods that are nutrient-dense and/or low cal- constantly. I'm "on top of my game" and working to lose weight/gain muscle.
However, it is during these times that I find myself obsessing over food. I'm constantly thinking about what I can put in my body that fits with my goals because I'm just so HUNGRY.
Can you relate?
If you can, you know that these times are often the times you get congratulated most for how your body looks, which feeds into this habit more. However, these are also often the times when you're not in the best place mentally- especially when it comes to your body. You find yourself criticizing every bite that goes into your mouth and how much activity you've done for the day, and for what?
That, my friends, is the key question in both cases- for what? What are you trying to do when you put something into your body? Are you trying to nourish your body? Are you trying to connect with others through food? Are you trying to please your mind?
There are SO many reasons to eat, which is why there are so many different "positives" and "negatives" to food. The reason that a piece of broccoli are "good for you" may be the same reasons that they're detrimental to someone.
Therefore, it's time to ditch the labels and just let food be food!
In my 24 years on this planet, I've found it incredibly hard not to label anything that enters my world. However, when you let go of the food labels of "good for you" and "bad for you" and thank what you're letting into your body for the positive effects it has on you, you find yourself in a much better headspace all together because part of it isn't being so consumed by food.
Now I know what you're thinking- how could I ever hit any of my goals using this method? How will I stay healthy?!
To that, I have four words:
Listen to Your Body
Your body talks to you SO much more if you love yourself enough to listen. Yes, you will have cravings for things that aren't the most nutrient-dense and don't traditionally align with the vision of health, but your body's main goal is to fuel you! You are more than capable of finding your healthy by listening to yourself instead of trying to stifle the voice in your head.
Are you at a loss thinking about unlearning the labels you have for food and finding food freedom? Don't worry, I have a little wisdom to share with you:
***Warning- I am by no means an expert in this category. All of my tips come from my personal experience, which I STILL haven't mastered (all good things take time). Take what resonates with you and leave what doesn't***
Give in to What Your Body is Craving
So often, and sometimes almost unconsciously, we shut our body's cravings down for the sake of them being "too unhealthy." Therefore, our inner voice starts to quiet itself like a child who's been told to stop or go away.
Start to tap into this inner voice and give it the yes's it so craves. You'll find it gets stronger with time and leaves you more satisfied in what you're eating.
Still worried about supplying your body with proper nutrients? Try this...
Work to Create Balanced Plates
No matter if you're having a snack or full-blown meal, balancing your plate will not only let you have the food you're craving, but it'll also help that food stay with you longer!
Here's what I mean by balancing your plate:
One daily goal I find hard to hit is my protein intake. Therefore, when I'm eating, I look to ensure there's some protein on my plate so I can stay fuller longer. Say one day I'm having a craving for Dot's Cheese Curls (a very real craving of mine). Instead of shutting myself down because they're not nutrient-dense and caloric, I might add some carrots and hummus to the other side of my plate to get more protein and nutrients in during this snack while still enjoying my cheese curls.
This tip ties more into the physical health side of food, but trust me- when your body is feeling good because of what you're putting into it, your mind will start to be able to operate in the realm of positivity, which leads me to my final tip...
Be Grateful for Your Food and the Positivity It Brings You
All of the food we eat has some sort of benefit to it, whether it's disgusting but nutrient-packed or delicious and calorie-packed. If it wasn't, we wouldn't be eating it (unless is caloric, disgusting food from a loved one- then you may catch me eating something that's not bringing a benefit to my mind or body beyond pleasing my loved one...)!
Therefore, to further mend your relationship with food, take a moment to truly appreciate what your food is bringing to you! Is it nourishing your body? Soothing your soul? Connecting you with loved ones? Focus your mind on that!
Now, as I mentioned above, this method doesn't mean that your mind will be perfect all the time (is it ever?). However, by taking strides towards food freedom, you start to mend a vital bond between mind and body 🧘🏻♀️