Dietitian, Retha Harmse, encourages us to not see food as our foe but too work on a healthy relationship with food.
A while ago, my husband and I had breakfast at a cafe. Just as we were finishing up and settling the bill, they served the lady next to us the most delicious looking avocado toast topped with some dukkah and chilli flakes. I told my husband, “That looks amazing, I need to order that next time.” I realised I said it a bit louder than I intended because just then the lady then turned around and said, “And I don’t even have to feel guilty because it’s so healthy.”
Standing there, flabbergasted and at a loss for words, I don’t recall if I even responded. Unfortunately, this is not an exception or an isolated incident. This has pretty much become the norm of people’s attitudes towards and relationships with food.
This can be seen in your gym class where people ‘burn off the calories’ or in the grocery store where a mother doesn’t want to buy the ‘bad food’ for her children, or in corporate companies where working through breakfast and lunch is praised (both for productivity and for the will power to maintain intermittent fasting).
How would you describe your relationship with food?
Food has become the enemy, people fear eating and distrust their body’s innate wisdom of what and how much it needs. What food can do for you has taken the backseat and now food the foe is in the driver’s seat.
Well, that is most definitely the case for the majority of clients I see. That is why one of my first questions during my consultations is “How would you describe your relationship with food?”
Evelyn Tribole, author of Intuitive Eating, writes, “The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence – the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had enough.”
Improve your relationship with food
So, how do we change this? How do we give back food in its rightful place? How do we improve our relationship with food and grow in eating competence?
- You can’t change something that you aren’t aware of. Therefore you want to become aware of where you may have negative attitudes towards food and eating: food fears, food rules, etc. This might be so deep in your subconscious that you aren’t aware of it or so prevalent in everyday life that it feels like the norm (that is why it’s called diet culture). You want to change this into positive attitudes about eating and food.
- All food can be a part of a healthy diet. You want to grow in becoming more open and accepting towards all food groups, showing acceptance skills that support eating an ever-increasing variety of the available food. If this is not yet the case, you may want to explore what are the barriers standing in your way of achieving this. For example, the way you were raised, your daily habits, lack of mindfulness, your emotional state, etc.
- Growing in listening to your body is extremely important. You want to cultivate internal regulation skills that allow you to intuitively consume enough food that provides you with energy, and stamina and supports a stable body weight. This means not depriving yourself of specific food items, as bingeing is the natural consequence of restriction.
- We all know that eating doesn’t just exist in a silo, most social events have eating linked to it in some way or another. That is why you want to have the skills and resources to manage the food context and organise family meals.
Research has shown that adults with eating competence have body weights that tend toward the average. They are more satisfied with their weight and are less likely to cycle between dieting and non-dieting. They show better health indicators: higher HDL; lower blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides.
Adults with high eating competence also do better socially and emotionally. They feel more effective, are more self-aware and are more trusting and comfortable both with themselves and with other people.
Don’t stop at this article. This is merely the starting point for improving your relationship with food. Go read up more, make it a priority – the same as a friendship or romantic relationship – choose to work on your relationship with food daily. May you choose to have your avocado toast because you really love it and not just to avoid experiencing food guilt.
MEET THE EXPERT
Retha Harmse is a registered dietitian and the ADSA Public relations portfolio holder. She has a passion for informing and equipping the in the field of nutrition. She is currently in private practice in Saxonwold, Houghton and believes that everyone deserves happiness and health and to achieve this she gives practical and individual-specific advice, guidelines and diets.
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