Let’s talk food. There are so many misconceptions about healthy eating, and I want to use this opportunity to clear some of those up. I’m not a professional nutritionist, but I’m someone who has struggled with having a healthy relationship with food for a long time, and I think I finally found a solution that works for me.
I used to have an eating disorder that was detrimental to both my mental and physical health. I went to therapy for it a few summers ago, and it helped to change my perception of body image, food, and nutrition. Based on what I learned in therapy and from my experience, I am going to share some tips on how you can eat healthy while still maintaining a positive relationship with food and your body.
What does it mean to have a healthy relationship with food?
Essentially, having a healthy relationship with food means to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly without falling into restrictive eating habits. You practice mindful eating, and you are aware of what you are consuming. You can eat whatever you want in moderation without judging yourself or feeling guilty. You eat when you are physically hungry, and you stop when you’re full.
Having a healthy relationship with food goes hand in hand with having a positive body image. Both are important for your mental health.
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Here are 10 ways to eat healthy without feeling like you’re starving yourself:
1. Realize that healthy eating should be a long-term lifestyle change, not a temporary crash diet.
To have a healthy lifestyle, the changes you make must be permanent. You won’t see any long-term effects from diets that are intended to be temporary. Instead of wasting time on crash diets that will probably make you feel horrible, it’s better to find sustainable ways to improve your eating habits.
2. Find nutritious alternatives to the “unhealthy” foods you enjoy.
Pinterest is a great resource to find healthy recipes. Just search something like “healthy alternatives to junk food” or “healthy alternatives to [insert your favorite unhealthy food here].”
Oftentimes, eating healthy isn’t about eating less food. You might even find that you’re eating more. The important thing is that you’re putting nutritious foods in your body instead of empty calories.
3. Eat when you’re hungry, but take note of portion sizes.
You should never let yourself starve. Eat when you feel physically hungry. (Make sure you’re drinking enough water! Being dehydrated can make you feel hungry when you’re actually not.) However, you want to make sure you’re not overeating. Pay attention to portion sizes, and roughly measure your food so you don’t overeat.
4. Eat several small meals throughout the day instead of one or two large ones.
When you only eat one or two big meals, you will likely feel more hungry throughout the day, which can cause you to overeat. If you schedule six or seven small meals or snacks, you will find it easier to control cravings and manage portion sizes.
5. Take some time to learn about nutrition and how different substances affect your body.
“Healthy eating” means different things to different people. Although I consider my diet to be healthy, someone else might not think so. That’s why I think it’s important to take it upon yourself to learn about nutrition. You will be able to make informed decisions about what you choose to put in your body and how each substance will affect you.
You could opt to take a nutrition course, or you could just do your own research. I LOVE this nutritionist on YouTube named Abbey Sharp. She’s really fun to watch, and she explains everything in simple terms that are easy to understand. If you want to learn more about nutrition, check her out!
6. Avoid counting calories. Instead, pay attention to the nutritional content of everything you consume.
As someone who used to have an eating disorder, I have been obsessed with numbers in the past. Counting calories, grams of fat, pounds on the scale, you name it. Tracking calories can be beneficial for some because it keeps you on track and you know exactly how many you are consuming, but it was detrimental for me because I wasted so much time and energy worrying about it. At points, I was literally starving myself.
If you’re someone who has a complicated relationship with food like I did, I would say avoid counting calories. Instead, just be mindful of the nutritional content of your food. Try to make healthy choices when you can, but don’t obsess over numbers. In the end, as long as you are consistently eating healthy, you will see benefits.
7. Meal prep to save time and make sure healthy options are always accessible.
Especially if you have a busy lifestyle, this is an important tip. I love to meal prep smoothies and freeze them. (Who wants a recipe?) I’ll make them a week or two in advance and leave them in my freezer so they are ready to go whenever I get hungry.
8. Strive for balance, not perfection.
No one is perfect! It’s perfectly healthy to have a cheat meal or day every once in a while. Life would get pretty boring if we didn’t ever allow ourselves to have fun, right?
Chicken wings are my cheat meal go-to. I only eat them about once a month. I allow myself to enjoy them occasionally without feeling guilty. (That was a huge breakthrough for me after recovering from my eating disorder!) Having a healthy relationship with food means you allow yourself to enjoy eating, and you treat yourself every once in a while.
9. Set realistic goals for yourself. You can start small!
Making huge changes to your diet immediately can be jarring for you both mentally and physically. In fact, studies show that if you cut too many calories in a short period of time, your body could go into starvation mode, burn through lean muscle, and do everything it can to retain fat.
That’s why I would recommend making small adjustments to your diet at first so your body can get used to the changes. In fact, even the small adjustments can make a huge difference as long as you are consistent with your new eating patterns. It’s important to set realistic goals for yourself so you can celebrate your achievements and make steady, long-term progress.
10. Be aware of your relationship with food, and work to improve it.
It took me a long time to admit that I needed help for my eating disorder. I lived with it for years before I finally went to therapy. I’m so happy I finally got help because it was a big step toward recovery. Now, I’m doing better than ever!
I think it’s crucial to be honest with yourself if you have an unhealthy relationship with food. You owe it to yourself to be healthy and happy, so please do not hesitate to ask for help if you need it. There are so many great therapists and nutritionists in the world who have dedicated their careers to helping people like you. It can be scary to take that step, but it could change your life.
If you decide to work on your relationship with food by yourself, I can’t stress enough the importance of self-love in this process. It’s important to do research, hold yourself accountable, and be disciplined. But at the end of the day, you should strive for a healthier lifestyle because you LOVE YOURSELF and want the best for yourself. All lifestyle changes should be done through self-love.
Thanks for reading!
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