I used to feel like enjoying food too much was a bad thing. Like if I let myself relish chocolate, or pizza, or pasta with abandon, I would lose control and not be able to stop eating. As you might imagine, this manifested in lots of challenging ways, from calorie counting to ever-present interest in the latest diet trends. I never suspected that allowing myself to actually feel JOY around food is what would, ironically, unlock a healthy relationship to it. Here are three reasons why it may do the same for you.
1. Restricting only perpetuates the on/off cycle.
If you want to create an unhealthy obsession around any kind of food, just consider it off limits.
If you forbid certain foods, it’s just a matter of time until they’re all you can think about. And instead of just feeling satisfied by one serving, your body and brain react as if they better go all out before the food is restricted again. Picture the cycle like a pendulum: if you go too far one way, it has to swing with equal force the opposite way (restrict, binge, restrict, binge). But if you can stay around that middle, balanced sweet-spot, you’ll never have to find yourself yo-yo-ing back and forth.
2. Food is GOOD.
Food is not meant to simply get someone to their goal weight. It’s meant for so, so much more than that. Food builds healthy hormones, a robust immune system, strong muscles and bones, and sharp neurotransmitters. By appreciating the benefits food supplies your body with, your focus can shift from food being purely a lever that raises or lowers weight, to food being something that gives you energy, health, and life.
3. Appreciating allows you to be more present.
The last part of finding joy in food is perhaps the most important — it allows you to slow down, savor what you’re eating, and enjoy the moment. I often find myself thinking, “My goodness, this is so delicious. So delicious!” Even over a simple morning coffee with organic cream or a fresh, ripe, juicy peach in summertime. But being present isn’t just for the fun of it. It actually physically switches the body out of sympathetic state and into the more relaxed parasympathetic state where digestion can occur. Noticing the sight, smell, taste, and pleasure of a meal turns on cephalic phase digestion, which accounts for up to 40 to 60 percent of digestion. It also allows your body to recognize that you ate something, so by being more present, you can feel full and satisfied from your meals, instead of experiencing persistent cravings, even after you just ate.
There is no quick fix to building a healthy relationship to food. It often takes addressing what’s going on under the surface emotionally and habitually, along with what you’re eating, and HOW you’re eating. But I can assure you that allowing yourself to enjoy — to make friends with it — food is not the enemy. It’s the answer.
Empathetic. Understanding. Encouraging.
Jessica Biber is a certified nutritional therapy practitioner, certified eating psychology coach, and the founder of Taste of Health (tasteofhealth.com), where she helps busy professional women transform their relationship with food from one that is overwhelming, frustrating, and defeating into one that is filled with more freedom, balance, ease, and consistency. She has contributed to HuffPost and a variety of health and business publications. Connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.