Do you ever get frustrated by food and nutrition? Maybe you can’t figure out why you feel bloated after eating certain foods, have family mealtimes that are mayhem or are unsure about which foods are best for a particular health condition. I call these “food fights” – they represent times when you struggle with yourself or others about what to eat. Part of my job as a dietitian is to coach people to calm these food fights, so I was super excited that the Nutrition Month 2017 theme is “Take the Fight out of Food” – it’s exactly what I do every day!
Nutrition Month 2017’s campaign from Dietitians of Canada guides people through a three-step approach to improve their relationship with food, no matter what the struggle. Dietitians across the country will empower Canadians to:
1. Spot the problem. Identify or define the specific nutrition problem that needs to be solved, since it’s causing a fight with food.
2. Get the facts. Decide what needs to be done to solve the problem, using reliable and credible sources.
3. Seek support. Put the plan into action with support from family, friends, a dietitian and other members your health team.
To learn more about nutrition month 2017 or to find some great resources on taking the fight out of food, please click here.
This nutrition month theme resonates with me because my main goal when working with individuals or groups is to help them find their healthy relationship with food.
So what is a healthy relationship with food?
This will be different from person to person, but in general it involves nourishing ones body in a way that promotes good nutrition and energy. It isn't about eating to relief stress, eating for comfort (e.g. you are upset), eating in times of boredom, or eating to improve your mood (those are just a few examples). It is challenging to make these changes at first, but with support you can change the way you feel about food and better yet your eating habits.
Some of the ways I support individuals in making these changes is by:
1) Using a non - dieting approach.
Dieting can be a vicious cycle. It usually starts with some dietary restrictions or food changes, leading to rapid weight loss, sometimes decreased energy and eventually food cravings. Overtime these things can lead to a return to your former eating habits. This return is typically accompanied by some weight gain, feelings of guilt and shame, which lead to more dieting (hence the vicious cycle). Dieting can work for a short period of time, but usually is not successful long term. A non-dieting approach is crucial to long term success and more importantly a healthy relationship with food. I truly believe there is no such thing as "bad' foods, and I want you to believe that too!
2) Providing support in identifying food triggers, cravings and emotional eating.
They way we eat is largely influenced by our food environment, our food preferences, emotions, our life situations and much more. It is important to truly understand why you eat the way you do in order to make small changes that stick.
3) Not encouraging restriction.
Let's face it, no one enjoys being restricted from anything. Whether that be food, Netflix, friends etc., we tend to rebel against restriction. Having a healthy relationship with food is all about finding a balance that is right for you. I like to use the 80/20 rule to help explain this to people, 80% of the time we do our best to eat the healthiest we can and the other 20% (e.g. birthday cake) is called life. We are allowed to enjoy all sorts of different foods, it really is all about moderation.
4) Helping you trust yourself and not beat yourself up.
Having a healthy relationship with food is about trusting you know what your body needs, knowing how to control cravings, how to enjoy food, and feel good about your daily food choices. This trusting relationship evolves over time, but I promise it does exist! This relationship takes work and time, during this time it is important not "beat yourself up" or feel guilty. I like to say "it's not failure, it's learning and an opportunity to grow."
The bottom line: having a healthy relationship with food is about finding ways to eat that nourish your body, gives you energy, brings you happiness, and never leaves you feeling guilty!
Sometimes it's okay to eat the cookie.
If you are looking to improve your relationship with food or need help with your "food fight", please feel free to connect with me. I am always happy to help!
Until next time,
Eat Right, Feel Right - Angela XO