12 Steps to Peace with Food: Psychology of Eating Principles

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Make Peacenot War 800X675 2 | 12 Steps To Peace With Food: Psychology Of Eating Principles

You don’t want to think about food all the time. You WANT to be “more intuitive.” You KNOW what “healthy eating” is. But something keeps holding you back…Understand the psychology of eating (and your relationship with food) in order to be more free.

Everywhere you look in health and fitness world, it seems like people are trying to find the “best” or healthiest diet.

Paleo. Fasting. Keto. Intermittent fasting. Carb backloading. Vegan. Vegetarian. Clean eating. Low carb. Low fat. High protein. Cleanse. Microbiotic diet.

You name it, the hot topic changes near daily, and if you stay up to date too closely, it’s enough to leave you confused and crazed (in your head) over the “right way” to eat.

One moment, people are preaching low-fat and whole grains. The next, no grains and high-fat. The next, no food at all (i.e. fasting).

Couple any one of these philosophies with ulterior motives behind them all, including: weight loss, weight gain, blood sugar balance, detoxing, ethics, righteousness, gut healing and beyond, and it’s easy to start viewing food as one of those things that are simply a tool for manipulating, changing and contorting our bodies. 

The missing piece?

Connection to our food.

I’m talking about the psychology of eating—connecting mentally and emotionally to the eating experience in order to truly nourish and fuel our bodies, our minds and our souls.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we’ve come to view the word “diet” as “body manipulation,” “starvation,” “strict eating,” or “cardboard.”

However, did you know the word “diet” really means a way of life?

Psychology-Of-Eating

What would it be like to view nourishing ourselves as a way of life? And how to do that anyhow?

It’s time to get re-connected to your food.

Have you nourished yourself today?

I’ll show you how with the only diet “rules” (way of life) you need to know.

12 Must-Do “Diet” Rules (for a Healthy Relationship with Food–Body & Mind)

1.) 80/20. For starters, the 80/20 mentality is key when it comes to peace of mind and a nourishing relationship with food. No ultimatums here. Think: Balance. Life was not meant to be lived in a bubble. So stop living in a bubble with food. The majority of the time, aim for real foods (proteins, healthy fats, veggies, some fruit and starchy tubers), then “let life happen.” When we let go of perfection, stress levels fall, anxiety ceases and we stop overthinking every morsel we put in our mouth.

 

2.) Shop Local (some of the time). Where did that squash come from? How about that chicken or eggs? Unfortunately, our rat race society has completely warped the farm-to-table experience, as the avocados we eat come from Mexico, the eggs from Texas and that bar? From a factory in who knows where? True, farms and farmer’s markets are not always at our arm’s (or Instacart’s) reach, BUT “connecting” with your food doesn’t mean you have to hit the fields. Simply aiming to purchase foods that you know where it came from (For example: I love Vital Farm’s pasture-raised eggs and Fond Bone Broth,  produced here in the heart of Texas; And, I trust the grass-fed bison and wild-caught salmon I get from my friendly butcher and sea-food mate at Whole Food comes from where it says it comes from on the label). Shop sustainably and locally, when you can, and when you can’t, reach for food and food products with a story, a food-quality standard and morals for nourishing you (and others) they serve.

 

3.) Connect (to Your Food). Like the lost art of “shopping local,” cooking has become a lost art. In fact, Americans cook LESS than any other people group in the world. Moreover, on average, we spend only 27 minutes a day preparing food (compared to 60 minutes in 1965). Lost art indeed. The disdain and intimidation for cooking, or the simple overwhelm of cooking (in exchange for convenience like fast food, take out, heat and eat) has created a disconnect with our food itself. Since we don’t prepare it, plan for it, savor it or appreciate it (the hard work we put into it), we end up saying, “Next!” once one meal is done…and we’re on to thinking about the next. In addition, we have also become disconnected with our why for food. Why do you eat? Yes, to give your body energy. But, arguably, a vast majority of people eat food and the foods they eat because it “tastes good”—without little other thought to the why behind what certain foods can do for you, or how food makes you feel.

 

4.) Give Thanks. Saying “grace” is more than just a ritual. It’s a way to connect to your food and the mealtime at hand. Take a moment before your meal to give thanks and acknowledge the gift of nourishment before you.

 

5.) Just Breathe. While you’re at it, sit down and just…breathe. Optimal digestion and nourishment happens in the parasympathetic state (“rest and digest” mode). Take 4-5 deep breaths and get your body warmed up for dinner time.

 

6.) Unplug. Turn off the tube, the screens, the texts. Unplug. When our brains are laser focused (i.e. distracted)—away from our plates, we completely disconnect from the food before us—the tastes, the flavors, the smells, the nourishment. We are also more likely to not chew enough, inhibit digestion, eat too fast or eat too much. Focus on your meal and nourishing your body, or being (and fellowshipping) with those around you.

Psychology Of Eating

 

7.) Chew Your Food. Chew. Chew. Swallow. Chew. Chew. Swallow. ’Tis the tune of the typical American’s eating orchestra. Not chewing our food completely leads to one thing: Poor digestion. Chew your food—and chew it well (you don’t want to recognize the form it was in before it went into your mouth). No need to count bites here or anything, but definitely break-it-down.

 

8.) Take Your Time. Just because your husband is a bulldozer when it comes to demolishing his meat and potatoes; Or it seems like everyone else is finished with their plate as you’re barely working on making a dent…Take your time. Remember, optimal digestion occurs in a parasympathetic state. Allow for at least 30-minutes for meals and 15-minutes for snacks to savor, enjoy and make meal time sacred. If fast eating is a norm for you, consider putting your fork down between meals.

 

9.) Share. Friends, family and people, really, make life (and meals) go ‘round. There is a difference in sharing a lunch date or dinner you’ve prepared with other people and eating by yourself. While you can’t always eat with others, it’s isolating (and boring) to always eat alone. “Man” (or woman) was not made to be alone, and “breaking bread” with others brings a whole new life and mindfulness to the eating experience. Whether you eat out at a restaurant or over a home-cooked meal, sharing in the tastes, flavors, atmosphere, and loving hands (that made it) allows you to experience food in a whole new (mindful and present) way.

 

10.) Experiment. Variety is the spice of life. Eating the same ol’ dry chicken an broccoli strips all the fun and joy (i.e. deliciousness) from the meal. And when Vitamin P goes down (vitamin Pleasure) so does our digestive system, mood and inspiration (for nourishing ourselves with nutrient-dense foods). Get in the kitchen and whip out a recipe (or experiment) with making your own concoction (my fave recipe book as of late: Healing Kitchen” )

 

11.) Taste. Nothing is off limits when you eat to nourish both your mind and body. Food does not control you and you have freedom to taste, try and experience various flavors, foods, dishes and (even) desserts. With this mindset, food is no longer a control mechanism or something that is “good” or “bad.” When we place expectations or parameters on certain foods, we do one of two things: 1.) Set ourselves to want/need/crave/binge on the foods that are “bad” or off-limits, 2.) Fear food. Neither options give us peace of mind we (and our bodies) deserve. Your body is a smart cookie and knows how to process foods—regardless of what goes into our mouths. When we aim to eat a real, nourishing foods the majority of the time, then the little tastes and bites in life—like the pie at Thanksgiving, the birthday or wedding cake, the slice of pizza on a Friday night, the pasta in Rome—can be enjoyed, tasted, savored and something we don’t have to “earn.” Grace with thyself and permission to view all foods as acceptable and “permissable,” gives us freedom to have our cake and eat it too.

 

12.) Eat Out of Love (Not Fear). Are you eating out of love for nourishing your body and feeling well (strong, energetic, alive, well)? Or are you eating out of fear (making food choices based on food rules and ultimatums)? There is a difference. When we eat foods, based on the rules of what we should or shouldn’t eat, or the fears of what will happen IF we eat something out of line, or overthink and ‘perfectly plan’ everything we ‘should’ eat that day, we constantly walk “on eggshells” with food—never at peace. What would it take for you to “eat out of love”? To think: What would healthy, thriving me do (for self-care and nourishment) today? To make food choices based on what your body wants, needs and deserves. Make peace. Not war. 

Psychology Of Eating

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