4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Food

  Jun 28, 2017  |  #Intuitive Eating

We’re finally back from our mid western adventure and it feels so good to be home. The catching up on life part is the tricky part but I’m so happy to be in my own bed again. You don’t realize how much you love it until you’re gone.

Let’s talk about simple and effective ways to improve your relationship with food. 


Today, I’m doing another Intuitive Eating featured Wellness Wednesday post today. Here are some of the past ones if you want to catch up!

January: Get 25 grams of protein at breakfast
February: Honor Your Cravings
March: Promoting Heart Health
April: Confessions of a Dietitian and Runner
April: Balancing Intuitive Eating and Exercise
May: 4 Ways You May Be Stressing Your Body Without Knowing

1. Try ordering what you actually want, not what you think you want 

Just try it once and see how freeing and powerful it can be to give yourself permission to eat what your body craves in that moment – maybe it’s pancakes every morning, ice cream for dinner 3 days straight, or pizza for every meal.

You’ll find that the more common that food becomes, the less anxiety and fear it will provoke. The less exciting it will become.

We call this sensory satiety. The more exposure to a food you have, the more “boring” it becomes and the less desire you have for it. But you can’t have those experiences through knowledge, it’s something you need to learn through experience, bite by bite.

We have less urges to overeat when we eat what we really want. OUR BODIES ARE SMART! We can’t trick them because they’ll catch up sooner or later.

4 ways to improve your relationship with food

Read: Listening to what you want to eat, not what you should

2. Honor your hunger

Similarly, try eating when you’re hungry, even if it’s not your normal “meal time.” This is a great resource to help relearn how to acknowledge your hunger

When we don’t eat enough or we ignore our primal hunger (our biological, urgent need for food), our bodies compensate with both biological and psychological mechanisms. With any form of deprivation, our brain chemicals change, too.

For example, NPY is a brain chemical that makes us crave carbohydrates. Have you ever been super hungry (a 0, 1 or 2 on the hunger scale, as my clients know it), and just craving something carbohydrate based?

There’s a reason for that!

4 ways to improve your relationship with food

When you eat carbohydrates, you increase your production of serotonin, which then turns off NPY. Lots of science but basically….your body has these mechanisms to protect you! But it works in opposite ways too.

Read: If You’re Hungry, Eat

3. Get yourself away from diet culture

That could be certain people, magazines, websites, blogs or tv programs promoting diets and bikini bodies. Even if you don’t realize it, these are likely impacting you subconsciously. They won’t help you become a more natural, relaxed eater.

They won’t help your relationship with food. They won’t help you learn to eat intuitively. To some extent, you have some control over what influences you, so try to gravitate towards the more positive things.

I love how Kylie often talks about what a “normal” eater is. To me, normal means always eating when you’re hungry, and not making excuses for hunger. And it’s okay to eat when you’re not hungry sometimes – sometimes eating is social, sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s just there.

Being able to let yourself eat in all of these situations constitutes normal.

Looking forward to a meal out, yet also looking forward to a meal in. Making your favorite meal often because it’s not something special that you have to “deserve” in order to eat. Eating dessert even on days you didn’t exercise just because you enjoy it and want something sweet after dinner.

All of this is normal. There’s so much crap out there that makes us feel like this isn’t normal, but when you’re listening to your body, that is so good and so nourishing.

Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap

4. Aim for meal satisfaction, not meal fullness

To be satisfying, a meal should include foods you enjoy.

For example, eating a salad when you want a steak just isn’t satisfying. If you are truly choosing a satisfying food, you’ll probably eat less of it. What sorts of pleasure do you look for in foods?

Taste, aroma, appearance, smell, texture, volume? All of these come into play when choosing a satisfying food. You won’t find yourself chasing that “ultimate  pleasure” if you actually choose what your body wants in the first place.

Maybe you want something warm and creamy, but your brain tells you you had a big lunch and you should settle for a salad. You won’t leave feeling satisfied. You might be full, temporarily, but your body knows its not satisfied.

So, you’ll seek something else out.

4 ways to improve your relationship with food

I’m not telling you not to eat salads or vegetables, because sometimes that may be what brings you satisfaction. You’ll find that there are times when you crave all the veggies so embrace those times too.

Read: Satisfaction Vs Fullness

What foods brings you satisfaction? For me, a thick bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, veggie pizza or a cone of ice cream!

21 responses to “4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Food

  1. These are great tips! One of the ones that has been most effective for me is ordering what I WANT to eat. The second I feel like I’m ordering what I’m ‘supposed’ to eat, I’m setting myself up for failure. Life is about balance, and once I’ve had my indulgence, I’m even more excited about getting back on track!

  2. for me getting myself away from diet culture is unfollowing certain people on social media and being mindful of what blogs I read. I think that’s huge!

  3. I love the idea of looking for meal satisfaction, so you aren’t craving something after a meal (even if you’re technically full.) Also honoring my hunger has been so good especially so I don’t get really hungry and then overeat. I love all of these tips of ordering what you want and making meals that you like to make. They’re also simple, and yet it can be hard to remember them if you’re focused on diet culture.

    1. Thanks, Emily. It can be overwhelming to think about so many rules – I really encourage my clients to simplify it best they can. Order what you want in that moment – don’t second guess it!

  4. THANK YOU, again, for being such a balanced, non-triggering resource for getting away from harmful restriction and for honoring wellness.

  5. For me the thing that has been most helpful is to have whatever I want but only to the point of non-hunger. What amount makes me not hungry anymore? I alsolove the point about a food becoming less desirable the more you have of it. We’ve created so many food rules we forget the basics: eat when hungry!

  6. Since discovering Intuitive Eating, I have found myself paying more and more attention to choosing foods that are actually satisfying to me. Taking that pause before eating just a brief moments and really concentrating on what would be a good “match” for what my body is asking for has become so essential. Sometimes, I will visualize what the foods will taste and feel like in my body before deciding what I’m going to eat. I think if we all just took 5 minutes to ponder what it is our body is asking for it would be so helpful!

  7. Thanks for being a constant reminder of health and happiness, sarah. I’ve been really playing around with the notion of satisfaction vs fullness recently and have become a lot more aware of the things I eat and how they feel. Like you touched on, I’ve noticed that if I choose the thing that is truly more “satisfying,” I actually eat it a lot more slowly and am actually able to stop when I’ve had enough. Vs if I choose the salad just because my brain says thats what I should have, I eat it quickly and even at the end when my stomach is “full” I am always left with a brain hunger that is looking for me. I’ve learned that I really hate that feeling, because physically it can lead to feeling over full but mentally you are anxious because you don’t know if you should have more or not. Blegh. I’d rather have the more solid, satisfying item and have less of it and feel satisfied at the end.

    1. I think those feelings are important to have so we can learn from them. I love your last line, “i’d rather have the more solid, satisfying item and have less of it and feel satisfied at the end.” Amen!

  8. Great tips. I find when I am overthinking what to eat, I’m often just bored. So I try to find something to take my mind off my lunch. Or I’ll just ask my coworker to make me something, anything they want, and that’s what I’ll eat. I’ve eaten some great things, and some…interesting things haha
    I also don’t need every meal to be “oh my God the best thing ever!!!” Which is a trap I see a lot of HLbs and IGers doing. It’s like if their sandwich isn’t the pinnacle of everything it’s not good. That is so far from true! As long as the food tastes good and satisfies you, it should be good enough.

    1. I totally agree with you on that – some meals can just me food to get you through the moment. Nothing more, nothing less. And they don’t have to be super beautiful.

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