Food for Thought: Emotional Eating, Part Three - 10 Ways to Get on Track With Your Food Relationship

Here is the second installment of this good read on improving your relationship with food from Breaking Muscle.

Confronting the roots of your issues with food is important. Mentally overcoming them is critical. Now, it's time to apply all this to real life and do something.

So let’s talk about some strategies and ways to move forward and move beyond the struggle. Here, I describe some actions that have been successful for many of my clients.

1. Heal Your Gut

Back to the brain-gut connection: get your gut in order, and you will notice a distinct impact upon your mental health. Anxiety, depression, OCD, and eating disorders have all been linked to poor gut flora. A few initial steps to improve your digestion include: take a probiotic or eat fermented foods daily, chew your food well, slow down during meal times, and take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 3-4 ounces of water a couple times per day.

2. Eat Fat

Especially if you are a sugar craver, often your body is in sugar-burning mode instead of fat-burning mode. Physiologically, it’s relying on sugar and carbs as its primary energy source. The same thing can be said for those who are constantly thinking about food and find the thoughts won’t stop. Your brain is composed of 60% fat, so it needs healthy fats for optimal function. Contrary to popular belief, a proper intake of fat will not make you fat. Instead, it actually helps digest your food, sparks your brain function, boosts your mood, and may help you get leaner. At each meal, reach for reasonable portions of healthy fats, like ghee, grassfed butter, avocado, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, lard, tallow, olives, etc.

3. Balance Your Meals

As mentioned above, balance is king. Ensure you are eating balanced meals throughout the day. This can help tremendously with fending off binge episodes later in the day, or thinking about food all day long. By fueling your body throughout the day you have a better chance of keeping balance in your body and cellular processes humming along as well.

4. Address Nutrition Deficiencies

Identifying physiological and nutrient deficiencies can be a powerful piece to the “food struggle” puzzle. Connect with a nutritional therapist or other healthcare practitioner for guidance in supporting your body’s imbalances. Some common deficiencies amongst disordered eaters include Zinc, Vitamin B, Magnesium, hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), and natural digestive enzymes. There are also natural herbs and supplements that may help address blood sugar imbalances and support your efforts to curb sugar cravings.

5. Change It Up

Variety is not only the spice of life, it’s a terrific way to write a new chapter in the story of your relationship with food. Sometimes you must find a new routine—or change up your environment—in order to start fresh. Only you know what this means for you. Maybe it’s forbidding yourself to eat on the couch you binge on every night, going to the same 7-11 down the street for your Ben & Jerry’s, or not putting yourself through the same situation every day where you find yourself restricting. Mix it up.

6. Do Things You Love

When our hearts are happy, there is less room to need to fill a void with food (or even think about it). Food should only fuel us to do more of the things we love. Throw yourself into your passions. Do what you love and love what you do.

7. Get It All Out

Build a “stress relief” arsenal. This can include whatever works for you, such as punching a punching bag, going for a relaxing run or walk, taking a hot shower, driving with the music on and radio up, praying, meditating, spending time with people (instead of pizza), and on and on.

8. Talk About It

Who do you talk with about this stuff? When we keep things inside, it wells up, and then often overflows into unhealthy behaviors. If you’ve never “talked about it,” consider making an appointment with a counselor, or scheduling a coffee talk with a trusted mentor to share what’s in your heart and on your mind. Darkness loves to hide things and keep things stuck; freedom comes when we bring things to light.

9. A New Way

Consider a new way of doing things. For instance, have you been struggling with food and yo-yo dieting for years? Instead of trying another diet, perhaps try a “healthy living” challenge instead. Commit to add one new healthy habit to your routine per week. Or, if you’ve tried the whole complete sugar-detox or “just don’t eat it at all” thing before, why not approach food with a new mentality? Maybe try an “80/20” approach? Eighty percent of the time, you’re going to focus on fueling your body with real whole foods. Only 20% of the time have a “treat” or meal, but one that doesn’t completely derail your diet.

10. Get a Bikini Mindset

Have you tried “bikini body” challenges before? They are a dime a dozen. For that reason, I created the Bikini Mindset programa program that will teach you the following over the course of thirty days:

  • Intuitive eating and how to listen and trust yourself
  • A sustainable approach to eating for life, rather than diets
  • Tactics for developing a stronger mindset around food, fitness and your body
  • Confidence in your ability to know what your body needs and wants
  • How to genuinely love the skin you’re in—and rock that bikini

The Struggle is Real, But the Solutions Are At Hand

The struggle with food is real. But I hope I have given you a framework for re-thinking your own specific issues and how to get past them, and have passed along some ideas about how to move forward. And remember, you don’t have to go it alone.