I have a soon-to-be-Kindergarten with the appetite of an NFL lineman! He is a growing boy without weight issues and he eats good quality food so I don’t deny him food very often. With that being said, I do limit the amount of sugar he eats. So when he asked me for a cupcake before dinner recently, I gave a resounding no. But, I was surprised to hear my cousin’s response:
“If you keep telling him he can’t have sweets, you are going to give him a food complex.”
Huh? Well she went on to explain that strictly limiting sweets with a four year old means he could be a forty year old OBSESSED with the very thing I limited. While her comment has merit it made me think about his growing relationship with food and my own relationship with food, too.
Aside from my sweet tooth, which has a mind of its own, I am a vegetarian who sticks to fairly healthy diet. I don’t overeat and I look at each meal to determine how balanced it is. But the road to a healthy relationship with food is long and winding. Here are some helpful tips to get you there.
I know you have heard it before – “You can eat anything as long as it’s in moderation.” Well…it is partially true, but moderation is subjective. To simplify the term, follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the food you consume should be healthy, vitamin-rich and clean (fresh produce, whole grains, lean protein etc.) so the remaining 20% can be less nutritious or less balanced. So, of the 21 meals you consume in a week, 17 should be well-balanced and four can be more relaxed. #treatyoself
This makes the word moderation easier to grasp and, quite frankly, more attainable.
Listen to Cravings
Research has shown that suppressing food thoughts and cravings can lead to binge-eating and, ironically, more cravings. So if your mind signals to the body that you want ice cream and you ignore that signal, you are more likely to eat an entire pint rather than just a scoop when you finally give in. A recent study indicated that external signals can trigger cravings and influence eating behavior – even if you are full!
Giving in to cravings is not bad, but that does not meant you can check your willpower at the door. A weight loss study by the USDA Agricultural Research Service found that conscious control of portion size and frequency of giving in to cravings, rather than suppression of food cravings, may be important areas of emphasis in weight control programs.
To tackle cravings, give your body a taste of the flavor profile that you want and commit to that solution. If you don’t trust your resolve, find a substitute. So if you are craving chips or fries, have a handful of salted nuts or whole grain crackers instead. If you want something sweet, have some fruit or dark chocolate.
A healthy relationship with food can be reduced down to one question: Do you “eat to live” or do you “live to eat?” The hope is that you answered with the former and not the latter. If it’s the latter, don’t get discouraged. Like any relationship, it takes time and work to make it healthy. But remember that you can always seek help from a professional if you feel your eating is uncontrollable.
The bottom line is monitoring your food consumption and eating healthy do not mean living a miserable lifestyle. You can still brunch with your girlfriends; just make sure you stop once you feel full and box up your leftovers. Taking your kids out for ice cream is fine as long as you have eaten a well-balanced meal beforehand and don’t overindulge. Find healthy substitutes for your favorite foods like whole wheat pasta rather than regular.
Unlike that loser you dated your freshman year in college, your relationship with food will never go away. Take the time to make it strong, productive and long-lasting!