10 Ways to Have a Better Relationship with Food

CN Digital Studioby Lexi Patronis, Glamour

Lori Lieberman, RD, MPH, CDE, LDN, is a dietitian, so she knows food. But as the co-author of Food to Eat: guided, hopeful & trusted recipes for eating disorder recovery, she also knows people--and how important it is to have good relationships with food.

OK, so you have a "top ten" list of how to improve our relationships with food, no matter our past eating experiences. What's on it?

Lori: First of all, give yourself permission to eat--whenever you need to, regardless of the hour. It allows you stop when you've had enough--knowing that you'll have another chance, that it's not now or never. And you'll learn to honor your hunger--which is the first step in learning to honor your fullness and knowing when to stop eating.

2: Cut back on fluids, so you can learn to distinguish your hunger from other eating triggers. At least, don't start drinking non-caloric drinks when you're feeling hungry!

3: Mix in realistic goals that match your readiness for change. Taking on more than you're prepared for only sets you up for failure, making it more challenging to get back on track.

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4: Spice up your diet with foods you really enjoy and see as forbidden. Otherwise, you'll continue to long for what you feel you can't have, and overeat when you finally do have a "weak moment." That's what happens with deprivation. And why would you stick with a way of eating you don't enjoy?

5: Add patience as you shift your approach and relearn how to eat again. It took many, many years to develop your unhealthy behaviors, so be kind and patient as you relearn how to eat mindfully, and to distinguish your physical need for food, for fuel from all the other reasons we find ourselves eating.

6: Don't rely on willpower. Rather, avoid going more than 3.5 to 4 hrs without eating to increase control around food. It will help your energy level and make you less vulnerable when confronted with food. And it will allow you to better meet your needs without getting uncomfortably full.

7: Pre-plan--even if you don't pre-prepare, allow for flexibility and spontaneity. Having a mental plan for what you're going to eat, or having snacks on hand can help and make mealtime less overwhelming.

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8: Stop comparing yourself--your size, your food intake--with others. Everyone's needs are different so comparing is dangerous. Our needs depend on height, muscle mass, our activity levels, whether we are growing in pregnancy, whether we need to be gaining weight or not. Everyone seems to be an expert on what you should be doing, but you know what's not working for you, and when it's time to change direction.

9: Let it go and strive for a clean slate versus a clean plate. Compensating for overeating with restricting, or with continued overeating. Try to be as compassionate to yourself as you'd be to your best friend.

10: Add supports, such as friends and loved ones. Too much information, including the wealth of misinformation we're bombarded with, may make you feel like a deer in headlights, unable to make any change. So be selective about where you go for nutrition information and who you call on for support. Bad information can be more damaging than no information!

What do you think? Does any of this ring true to you? By the way: this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so we'll have some more on this important topic ASAP!

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