Guest Post by: Lindsay McEwen

Mylk Labs Oatmeal

(Source: Mylk Labs)

 Our relationship with food is undeniably one of the most important relationships in our lives.

Just like our relationships with people, it can be complex and emotionally charged, a source of happiness and comfort as well as guilt and misery. How and what you eat plays a big role in the way that you feel about yourself—not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too.

How many times have you eaten something that made you feel happy, healthy, and strong? What about lethargic, frustrated, or guilty?

These reactions have a lot to do with our obsession with food and the never-ending hunt for the “right” way to eat. We’ve taken a whole rainbow of culinary offerings and slapped them all with one of two labels—“good” or “bad.” In doing so, we’ve turned the simple act of eating into an emotional and ethical minefield.

Here is something I know to be true: shaming yourself into a healthier relationship with food doesn’t work, plain and simple. Food is not the enemy. Your body is not the enemy.

Remember, eating is inherently an act of self-care. Listening to your body and giving it what it needs—food, water, rest—is instinctual. What we need to work on is shutting out the deafening hum of diet-talk and self-doubt, and allowing those biological whispers to filter through.

Unsure of what that looks like? Here are a few tips:

1.  Practice mindful eating

mindful eating

(Source: Organized Mom)

Less woo-woo than it sounds, I promise! Mindful eating has to do with slowing down, being present, and allowing yourself to really enjoy every bite of what you’re eating.

A lot of the time, we find ourselves eating mechanically while we watch TV, read, work, or drive. This distances us from our food and can lead to overeating and a sense of vague dissatisfaction when we finish our meal (ever stuffed yourself while distracted and had the strange urge to eat something else immediately after?).

By eating mindfully as often as you can, you give your body the opportunity to signal to you when it’s full and give your taste buds a chance to fully appreciate the food.

2.  Learn how to cook (or try out some new recipes!)

mylk labs oatmeal

(Source: Mylk Labs)

Not knowing how to cook can be a major barrier to a healthier way of eating. Restaurant food is delicious (and can certainly be healthy, depending on the restaurant), but the cost of eating out or ordering delivery means that more often than not, the food we’re getting isn’t the kind of food that will make us feel good if we eat it all the time.

Cooking not only adds a new dimension to your relationship with food—there’s something magical about working with the raw ingredients yourself to create something delicious—but also makes it easier (and cheaper) to eat healthier.

If the idea of whipping something up from scratch is intimidating, browse YouTube first for some helpful how-to videos or sign up for a cooking class. When you’re ready to tackle a meal on your own, head to Pinterest for a goldmine of delicious, healthy recipes.

3.  Eat intuitively

cinnamon oatmeal

(Source: Mylk Labs)

Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body. Give yourself permission to eat when you feel hungry, respect your body when it tells you it’s full, and feed your body what it’s craving without falling into old habits of moral waffling or self-judgement.

When you find yourself craving unhealthy foods more regularly that you’d like to be, take a minute to identify what it is about that food that you really want. Is it the sweetness? The saltiness? The crunch? The creaminess? The coldness or warmth? If you can pinpoint the specific quality that’s driving your craving, you can often satisfy it with a healthier option without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.

4.  Be forgiving

floral flowers

(Source: Bastide)

Practicing self-love is an ongoing journey, not a finite destination or a skill that you suddenly acquire. You’re going to have days where you fumble a bit, where your mood or timing isn’t quite right, where circumstances beyond your control interfere.

It’s okay. The imperfections are part of it.

Treat yourself with compassion and understanding, the way you would treat a friend. Eat things that are good for you and make you feel good in equal measure. Appreciate the pleasure of eating. Finish when you’re full. Indulge when you need to.

Nurture your relationship with food the way you would any other relationship and allow yourself to flourish.

Lindsay McEwen is the writer, word nerd, and itinerant storyteller behind That Girl Writes, where she serves up story-centric content and strategy for small brands with big heart. Say hi on Instagram or Twitter

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