When you think of the word “relationship,” where does your mind take you?
Perhaps it’s your relationship with your partner. Your ex. Your parents. Your friends. Your colleagues. There’s no doubting that these connections shape our lives and have a heavy influence on our emotions and well-being. We work to build, improve, and refine them as we change and grow.
So, what about your relationship with food?
If we take a step back from the human to human connections that we value in our lives, we can see a complex web of how we relate to, identify with, and understand the world around us that extends far past our relationship with people. For a lot of us, our relationship with our bodies and how we fuel them is an ongoing struggle, and working to improve this bond can seem like a bit of an uphill battle. If your relationship with food is conflicted, you’re not alone.
That’s where Ellie Rome comes in. Ellie is the founder and health coach behind MindfulBellie and, after conquering her own sugar addiction and binge eating, has made it her life’s work to help others restore their wellness through lifestyle change and natural solutions. Read on to get Ellie’s insight on how to build a partnership with food that your mind and body crave.
1. Create a vision of your future self
As with all relationships, it’s valuable to start with a self-evaluation. Ellie’s first pearl of wisdom on improving your connection with food is to “paint a vivid picture in your mind of the ideal version of you” and what you want your relationship with food to look like. She suggests asking yourself three important questions, “in the present tense”:
- How will that person self-nourish?
- How will that person feel about themself?
- What positive habits does that person have?
“Each morning, connect with your vision. As you’re met with challenges throughout your day, reconnect to your higher self. Simply question, ‘what would my ideal self do?'” Ellie said.
2. Start seeing food as energy
Ellie added, “food is not just calories. 100 calories of almonds have a far different effect on your body than 100 calories of Oreos. Each bit you take impacts your energy, mood, hormones, immune system, and brain function.
“When it comes to which food choices are right, we are each unique. What is best for your neighbor may not be best for you, and in the same way, what is best for you today may not be the same as it was three years ago. Start paying attention to how certain foods make you feel. Notice which foods bring you energy, versus take it away.
“Trade the ‘I can’t have’ or ‘I shouldn’t have’ self-talk in for self-talk that redirects you to more important questions. How do you want to feel? How do you want to show up today? You can feel tired, bloated, and foggy by your choices or you can feel fueled, vibrant, energized, and fully present.
“Empower yourself with your choices. By fueling yourself with higher energy foods, you get to choose how you show up each day,” Rome encouraged.
3. Turn off autopilot
When it comes to examining our connection with food choices, many of us live in a state of “autopilot” and are mainly reactive, rather than proactive, in our challenges.
“So often, we’re on autopilot and we reach mindlessly for food in search of comfort or distraction. It’s important to start becoming aware of what triggers you to reach for food when it’s not intentional. Every time you reach for food, ask yourself:
Am I actually hungry?
What triggered me to reach for this?
“If it’s not true hunger, find non-edible forms of nourishment instead. Make a hot tea. Take a bath. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Read. Meditate. Take some breaths.”
4. Release your “all or nothing” mentality
“Well, I already ate one cookie, so I might as well eat all of the things and start Monday.” Sound familiar?
“Remind yourself that every moment is a new moment to choose for your higher self. If you make a choice that is out of alignment with your goals, release judgment. Be gentle with yourself and try to examine what led you to that choice. What was going on for you at that moment? Become aware, then reconnect to your vision. And begin again.”
5. Trade perfection for “up-leveling”
“See your food choices on a spectrum. Instead of focusing on making every choice perfect, ask yourself, ‘how can I up-level this?’ Choose a higher-quality protein breakfast instead of a sugary option. Add veggies to your plate. Swap out a Snickers bar for dark chocolate. Swap a sweet cocktail or a beer for a vodka soda. Consistent up-leveling over time leads to massive yet achievable transformations.
6. Identify “food with no brakes”
You might be new to the term “food with no brakes,” but you’re most definitely not new to the concept. They’re the less healthy foods that we just can’t keep our hands off of. According to The Whole30 and best-selling novel, It Starts With Food, “food with no brakes” refers to the “carbohydrate-dense, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods (like chips, crackers, cookies, or other sweets) that once we start eating, we just can’t stop.”
Ellie warned, “it can be extremely difficult to eat mindfully and intuitively if you’re consuming foods that could be driving relentless cravings. Know yourself. What foods do you start eating that you feel like you literally can’t stop? Which foods make you feel sluggish but you eat them anyway? Consider your relationship with processed sugar, refined flours, gluten, wheat, or dairy. Keep your ‘foods with no brakes’ out of sight and out of mind.”
7. Be mindful with your indulgences
Rome spoke of indulgences in a refreshing and mindful way. “If you are going to indulge in something that may not be in alignment with your goals, that is OK! Take a pause, engage all of your senses, and allow yourself to fully enjoy every bite. Create a ‘post-indulgence’ ritual to signal to your brain that the experience is over. Sometimes, it’s hard to stop indulging once we start because our brains want the pleasure sensation to continue. Some helpful acts that have helped my clients include having a hot tea, drinking coffee, or sipping on a club soda.”
8. Slow down
Lastly, Ellie weighed in on how internal and external stress plays a role in how we approach our meals. “Overeating or impulsive eating is often a result of eating in a state of stress or eating too fast. Before you eat, try to take some full, deep breath cycles to allow your nervous system to calm down. One of my favorite techniques is the ‘5-5-7’ breath in which you partake in a five-second inhale, a five-second hold, and a seven-second exhale.” This can help you become more mindful over what you put in your mouth and if you truly want what’s on your plate or if you’re using it as a coping mechanism.