Last week, I talked about step 1 in improving your relationship with food: being kind to yourself! Today, we move on to step 2: being aware and observing your eating and thoughts around it without judgement!
Most of the time, we aren't very aware of our eating habits, let alone our thoughts around eating. We may eat breakfast in the car (if at all,) have lunch at our desk, be stressed out and grab one of those cookies in the afternoon with a coffee, and mindlessly much as we prepare dinner, followed by eating in front of the TV. I were to ask about the eating, you would probably have a really difficult time figuring out what you ate, let alone your thoughts around eating and why you ate what you did. Alternatively, you might be restricting and very aware of what you're eating most of the time but not be very aware of your thoughts and feelings around eating.
That's why step 2 is becoming more aware of your eating and your thoughts around it. It isn't about judging yourself for eating when you're not hungry or for having negative self-talk. It's about realizing what's going on so you can address it! Journalling this can be really helpful for you to see what is going on- I'm not talking about calorie counting and measuring portions but rather paying attention to your hunger and fullness around eating, your emotions around eating, and your thoughts around food and your body. You could use a pen and paper or an app like Recover Record that allows you to take pictures of your food along with your hunger before and after eating along with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
If you really hate journalling and can't stand the thought of this, try doing these check-ins with yourself even if you don't write them down.
"Be curious, not judgemental" -Walt Whitman
Keep in mind the brilliant words of Walt Whitman throughout this exercise! Remember to try to show yourself compassion and be curious! We are trying to find what is going on, not judge ourselves for what is happening. Realize that improving your relationship with food is a journey and just because you read some blog posts, that doesn't mean that automatically you're going to be able to change your thinking around food and your body. It takes time and awareness is a really important step!
Pay attention to your thoughts around eating and your body. Do you catch yourself looking in the mirror and having the thought that you hate a part of your body? Don't judge yourself for having that thought but observe it and be curious about it- why are you having that thought? How does that thought affect your eating and thoughts around food? Does it make you deprive yourself, striving for the 'ideal' body? Or does it make you miserable and want to eat to comfort yourself? Body image is a really important part of our relationship with food since it affects how we think about food. We can't change it overnight but we can start paying attention to how it affects us.
Pay attention to how your body feels and your thoughts when you think about eating
Many people overlook this but our thoughts are important to pay attention to in order to change your relationship with food! What we say to ourselves will dictate how we feel about ourselves and our eating. You might be out at dinner and really want to have a burger but tell yourself "I can't eat that because I need to lose weight" and order the salad instead. Did you tell yourself that a particular food was 'bad' so you couldn't eat it? On the other hand, you might get home from a stressful day work and grab a treat and tell yourself "I had a hard day so I deserve this."
When you are thinking about eating, pay attention to your thoughts: what went through your mind when you were deciding what to eat? Check in with your body: on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being that you’re so stuffed that you feel sick and 10 being starving to the point that you feel weak and cranky, where do you rate yourself? Check in with your stomach: is it rumbling? Is something else going on that is making you want to eat? Alternatively, maybe you are feeling a rumbling in your stomach but you aren't looking for something to eat. Why is this happening? What thoughts are going through your mind?
How do these thoughts play out?
Pay attention to how you feel during and after eating. If you didn't eat what you really wanted because you told yourself you couldn't, were you satisfied after eating or did you feel deprived?
If you were eating to cope with stress, do you feel better after eating that food? Remember to observe without judging yourself- be kind to yourself and be curious! What did you say to yourself after? Did you feel regretful and shift towards restriction? On the flip side, did you say "well I already messed up so I may as well have another treat"? Maybe you ate the food, enjoyed it, and moved on.
After eating do you feel satisfied? Still hungry? Over-full? Think about how the foods you ate and how much you ate made your body feel. Do you have energy or do you feel tired and sluggish?
Once you start observing, you'll find what you need to work on!
We can't change what we don't realize we're doing. Once we realize what is going on, it is much easier to start the journey of healing your relationship with food and your body. Maybe you realize you're struggling with a lot of negative body image issues that you need help with. Maybe you realize that you need to find another way to cope with your stress or you need to stop being so restrictive. I know this is much easier said than done. Improving your relationship with food and your body really is a journey and it takes time. If you notice you're really struggling with your thoughts around eating and your body, seeing a professional specializing in this area like a psychologist or dietitian may be what you need. These posts are to help you get started in your journey to improving your relationship with food but everyone is a bit different in their journeys!
Check back next week for step 3 of the journey to improving your relationship with food and your body: stop labelling foods as good and bad!