Sunday, October 28, 2018

How I Developed a Healthy Relationship with Food

As I was getting ready to do the eat-at-home challenge this November, I was reflecting on how far I’ve come in terms of my relationship with food, so I wanted to post a video talking about how I developed a healthy relationship with food.

I used to be really obsessed with food. I LOVE eating, but I would often overindulge, and then I would feel terrible afterwards. On the one hand, I had such passion for food, but on the other hand, I felt a lot of guilt for going out to eat all the time, stocking our cupboards with processed food, and generally feeling like food controlled me. In recent years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve developed a few strategies to avoid overindulging, which has resulted in me having a much more healthy relationship with food. I still love food, but I no longer obsess about it and I make better choices. I still eat a bit of junk, but I practice moderation, and I try to cook most of our meals at home. I'm still learning, but I'm proud to have gotten to this point.

Here are the key items that helped me to improve my relationship with food:

1) I got to know myself better and became honest with myself about my relationship with food.

This is something I'm still working on, but I've learned so much about myself over the years. If you follow my YouTube channel, you'll know I'm a big fan of setting annual goals and experimenting with monthly challenges. Over the past few years in particular, I've become much better at setting goals and challenges that nudge me towards my "best" life. I wanted to talk about this point first because knowing yourself, your triggers around food, and how you react both physically and psychologically to food are key to setting yourself up for success. Knowing yourself allows you to set up habits that work. You can look externally at people who seem to have their s%$# together, but ultimately, what works for you can only be determined internally.

I already know a lot about how I react to food psychologically, but I'm still learning about the physical aspect. I don't have any severe reactions or allergies to food, so I've never really thought too much about this, but I do often feel bloated or sluggish after eating. To that end, I've been keeping a food journal to hone in on how food makes my body feel. I've really enjoyed the process and I think I'll keep up with it throughout the November eat-at-home challenge.

The next 4 items are habits that work for me, and I was able to discover them through trial and error as I got to know myself better. All these tips work in conjunction with one another, and I didn't quite figure it out until I implemented all of these in my life. While I practice all of these habits the majority of the time, I also make exceptions when appropriate. I don't believe in being dogmatic and super strict (although I used to be very hard on myself when I didn't follow my own rules). If you set habits that enhance your life, they should feel happy and easy.

2) I started weighing out my more indulgent snacks and eating only one serving.

Before I developed this habit, I would eat SO MANY servings of my favourite snacks (peanut M&Ms FTW). I started weighing my snacks a number of years ago, but I would often go back for seconds, thirds, or even fourths, while diligently weighing out one serving each time. It was only after a few years, when I combined this habit with #3 below that I got the hang of moderation. Now, I only eat one serving of my more indulgent snacks around 95% of the time. There are still a couple of occasions when I still go back for seconds: for a day or two at that "time of the month" when I am absolutely ravenous or when I'm sick and literally unsatiable.

3) I started eating with no distractions.

This habit was a game changer for me. I'm the type of person who likes to see her food, so you won't see me snacking in movie theatres; however, I was still prone to consuming huge volumes of food mindlessly. I used to do this all the time because I would eat while watching TV, editing YouTube videos on my laptop, or looking at my phone. As a result, I really didn't know how much I was eating and I'd be done my food before I knew it. Once I started eating in my "little corner" with no distractions (not even listening to a podcast or an audio book), everything changed. I have so much more respect for food now, and I view eating as an important ritual. When I'm eating by myself, I view it as "me time." When I'm eating with friends or family, I view it as a time to catch up and bond. There are rare occasions when hubby and I will eat in front of the TV, for example, during the Super Bowl. I don't eat-on-the-go anymore; I prefer to sit down at a table with the intention to eat a meal.

The other reason this habit works to prevent me from overindulging is my desire to be productive. I love being productive and efficient. My mind is always racing and there is always something I want to do. Since I view eating as its own activity now, which is not eligible for multitasking, I have to take a break from being productive while I enjoy my meal. It's incredible what an impact this has. Now, I often finish my food, realize that I'm reasonably full, and decide to move on to something else rather than eating more. Mealtime used to be my carrot, but now I've discovered a second carrot: my productive time after mealtime.

4) I started doing the 30-day eat-at-home challenge.

My first 30-day eat-at-home challenge happened in November of 2016 and I did a blog post about the impact on my pocketbook. Besides the financial impact, the challenge allowed me to rediscover my love for cooking and eating at home. It was fun to discover my favourite recipes and rewarding to eat the fruits of my labour. The eat-at-home challenge interrupted my pattern of going out to eat and buying takeout (or ordering delivery) pretty much on a daily basis. I no longer need to do the eat-at-home challenge to break bad habits. Instead, I want to do the eat-at-home challenge because I love it so much.

5) I started experimented with intermittent fasting.

After I got Invisalign, I found it really tedious to eat at work. I didn't like how long it took to eat my lunch, floss, brush my teeth, and clean my aligners. It felt like a huge disruption. By that time, I was eating salad for lunch anyway, so it seemed like a lot of effort for a relatively light lunch. I started experimenting to see if I could go the entire day at my nine-to-five without eating. I would eat a larger-than-usual breakfast, and nothing again until my big dinner. It worked. I found it really easy to skip lunch, and thus I began "intermittent fasting." I'd experimented with this concept years ago, as I used to skip breakfast and eat at my desk at work at around 10:30am, so the concept was nothing new to me. However, I realize I sometimes eat out of boredom or frustration, so I was concerned about not having the mealtime "carrot" when I was spending all day at work. The Invisalign definitely helped with that. I don't think I could have skipped lunch had I not been wearing my aligners.

Fast forward to today, and I am pretty much done my Invisalign treatment. I only wear my aligners in the evening (after dinner) and overnight (before breakfast), but I've kept up with intermittent fasting. In fact, I like it better now, because I've reverted back to what feels natural for me, which is skipping breakfast (rather than lunch). I typically eat two large meals a day with no snacks, but I'm not super strict with timing. I have my first meal between 10am and 12pm and my second meal between 5pm and 8pm. Going back to key item #1 of knowing myself, I like to eat until I feel full, and then I'm really good at delaying gratification and not eating again until I'm hungry, so intermittent fasting works well for me and my body and the way I like to eat.

That's basically it for this blog post! The key takeaway is to know yourself and use this knowledge to develop strategies that work for you. It's ok if you don't want to weigh your snacks, or if you like to have popcorn at the movies, or if you like to go out at least once a month for a nice dinner, or if you like to eat 6 small meals a day. I'm here to share my experience, and I totally get that not everyone is the same. How boring would the world be if we were all copies of each other?! No one can tell you how to live life and what works for you, but the key is to be honest with yourself and create a life that is authentically you.

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