Developing a Healthy Relationship with Food

Seeing how people were happier and healthier after shifting movement patterns to align with their natural structures, gave him the deepest sense of reward he’s felt professionally. Having built impactful and successful businesses in consumer health as well as clinical laboratory, his passion and mission have led him to founding Way. Check out his work and learn more here.

Developing a Healthy Relationship with Food

Relationships are important. In fact, the Harvard Study on Adult Development has found that the quality of your relationships is the best predictor of your health and happiness. Did you know that your relationship with food is one of the longest and most important relationships that you’ll ever have? And, just like your relationships with people, it needs care and attention.

Have You Thought about Your Relationship with Food?

“Relationship” is truly a good way to describe your interactions with food. Relationships with people are complicated things. They require both knowledge and intuition, the ability to adjust to constantly evolving circumstances while sticking fast to certain standards, and an honest acknowledgement of feelings and needs. Having a positive, healthy relationship with food requires all these things, too.

A lot of people believe that there is a single, magical key to healthy eating. They think that just cutting enough calories, or eliminating certain kinds of food, or even replacing meals with shakes will solve all their problems and make them fit, “healthy”, and happy. The trouble is, the human body and mind really don’t work in such a simplistic way.

The mind-body connection is incredibly intertwined and sophisticated. Its wants and needs shift constantly in response to both internal and external cues, emotions, and pressures. One of its main goals is to reduce long term stress, which is bad for both your body and your mind. Well, when you put yourself on a restrictive diet, what you may be doing is putting yourself under long term stress. And, because that’s one of the things your mind-body connection is built to avoid, is it any wonder that both your body and your mind fight the diet or you feel disconnected from your body before, during, and after a diet? Restrictive diets work against your body-mind’s natural processes, attempting to override natural cues and processes . It should be no surprise that they frequently fail.

Dieting and Stress

Stress (or, often, “distress”) activates the sympathetic nervous system, which activates your “fight or flight” responses. It’s designed to get you ready to confront the source of the stress, so you can get rid of it. It’s designed to make you feel agitated and upset. This may be a big part of why you feel so bad when you’re on a restrictive diet. It’s not just that you’re low on calories (likely limiting the brain’s executive function) or are missing your favorite foods. It’s that your subconscious mind may think that, because you’re hungry, or because the food you’re eating isn’t providing you with what you need, you must be in danger. It is preparing you to run away or fight.

Long term stress is damaging to your mental health. It’s damaging to your physical health, according to the new statement by the US Surgeon General. If you want to be happy, eating in ways that avoid long term stress is very helpful. A healthy relationship with food, one that makes you physically healthy, also requires you to avoid eating in ways that cause long term stress.

A Healthy Food Relationship Is Key to Health and Happiness

There is no single, simple magic key to healthy eating. There is no one solution that will make you feel happy and healthy. Instead, learn to listen to your body, and make adjustments and concessions where you need to. Just as in your relationships with people, make your emotional well being a priority. Respect your own needs, instead of pretending that they don’t exist, or that you can just ignore them.

That’s what Way is all about. Instead of clinging to a single one-size-fits-all approach, Way uses a mix of different approaches: intuitive eating practices, practices informed by behavioral science, and mindfulness of your own physical and emotional needs. Way finds what works best at any given moment for individual people and their individual circumstances, in a personal way that helps the collective social landscape as well.

Intuitive Eating

That’s why there’s such a natural connection between intuitive eating and Way. With the intuitive eating approach, you listen to your hunger cues, honor your needs, and eat what you need without guilt. You learn to trust that what your body is telling you that what it needs is right and, when you do that, you start truly satisfying its needs. This not only makes your body healthier, it also lowers your stress levels, keeping you calmer and more prone to positive feelings.

Intuitive eating and Way do the opposite of what restrictive dieting does. They help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, keeping you calm, relaxed, and healthy. And that is what a healthy relationship with food should be doing: encouraging mental well-being and calm, not agitation and stress.

The Advantage of Behavior Science

Of course, intuition alone isn’t enough. Knowing how the mind works is the best way to make sure your relationship with food is working out for the best. When you become aware of how your mind works, you can play to its strengths while avoiding its weaknesses and triggers. You can recognize the little tricks that your subconscious can play on you. This is one of the things that makes Way truly unique. It blends so-called “right brain” and “left brain” methods together, bringing all your resources to bear on developing a healthy relationship with food that works with your needs and not against them.

When you are able to be in a calm state through mindful breathing, you can start to observe and become aware of the thoughts you have, the feelings and emotions that those thoughts create, and the behaviors that result from the thoughts, feelings and emotions. These are the core parts of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and they’re uniquely and thoughtfully blended into Way (without being so scientific-feeling!).

Mindful Eating and Happiness

Just like your healthy human relationships require mindfulness, your relationship with food also requires mindfulness. That’s why Way encourages you to really pay attention to your food as you eat. Savor the aromas, the tastes, even the presentation. Say “thank you” and think of all the people who had a hand in bringing that food to you – the farmers, ranchers, truck drivers, train operators, pilots, cooks, waiters, store clerks, store managers, and even the cashier who checked you out. Being grateful in of itself has been proven to increase happiness and decrease stress.

This kind of mindfulness also helps you enjoy your food more, helps you feel more satisfied by it, and really helps you develop a healthy relationship with food. It also helps you make the right eating choices for your body’s current needs and helps you be more aware of when you are feeling full. Way encourages this mindfulness with a variety of short, sweet, easy breathing techniques.

When you have happy, healthy relationships with the people in your life, based on understanding and respect, life’s a lot easier, calmer, and happier. You know what? When you have a healthy relationship with food, life’s a lot easier, calmer, and happier too.