She is a powerful leader and passionate advocate for building nourishing new narratives for us, that don’t include depriving ourselves of the cultural foods we grew up eating. She’s been featured and quoted in Well+Good, NY Times, and Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health Podcast. Check out her work and learn more here.
“Healthy” Foods: What Does That Even Mean?
The notion of “healthy” food nowadays has become interchangeable with restrictive diets and calorie counting. This often makes people feel ashamed or guilty about eating certain foods. Notwithstanding, the reality is that “healthy” could imply “wholeness”, which constitutes the physical factors, emotional and mental well-being that comes with appreciating a healthy relationship with food.
In this blog post, we will shed light on the concept of “healthy” food in a specific and unique light, pinpointing the benefits of intuitive eating, listening to your body, and mindfulness.
What is “Wholeness”?
How does “wholeness” relate to the idea of health? Well, first of all, the root word of “health” actually means, “whole”. To comprehend how “wholeness” is linked to the concept of health, it is worth it to understand what it entails. In simple terms, wholeness is a state of being undivided and/or complete. What this means is that embracing all the factors of ourselves – such as mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual – and seeing how they are all interlinked. So, when we center on wholeness, we consider harmony and balance in all the zones of our lives, instead of just focusing on one aspect.
How Does “Wholeness” Relate to Our Relationship with Food?
When dealing with relationships with food, the idea of wholeness signifies that food is simply a single part of the bigger picture. Indeed, what we consume is critical, however, it is not the sole aspect that interferes with our overall well-being and health.
Simply put, if eating something makes you feel “whole”, it’s therefore “healthy” food (or drinks). Paying close attention to how you feel after you eat or drink something, is where many people get lost in learning about to listen to their body.
Commonly, our relationship with food is affected by our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs, not to mention our environmental and social contexts. When you focus entirely on the nutritional content of your food, you might lose sight of the bigger picture. This means you may become tormented with counting macronutrients or calories, or you may be looking at specific foods as “bad” or “good” depending only on their nutrient profile.
Obviously, this results in a restrictive mindset around food, and therefore, you’ll likely feel ashamed or guilty for consuming certain foods. You may also try controlling whatever you consume to an unhealthy degree, and likely start overthinking about what you eat to the point where eating loses its enjoyable aspects.
Alternatively, when you accept the notion of wholeness in your relationship with food, you’ll start to see food as one part of the larger puzzle. You’ll likely realize that our food preferences are influenced by several aspects such as environment, emotions, and cultural background. So, we learn through listening to our bodies and trusting our instincts when dealing with food options, instead of simply depending on external guidelines and rules.
Tips to have a Healthy Relationship with Food
Listen to Your Body
The first thing you can do to foster a healthy relationship with food is to slow down, take a moment to breath (even for just 30 seconds), and listen to your body. What does this mean?
Well, to elaborate on this better, understand that your body has a way of communicating with you by telling you when it’s full, when it’s hungry, and when it requires certain nutrients. But, many individuals have lost touch with their body’s signals because of years of following external cues and diets. So it is time to learn again by listening to our bodies.
To help you kickstart this journey, try paying attention to how various foods make you feel. Ask yourself if some foods give you energy and note the ones that make you feel sluggish. Note the kind of foods that will make your stomach feel uncomfortable. This practice of pausing, an hour or a few hours after you have a meal, or even the next day, can uncover and reveal your body’s signals.
And, by listening to these signals, it becomes much easier to start making the right choices that fit your body’s preferences and needs.
From the word intuition, intuitive eating entails trusting your body instincts to guide you on the choice of food. What do your hunger and fullness signals tell you to eat? Well, to eat when hunger strikes, and to stop when full. Eating from intuition also entails eating any food that your body hungers for, without blame or shame. As such, we find that eating from intuition heightens the experience you get from every bite, because you’re more present in the moment – the flavors and textures stir up your taste glands, satisfying and fulfilling your senses, rather than the nutritional content of the food satisfying an external rule that has nothing to do with your body.
Generally, intuitive eating is about creating a positive and healthy relationship with food and your body by trusting your gut on what to eat. Doing so is a way of honoring the signals and needs of your body with regard to food, and this in turn fosters joy and exploration. This cultivates a high level of wholeness and sense that goes beyond the things you eat and encompasses emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
Mindfulness is another key element of a healed relationship with food that you should consider. Mindfulness implies being available and contemplating your current experience without distraction or judgment. You may be wondering how this relates to eating, right?
Well, mindfulness implies being undistracted by your surroundings – think, being tidy and less cluttered like Marie Kondo, combined with the calming serenity post-meditation. You don’t need to be Marie Kondo or be an expert meditator, but finding your own way to stay calm, peaceful, and grateful can make being in a state of mindfulness easy. When you do, it becomes much more natural to pay close attention to the textures, flavors, and sensations of our food, getting that true satisfaction you’ve always been looking for, and seemed like it was at the end of a rainbow that you could never reach.
Overall, mindful eating is considered and believed to have a lot of benefits that include reduced stress levels, improved digestion, and weight loss. So, through being available to your food, you can open into a high sense of pleasure and satisfaction, which might end up minimizing the occurrence of emotional eating or overeating.
Bringing it All Together: The Way App
At Way, we believe what we eat is not the only thing that determines the what kind of relationship with food you have. Rather, we believe in so many factors that also help to create a deeper sense of meaningfulness and wholeness, by tuning our bodies to choose things that support our well-being in general.
The Way app combines principles of behavior science – like awareness, mindfulness and intuitive eating, all of which help our members develop a more healed and harmonious relationship with food. The app also incorporates short and easy mindfulness exercises that bring calmness to the nervous system, thus encouraging exploration.
Whether you need a break from the restrict-binge cycle, have some sort of unexplored emotional eating, or simply want to develop a more peaceful relationship with food, look no further than the Way App. By focusing on intuitive eating, wholeness, and mindfulness, Way empowers users to make the body-and-soul nourishing choices with food – the best path to eating “healthy” food.
In a nutshell, the conceptualization of “healthy” food surpasses the nutritional content of the food. The idea is to engage in healthy relationships with food that amalgamate mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Therefore, it will be easier to create a healthy relationship with food when we consider listening to our bodies, being mindful, and practicing intuitive eating. Note that “healthy” should be perceived as “wholeness” and not deprivation and restriction. So take the necessary step and foster healthy living by considering all the tips and advice discussed in this piece.