Transform Your Relationship with Food With These 4 Easy Eating Psychology Tips
by Peter Craig
After reading the title, you may be wondering, what is eating psychology? The term was created by visionary nutritionist Marc David, combining nutrition with the psyche of the eater. We are all eaters, and we are all emotional beings. Let's honor that our relationship with our bodies and food is not just a function of mind-power, but one of emotional cycles. Can you hear the overplayed mantra in our culture “Eat Less! Exercise more!” over and over? It's time to gain insight into our eating habits and transform our relationship to food by acknowledging our emotions.
The current paradigm of nutrition doesn’t seem to be working. It is estimated that over 95% people who go on a diet gain that weight back in 1 - 5 years or less.* We think that we can act like computers: less calories consumed + more energy expended = weight loss. Hooray! However, what about the mental struggle of dieting? How about the challenge of sticking to our diet even though our body says it’s hungry? What about stress?
It is estimated that emotional stress can reduce digestive function and absorption of nutrients by up to 75%!*
Catch that? Eating with less stress may be more important than eating the elusive “perfect meal.” This concept leads us to
Tip #1: Activate the ‘Relaxation Response’ as much as possible before meals.
I invite you to take a few deep breaths before you sit down to eat your next meal. Offer gratitude for your meal and those who helped create it. Allow yourself to come into the present moment and slow down. These actions will reduce over-activity in your nervous system and prime your digestion.
Now that we’re enjoying our relaxation response… Deep breath… Let’s learn
Tip #2: Slow down your eating speed.
I can hear it now, “I’m too busy at work to slow down eating.” Or “I’m just a fast eater.” Yes, I understand. How about slowing down just one meal a day? For all of you counselors out there, we can just call it a mindfulness meal. If you’re a ‘fast’ eater, try eating a ‘medium’ speed. If you’re a ‘medium’ speed eater, try ‘slow.’ You don’t have to change everything overnight; see what happens when you allow yourself to savor the flavors a bit longer and chew your food more carefully (Some say to chew 20x or more per bite!). You may notice that you feel full faster, or that you’ve digested your food better. Excellent!
Tip #3: Get in rhythm with your bio-circadian rhythm.
We're relaxed, we’re chewing slower, now what? If you can, eat around the same time each day. Your ideal digestion time is approximately 12 pm - 1:30 pm, when your digestive fire is at its peak. Find your own natural rhythm and your body will thank you. As you may or may not know, eating most calories at night can lead to excessive weight gain.
Tip #4: Honor your appetite.
In this sometimes crazy culture that worships thinness and is often so judgmental of different body shapes (for us guys too!), it’s almost as if your appetite is bad. Especially if you're on a diet, your desire for nourishment can become the ‘enemy.’ Sound familiar? Marc David calls this a ‘toxic belief’ that we may internalize from society, our parents, or others around us. In reality, your appetite is natural and essential! It is a beautiful metaphor - how attuned are you to your appetite for life? Eating may be a substitute for other kinds of experiences - intimacy, sex, social connection, pleasure, etc… (See my blog post about it here).
Eating challenges are doorways into a deeper inquiry about your relationship with your body and emotional needs.
There is no miracle diet. Yes, achieving macronutrient balance is important- getting enough healthy fats and proteins as well as complex carbs. Selecting high-quality ingredients is ideal, but if you’re increasing stress though unrealistic dieting goals, you can still actually put on weight because of the reduction in digestive capacity due to stress.
In closing, I invite you to honor your eating journey where it is right now. Not when you lose 5 pounds, or look a little different, but now. When we view our eating habits with just a little more curiosity and compassion, a small shift can happen over time that can change our lives.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
- Carl R. Rogers
"Eating with awareness is the most important and powerful tool to transform your relationship to food and the body."
- Marc David
Interested in learning more? Please feel free to download my Clean Eating 101 Guide here or check out my blog here. You can also check out Marc David’s book, The Slow Down Diet here and his website here.
* Marc David, http://psychologyofeating.com/interesting-studies-reseach-and-resources/