You’ve heard us say it time and time again – we want to inspire people to cook, relax about their food choices, and raise happy, healthy, and relaxed eaters. We throw those words around a lot – relaxed eating – but what does that really mean?
Does that mean we want you to eat reclined on the couch watching Netflix? Well, yes, that does sound quite lovely doesn’t it? But, that’s not quite what we are getting at!
In a nutshell, we think you should eat what you want. Sounds like a pretty simple concept, doesn’t it? But in reality, it’s not that easy.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about their last lunch date with their husband. She really wanted that reuben sandwich that her husband was eating, but instead chose a salad. “It seemed like the ‘right’ choice”, she said. Leaving the restaurant she felt unsatisfied and unfulfilled and was still thinking about that reuben sandwich when we spoke a little while later (speaking of which, it’s been far too long since I’ve had a good reuben sandwich!). Sound familiar? How many times has your food decisions been based on what you think you should eat, rather than what you actually want to eat.
Do you have ‘food rules’ that you live by? It sorta seems normal to have food rules, doesn’t it!? In fact, another friend once commented to me that “everyone has food rules, it’s just the norm.” But when did food and eating shift away from something that was enjoyable and free to something that was governed by laws and rules?
No eating after 7pm. Desserts only after dinner. Dressing on the side. Toast is okay but only without butter. (P.S. have you ever eaten a piece of toasted and perfectly buttered and salted bread? It’s really a thing of magic!). And if (god forbid) you break one of these rules or even eat one too many slices of pizza or cake, you’re left with feelings of guilt for days.
Why do we feel guilty, or think we should feel guilty, about the simple act of eating, instead of giving ourselves permission to feel satisfaction and joy from food.
In our culture, we tend to assign a moral value to food. We’ve gone beyond simply labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (which is an issue in itself). When we eat these ‘bad’ foods, we are now left with feelings of shame and guilt and begin to look at ourselves as ‘bad’ people. And of course, the more you label something as ‘bad’ or off limits, the more you will think about it, obsess about it, and have it occupy this tremendous amount of space in your brain that can lead to an unhealthy mental state. When you enter this cycle of obsessing and restricting, it can actually lead to depression and send you on the path to disordered eating.
So, how can we start to break this cycle? That is where ‘relaxed eating’ comes in – eating what makes you feel good, satisfied and happy. Eating what you want and what your body needs, rather than restricting. If you give yourself permission to eat the food you want, whenever you want, you won’t be so fixated on it and will find you can let go of that guilt.
Of course, the common argument to this mantra is, “well I always want to eat brownies so if I follow your advice, I’ll be eating brownies all day.” But the truth is, once you get to a point where you realize that a brownie is just a brownie, and you can have one whenever you want, you likely won’t feel the need to eat it day after day. Research has shown that when we place restrictions on the food we give ourselves permission to eat, we are more likely to overeat and binge on that food, instead of really listening to our body and what brings us satisfaction. Once you can let go of these food rules and guilt, you will let go of so much of that stress and anxiety and realize that food and eating is fun! How much more fun would a girls wine and cheese night be without those rules about what a dinner meal should look like, what you can eat, and how much you can eat.
It’s not easy. It’s not easy to let go of the rules we’ve lived by all our lives or rules we think make us ‘healthier’. But I would dare to say that when it comes to eating, the healthier option is not the option you think you should eat, but the option you WANT to eat. Letting go of food guilt and making space in our brain for all the way more important things we have going on in our lives is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
This is the start to a new series of posts for us and we would love to know your thoughts! Leave us a comment below and let us know if you have any questions or topics you want us to cover.