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Are you in a bad relationship? - Medically Speaking, Volume Two, Number Nine, 4/9/15

We all have a relationship with food. Good or Bad. For many of us this relationship could use some improvement.

Instead of seeing food as something essential to fuel our bodies and keep us healthy, we fight with it. We battle daily with adding up numbers and we think about if and what we are going to eat from the time we wake up. We have the mentality that there are clean foods, but that must mean there are dirty foods too. If we eat healthful foods we feel good about ourselves, and we beat ourselves up about unhealthy food choices.

Thirteen years ago I was working with a client on weight loss. One day she came in and was telling me how guilty she felt for stopping at McDonalds after her midnight nursing shift end-ed. She ordered and ate three chocolate chip cookies. I told her that one of my goals for her, was for her to be able to eat those three cookies and not feel guilty. She looked at me like I was crazy.

In trying to have a healthier relationship with food we must change the way we think about food, the way we act when we are around it, the way we let it control our thoughts and our lives. Here are a few quick tips to getting started.

1. Stop punishing yourself for what you ate yesterday. There is nothing you can do about it. Dwelling on it creates negativity, which can lead to more unhealthy food choices. It also creates stress, which can significantly influence your health.

2. Be mindful when you are eating. Enjoy your food! Enjoy its texture, flavor, aroma. Take time to chew your food and enjoy the experience. Be grateful for the food that you have to nourish your body.

3. Choose foods you like. Whether you are trying to make healthy food choices or not there will be foods that you like and foods you don't. Choose foods that you enjoy eating. If you hate steamed spinach, don't eat it. Try your spinach in a salad, an omelet, or a smoothie. Or get similar nutrients from a different dark leafy vegetable.

4. Let go of the idea of "perfect". Nobody eats perfectly. Nobody!!! As hard as this one is, remind yourself constantly that you are enough. It's not a competition of who eats the most "good" or "clean" foods.

5. Make the best of the situations you are in. Don't let food control your social life. If you choose not to go out to lunch with friends, or on a date with your spouse because you worry about what you will eat, you will end up hating food and what it does to your life. Just make the best decision about what to eat based on what's available. That's all you can do.

6. Balance your plate. Choose foods that are both "healthful" and "pleasurable". If you're lucky, these might be the same foods. But even if they aren't, don't make yourself feel deprived.

7. Eat before you are overly hungry. Fuel your body often to keep from binging on anything and everything in sight. This only leads to feelings of guilt.

8. Let go of emotional eating. If you are reaching for the fridge because you are bored, angry, sad, tired, etc. find something else to do. Address the issue at hand, don't drown it in food. Do an activity that you enjoy. Go for a walk, read a book, call a friend, start a project, go get the mail.

9. Celebrate YOUR body. Your body is amazing!!! It works so very hard for you. Give it food because you appreciate the body that you have. You only have one body and will never get another one. Take care of it, love it, fuel it.

You can break up with your boyfriend or your spouse, but you can't just break up with food. You need it to survive. We need to get to a place where we are eating when we are hungry and stopping when we are full. Where we don't see foods as good or bad and let our self-esteem be dictated by what we eat. We need to realize it is normal and okay to eat several cookies because they just came out of the oven and taste so good when they are warm. It's also normal to eat one and leave the rest because you know they will still be there tomorrow if you want more. So let's not break up, let's just do a little relationship therapy.

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