Everyone has their own views when it comes to food and eating. Sometimes our views are positive and optimistic; other times, we lean into negative thinking that brings us down. Have you ever stopped to think about your views and how they affect your daily life? Having a healthy relationship with food isn’t always easy, but it does affect our wellness and is worth working on. Let’s take a look at some common negative thinking patterns that can develop around eating – and what you can do to spin things in a more positive direction.
Negative thinking pattern #1: Comparison
There’s an expression: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we compare ourselves to others – whether it’s our bodies, homes, lifestyle choices, meals, snacks or anything else – it can have a negative effect on our well-being. We may think, “If I eat like so-and-so, I’ll look like them.” Or, “If I do exactly what she does, the same success will happen for me. And when these things don’t happen, we may become upset, disappointed or even angry.
Positive spin: Focus on you
Instead of pushing yourself to do what others are doing, zoom in on yourself. There are many factors that impact your lifestyle. They may be cultural, financial, environmental and more. Reflect on your food choices, and remember that they should be personal to you. Allow yourself grace and fuel your body according to your needs. As yourself: “What can I do to make better choices for myself and my health today?”. Take it a step further and try to be aware of projecting your food viewpoints onto others, as well. Remember, you may not know the full story behind their food choices.
Negative thinking pattern #2: The ‘clean plate club’
Were you told as a child: “No dessert until you clean your plate”? You may be a member of what I call the Clean Plate Club. It’s a motivational tactic that often backfires, causing us to overeat (rather than preventing us eating excess dessert after dinner, as intended). It also conditions us to not listen to our body’s natural hunger/fullness instincts.
Positive spin: Eat intuitively
First, there’s nothing wrong with having dessert after dinner! But it’s important to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. It’s simple. Eat your meal until you feel full, then stop. Remember that if you still feel hungry, you can go back for seconds. If you didn’t finish your meal, you might save the rest for later. Commonly referred to as intuitive eating, this eating style offers benefits beyond helping you to build a healthy relationship with food, including weight management, improved mood and more.
Negative thinking pattern #3: Food labeling
Ranking (or designating a moral value to) food is considered a negative food habit. There’s no one food or food group that is “good” or “bad.” It’s all about the amount we eat and the emotional connection we have to it. Any food or beverage can be turned into an unhealthy choice if consumed in excess. Take water, for example. Drinking water throughout the day is great for us; but, if we drink too much, it can lead to overhydration.
Positive spin: Enjoy food and know its value
Try to avoid thinking about calories as good or bad and instead focus on where the calories are coming from and how they’re fueling your body. Allow yourself to feel good eating food that brings you joy, and appreciate the food that brings you nourishment. Of course, this will look different for each individual, and it make take some time and practice. But you can do it!
Negative thinking pattern #4: The all-or-nothing mentality
If you start the day eating unhealthier foods, it can be easy to “give up” and continue on a pattern of less-than-stellar eating all day. This is known as an “all-or-nothing” mentality (and, interestingly, it can apply to physical activity, too). Just because you started the day with a breakfast that isn’t nourishing doesn’t mean that you can turn things around and make healthier choices the rest of the day. Same goes for exercise. A sedentary morning or afternoon doesn’t mean you have to plop down on the couch and not move all evening!
Positive spin: Little steps lead to change
Reframe the way you think about food – and movement – so that you’re not succumbing to extremes. Enjoy food that brings you joy, but nudge yourself back on track with wholesome choices for other snacks and meals during the day. For exercise, know that short bursts of physical activity throughout the day offer benefits, too. You don’t have to hit the gym for an hour to reap them. Your body deserves nourishment and movement, no matter what (or when).
Focusing on the positive and taking steps to correct the negative will help you to develop a healthy relationship with food. A wise fellow dietitian once told me: “Remember, this journey is about trial and correction rather than trial and error.” If you need or want to talk about your eating habits and a plan for improvement, the Kroger Health Registered Dietitians are happy to assist. Schedule a telenutrition appointment with us today.