rē•spin Your Relationship with Food

rē-frame your focus onto what nourishes your body.

By: Neeyaz Zolfaghari
rē•spin Your Relationship with Food

The lessons around language, particularly as it relates to the ways in which we speak to ourselves, have become a focal point in mental health and wellness. The use of affirmations, repeated in positive, directive manners in the present tense, has become a popular tool to aid with multidimensional well-being, positive change, and even manifestation. The wellness journey ebbs and flows. During moments of adversity, every tool counts — including the deep, personal relationship with yourself.

This is why the way in which you speak to yourself matters, including the language used to describe food. “The discussion around foods is much more nuanced than ‘good’ or ‘bad,” naturopathic doctor Nadia Musavvir tells rē•spin. “Instead of associating food with reward or punishment, ask: what part of me is being nourished?” The verbiage surrounding food hints at your relationship to it; as food is so critically important in nourishing, strengthening, and even healing the body, ensuring that your subconscious relationship to it is healthy can make a major difference. Food is neither inherently good nor bad. Rather, it remains neutral until you individually project characteristics upon it. This projection can be rooted in how food was viewed throughout your upbringing. Whether it was sought out as a form of nutrition, perhaps regarded as an indulgent reward or even something you were made to feel ashamed for.

Word Choice Matters

One simple shift in language that can help to nurture your relationship with food is by replacing the word “cheat” with “treat.” Using the word “cheat” or the phrase “cheat day” in order to describe a particular food experience inspires feelings like guilt, shame, and negativity onto the food. But are these the types of qualities that you want to bring into your body?

Word choice also drives a person to jump-to desired repercussions — like working out more, or eliminating that food item entirely. For instance, if you had a cupcake, have you ever thought to yourself, “Wow — I should go work out now!” Us, too. But when you use the word “treat” to describe a food item, it places excitement, contentment, and fulfillment onto the experience. There is anticipation surrounding the food. A feeling of immense joy and ease. Afterward, if you decide to go work out, that’s fine. But it need not be inspired by a feeling of food guilt. As for strict elimination, the use of discernment might help you practice moderation, rather than rigid food exclusion that will be difficult to implement. When going through our food elimination journeys, a helpful naturopathic doctor once reminded us, “It’s normal to fall off the wagon. The important part is getting back on!”

Pay Attention to Your Individual Journey

Lastly, what might fuel or nourish one individual may not be the same for another. And what might fulfill one individual on an emotional and mental landscape may not be as fulfilling for someone else. Your relationship to food begins with knowing and understanding what foods bring you joy and support your body in feeling its best. Once you begin to pay attention to different foods and how they make you feel, it will likely become more intuitive to gravitate less towards those foods that make you bloated or experience a crash. By tuning in, you can begin to eat in a more intuitive fashion that suits your lifestyle and your body’s unique needs.

Make Sustainable Choices

It’s also important to remember that perfection is not a realistic goal and that this is a long-term journey. To get into the mindset of making healthy choices a sustainable habit, Dr. Musavvir further encourages us to ask ourselves a very important question. “Can I sustain this long term and still be nourished?” She also points out that it can be helpful to “remind yourself that you are wonderfully designed, and designed to adapt. But in order to do so, you need to fuel your body with the right material for building blocks.” This emotionally neutral, functional approach to food as building blocks, or fuel, will help take the emotional impulsivity out of it.

Food neutrality all comes back to how you speak about food, both inside your head and out loud. In pursuit of health, and feeling your most grounded self, the dialogue you have about food can help or hinder your dietary choices. “This shift in perspective and purpose of food often makes it easier to shift to a healthier way of eating that is also more sustainable, more nurturing and readily enjoyed,” Dr. Musavvir says. Food fuels us, gives us life, strength, joy, connection, and vitality. If we can all learn to speak about food in a functional way, we can break away the stigma around “good” or “bad” foods, instead practicing intentionality (rather than compulsion) when it comes to crafting our diets.


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