Tips for a Balanced Lifestyle and Healthy Relationship with Food

Friends enjoying a balanced lifestyle. Image: Pexels - Alexy Almond

It is not uncommon to face challenges in developing a positive, healthy, and balanced relationship with food (and/or your body). So many of us have struggled with disordered eating patterns and relationships to food as a result of prolonged dieting and the pervasive impact of diet culture.

The complexity of our relationship with food is further exacerbated by the fact that eating is a fundamental necessity for our survival. Unlike substances such as alcohol or drugs, we cannot completely abstain from food if our relationship with it becomes unhealthy.

Moreover, our relationship with food extends beyond mere physical hunger. We use food as a means to connect with others, celebrate special occasions, express gratitude, and fulfill various emotional needs. It is no wonder that many of us face very real challenges when it comes to navigating their relationship with food.

Maintaining a balanced diet and good health goes beyond just what you eat; it also encompasses mental health, regular physical activity, and strong social connections. Adopting healthy habits can significantly improve your quality of life. By integrating regular exercise, fostering social connections, and focusing on overall mental well-being, you lay the groundwork for a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. Remember, developing a positive relationship with food is just one piece of the puzzle in achieving lasting wellness.

There is so much that goes into maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but what does a healthy relationship with food even LOOK like? Perhaps more importantly, how do you go about developing one?

At its core, a healthy relationship with food is similar to any other healthy relationship:

it’s one that is built on respect, trust, communication, healthy boundaries, and an investment of time.

woman cutting pancakes

Here are my top 7 recommendations:

1. When you eat, just eat

Otherwise known as mindful eating. Too many of our meals are eaten in front of a screen scrolling social media, in our vehicles, or while engaged in other activities. It is such a simple yet profound way to start working on improving your relationship with food and is a great way to model healthy eating practices to others in your home. It causes you to focus on the tastes, smells, and textures of your meal and helps you dial into your satiety cues making it way less likely for you to overeat.

Practicing mindfulness while eating can have a huge impact on your overall well-being. It encourages your body’s natural response to food and can lead to a lower risk of overeating and chronic stress. By integrating these mindfulness practices, you can cultivate healthy relationships and achieve the best balance in all aspects of your life. This not only helps in maintaining a well-balanced life but also promotes a healthy work-life balance. When you focus on eating mindfully, you give yourself the opportunity to become the best version of yourself, which can positively affect your work hours, help you make new friends, and ultimately improve your own health and life expectancy.

2. Prioritize whole foods

We are inundated with so much processed food. It’s literally never been easier to get it. Food manufacturers spend a ton of money discovering the “bliss point”, in an attempt to get us to eat more. But if most of your food is whole, unprocessed food, it’s a lot easier to get full faster and again, harder to overeat.

Incorporating more whole foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can lead to a healthier diet and improved energy levels. Making small changes to prioritize these food groups in your meals supports a healthy weight, a healthy balance, and overall health, ensuring that your diet consists of nutritious, healthy foods.

3. Allow yourself enjoyment

In our society, there is a pervasive culture of “good” vs. “bad” foods and when we eat foods that are deemed “bad” or indulgent, we bring a lot of unnecessary guilt and shame into the experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, when we’re able to view ourselves as totally worthy of indulgent foods in moderation, we can start to release these negative associations.

Allowing yourself to enjoy food without guilt can improve your social well-being and stress levels, as you share positive experiences with family members. Embracing a positive mindset towards all foods is a key component of maintaining balance in important areas of your life, including managing health conditions and making healthy choices without feeling deprived.

4. Listen to your body

Your body is always giving you feedback — it’s just a question of whether you are listening or not. We’ve learned to outsource our body’s innate wisdom to so-called diet experts and override signals that we receive from our body in an attempt to control it.

Starting to actually listen to it is such an important part of developing a good relationship with food. They say that communication is the most important part in any relationship, and it’s no different here either.

(It can sometimes be disappointing to learn that certain foods or beverages that really taste good to us aren’t well received by our bodies. It’s been tough for me to realize that as much I love drinking red wine, red wine doesn’t love me back!)

woman holding glass of wine

5. Practice self-compassion

We’ve been taught that “beating ourselves up” is how we achieve results. But research shows that is actually not true at all! Positive emotions like kindness and curiosity bathe our system in dopamine, which activates our motivation systems. I love what self-compassion expert Kristin Neff says: “Remember that if you really want to motivate yourself, love is more powerful than fear.”

6. Give it time.

If a problem has persisted for years, why do we think that a month or two is enough to solve it? It’s not! Instead, keep yourself in the game by celebrating small successes along the way and find ways to enjoy the journey, as you get closer to your goal.

Building strong relationships with positive people can provide a sense of purpose and support, which contributes to better health and well-being. Remember, the positive effects of these efforts will accumulate over the amount of time you invest, ultimately benefiting you for the rest of your life.

7. Seek out support

There is tremendous power in our environment, both physical and social. The best way to ensure that you adopt a way of thinking or adopt new habits is simply by surrounding yourself with those who have already done so.

Developing a positive and healthy relationship with food is a really worthwhile endeavor. The best way for us to do this is to treat it like any other important relationship in your life. Give it time, foster trust, allow forgiveness, and keep at it! Remember, food should be enjoyed without judgment, and involves finding a balance between nourishing your body and allowing yourself to savor indulgences.

What does having a healthy relationship with food look like for YOU? I’d love to know.

Last Updated: May 24, 2024

You do not have to “do healthy” on your own. In fact, research tells us that you are much more likely to succeed if you have accountability layered in.

Let’s face it — healthy eating and healthy lifestyles can be boring and require a lot of patience. Having the support of an accountability coach and a community of like-minded individuals on your team can make all the difference. Share paths with a practicing holistic nutritionist, receive one-on-one coaching regarding your meals, and be connected on the app with my other clients and Ambassadors. You will have fun, stay motivated, and feel inspired!

Find out more by visiting my website

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