6 Ways to Simplify and Improve Your Relationship With Food

Simplifying Eating

Tips for using your senses and instincts to eat healthy.

With so many diets and eating protocols out there today, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options — and to wonder which is the “right” approach to eating. All the “shoulds” can diminish the joy of our basic eating rituals — and leave us feeling uninspired, guilty, and confused.

Nutritional psychologist Marc David, MA, believes that the simple act of giving attention to the act of eating can help us simplify and improve our relationship with food. He offers these six tips to get started:

  1. Consciously choose to eat. Instead of eating automatically — it’s noon, time to eat; everybody around you is eating; watching TV while eating — try to make a conscious choice to eat. It can bring you into a more mature relationship with food, and away from the habitual.
  1. Ask your body what it wants. Tune in to your body’s intelligence about what to eat. Listen to the nuances of your gut intelligence, and not just in extreme situations like when you are so full it hurts, or so hungry you’re having hunger pangs.
  1. Eat with awareness. If you’re going to eat, eat! This is no different than paying attention when you’re having a conversation with somebody. Eating fast and without awareness doesn’t give the brain time to realize what’s happening and can lead to overeating. Let your brain register the sensations of eating: “That tasted good,” or, “I think I’m full now.”
  1. Listen for feedback. Fifteen to 30 minutes after we eat, the body continues to give us feedback. By checking in during the day and listening to feedback, you can start to notice how your body reacts when you eat certain foods. Like, “When I eat breakfast cereal or a sweet breakfast bar, I end up craving sugar all morning.”
  1. “Release the meal.” There are a lot of people who carry guilt for having eaten food, but letting go of the meal means it’s over, it’s done. So what if you ate the chocolate cake? Instead of beating yourself up about it, simply let it go.
  1. Seek out the highest quality food you can find. This is an easy way to circumvent good nutritional advice without getting mired in trends or scientific jargon. You can increase pleasure and satisfaction simultaneously by eating more nutritious foods. Allow yourself to taste the subtle experiences or full range of natural sensations that should be available in our food. (For more on reengineering your taste buds, check out “Take Back Your Taste Buds.”)

This list originally appeared as part of “Eating, Simplified” by Marc David in the December 2009 issue of Experience Life.

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Marc David, MA, is the author of The Slow Down Diet (Healing Arts Press, 2005) and the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating (www.psychologyofeating.com) in Boulder, Colo.

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