What I’m learning more about, and really learning in myself and in the people that I work with, is that when it comes to what our hearts truly desire we’re thinking about lots of different aspects of our lives. So we’re thinking about our connection, we’re thinking about our health and our happiness, but we’re also thinking about what our meaning is, what our purpose is. That’s a lot of thinking! And it’s easy to feel out of balance when trying to think of it all. Food is a big part of this equation and building a healthy relationship with food will be paramount to unlocking the key to what our heart truly desires.
When we get confused about eating and when we let rules dominate, we tend to disconnect with the feeling and sense of what our body and our mind really, really need. Diets, plans, rules, somebody else’s thoughts on what you should do, they last only as long as your willpower does. And when you’re in that situation, where you’re following somebody else’s set of rules, tension can be created in your body.
You may have noticed it in the times that you’ve dieted and your cravings are more intense, or you may even have physical discomfort in your body. Other times, when you’re living in a way that you’re out of touch with what your body and your mind really want, and your body’s beginning to shout at you and tell you, “I’m not feeling okay here’, then something is not right.
We need to get ourselves back to that situation of balance so that we can trust in our own innate ability to hear what our body needs, to listen to that calling, and to give it what it needs.
Read on or watch the video here:
Improving your relationship with food through balance
If you want to improve your relationship with your food. What are you really trying to do? You are trying to learn how to eat in balance which ultimately will then impact how you live your life in balance. So that’s what this balance and flow is all about. It’s about being present enough in your actions, being present enough in your eating, being present enough in your daily choices to reap the rewards of the actions that you’re taking.
When I talk about being present enough, it means that you’re noticing. You’re noticing things are happening. You’re present enough to notice that what you’re about to do, is not going to be a positive for you later. But you can still make the choice to do it. It’s your choice.
Or being present enough to notice that how your life is rocky at the minute. That it is not truly meeting your heart’s desire. Recognising that there is something that needs to change. Or being present enough to notice that you’ve gotten halfway through the slice of cake, and that’s enough for you today. And that you are happy to say no. It could be being present enough to notice your body is crying out for, and actually telling you that it would love another salad. Now that’s being present and that’s noticing really how you can balance yourself, by balancing your relationship with food.
I’m going to share with you four valuable lessons I learned on my journey to improving my relationship with food, and ones that I see my clients continually learn. And that’s really, really powerful because as one human to another, we can all learn from each other. You don’t have to do what I’m doing. You have the choice to sit back and reflect and try it out. Test drive it. See does this actually worked for me? And if it does, I’m so happy for you, but these are my lessons and they’re what I’ve learned.
Lesson 1 – Managing Your Beliefs and Expectations?
So what’s the first valuable lesson I learned about eating and achieving more of that normal feeling around food? It is lowering your expectation of what the food can give you.
Many of the people who come to me have that deep sense or belief that food is going to be the answer to all of the ailments, troubles or worries they have. This first lesson speaks about why you might think that and about how you should allow for a little understanding for yourself, if you have been there or if you’ve been thinking this way because it’s okay to feel like this. I’ll show you that this is a result of a process that’s happened, a process we can easily undo and learn to do in a new way.
Let’s think about what this word expectation means for a second. Expectation is defined as a belief or anticipation of a future event. It’s often attached to a thinking, reasoning and remembering sort of action of your mind or emotion.
So if you already have a belief at the forefront of your mind or an emotion to reaffirm a belief, that something is going to happen in the future when you do something, ultimately that will influence your perception of the experience. In other words, if we tell ourselves that something is going to happen if we do something, then our perception of the experience will reaffirm that message in our minds.
Our beliefs about our food really, really matter. It has an impact on what you choose to eat. It has an impact on your attitudes to food, but it also has an impact on your pleasure. And if you’ve listened to me before, or you’ve read my work before, you’ll know that one of my very key, fundamental values in all of my work with people is bringing people back to their OWN sense of pleasure. Because, what’s pleasurable for you and what’s pleasurable for me is very, very different.
I have done a lot of reading and a lot of research to understand the nuts and bolts of how to build a healthy relationship with food. We eat to nourish our bodies, but we also eat for pleasure. So with food, we have to be connected to our own sense of pleasure.
Let’s come back to beliefs. I want to tell you about the study from a guy called Martin Yeomans in 2008. In this study, they were looking at peoples expectations and how they influenced, in this instance, the perception of unusual flavoured ice cream – smoked salmon.
For the study, they had one group (let’s call them Group A) that were eating the smoked salmon ice cream under the label of ‘ice cream’. And they had a second group (let’s call them Group B) who were eating the same ice cream – smoked salmon flavour – but under the label of ‘savoury mousse’. What was really interesting about this study was that the feedback from the group. Group A, who taste-tested under the ‘ice cream’ label said that they disliked the ice cream and that it was very salty. Group B, on the other hand, said they didn’t find the ice cream so bad. In fact, a lot of them found it actually quite pleasant and they even reported it as less salty. So here you can clearly see that the labelling of food really influenced what people thought and altered their experience of eating. Their beliefs about the word on the label impacted their experience.
Beliefs are really, really important. For you, if you really want to get yourself into a place where you can derive pleasure from food, focus on the sensation of eating and bring yourself back into how you actually feel in the moment, how your body responds, NOT your expectation. Have a think about what kind of beliefs do you have about food. Am I good if I eat the cake or am I bad? Am I healthier if I have salads every day, or am I not? Am I wrong if I choose to have a dessert when we’re out and nobody else is? It’s these kinds of beliefs that are going to influence the pleasure sensation, and how you respond to and understand that pleasure sensation within your body.
Remember food has no moral value. So as you lower your expectations, bring yourself back into reality and realization. Food has no moral value. All foods are equal. Some foods are more nutritious than others. Some foods give us more nutrition and less pleasure. Some foods give us more pleasure and less nutrition. So all foods can have a place in your eating habits, but we’ve got to think about taking away that moral value that we associate with food. Food is not a magic potion. It’s not the answer. If you think about that belief and expectation, often the expectation is “when I get under control with this food situation, when I’m in control of what I’m eating, then I’m going to feel……” But it’s not a magic potion because if you’re eating the salads and the diet plan you’re told to and the food is giving you no pleasure, then your sensation, your expectation, the results, the reward, it’s not delivering. It’s not delivering what you’re desiring. It is not bringing you back to balance, which is what, overall, we’re talking about here. That ultimate sense that what we all really want is that feeling in our heart’s desire that we’re balanced, that we’re meeting our needs from many aspects of emotional, social, physical, purpose, value, spiritual, all of these.
Lesson 2 – Understanding the Gut-Brain Axis
When we talk about the type of relationship with food you want to have, we’re talking about just being “normal”. We can have the cake one day, and we can leave it the next day. We can have the salad one day without feeling we have to. We can have a burger another, without thinking we need to go on a run afterwards to make up for it. So, valuable lesson number two, for me was really learning to understand this gut-brain highway.
When we’re trying to achieve balance, if we’re worried about what we’re eating all the time, it’s just going to go against us. And when we’re out of balance, our natural instinct is to focus on eating, which again goes against us. Instead of focusing on eating, we really want to focus on the feeling. When I started my journey, that whole piece of the mind-body connection, mindfulness, or self-awareness felt really far away from me. Instead, what I was able to hook into was this gut-brain axis. It taught me so much because our brain really responds to how we feel. And when you begin to understand the science around the gut, and you begin to think about gut bacteria and how it works you are better able to relate it back to that mind-body connection piece.
There are feelings that we get. That sensation before you go to take an exam. Maybe you get little butterflies in your stomach. That’s all there for a reason. It’s all there for a purpose. There are also sensations that we get sometimes when we have cravings. We often think it’s our weak willpower, our lack of discipline. We think we’re not strong enough and wonder why we can’t get past these cravings? Well, maybe it’s just the gut talking to us and our gut is sending these signals to you because there is actually evidence out there to show that if you’re craving particular kinds of foods, you’re most likely have particular gut bacteria that have overgrown, or maybe become more populated than we’d like them. And, when we begin to understand why this happens, well now we’ve got something tangible to work on instead of trying to get your head around the emotional stuff straight away.
Understanding the gut-brain highway can be really powerful to allow you just to dial things down, to start to listen in to what your gut is telling you about, how you’re feeling, how your mind is responding, how your body is responding to the things that you’re doing. And in my next two points, you’re going to understand what to do with that learning when you get it. So it’s like you’re using your gut-brain highway as a navigation system to pull you when you’re so far off balance, back into being more in balance so that your body and your brain and your gut are all beginning to feel happier, more content. They have meaning, they have purpose.
Lesson 3 – Notice What You Notice
Valuable lesson, number three, the art of listening.
So what we talked about above, that gut-brain connection; we all have an inner wisdom within us. I’ve shared this before, and I’ll share it many times again, we are always the best experts of ourselves. We’re told this as moms, that you know your child best. Well, how about we think about our own health in terms of ourselves as being the mother of our own health? So in that case, we know our own health best. We know our own bodies best. But, the art of listening to our bodies is kind of lost. We don’t trust and we don’t know how to hear what our body is saying to us.
We don’t know how to believe it because of those beliefs I’ve talked about earlier. Those beliefs and those expectations that we have, lead us to think that what our body is telling us is wrong. Because we’ve got this thought process taking over.
When we want to slow down and listen, it’s often a big leap to really start thinking about going so slow that you’re really hearing. Oftentimes it’s just noticing. I learned this word from my teacher in life coaching. Notice. Notice is such a powerful word. We used to all talk and laugh as we were learning about how we were told to go and “notice, what you notice”. But it was a really lovely way of thinking about things and I would like to offer that to you as well. Notice what you notice about your eating. Notice what you notice about your body before you eat. Notice what you notice about your body after you eat, and maybe hold those noticing with a little less fear and a little less worry that all is wrong, or that I have done wrong. Just notice the sensations, notice the feelings. And reach out for support then from somebody who can help you to make sense of what those feelings and what those sensations really are meaning for you.
What we’re talking about in this blog is really to try and get ourselves back to that sense of balance. From what our heart desires, to feel more at ease, to this area of flow that we talk so much about now. There are a couple of things that you can do, to learn and to start your process of listening:
So we want to breathe regularly. Breathing is really, really, really key and instrumental in understanding the sensations within our body. I did a Live on Instagram a while back, and you can click here to listen to this Live on the importance and the art of breathing.
The other pieces are that we need to pause and enjoy our food. It doesn’t matter if it’s pizza or if it’s sticky jellies. Remember that expectation and pleasure. We’re trying to eliminate the beliefs that we’ve long held that may not be serving us and we’re doing that by simply pausing and zoning into the present moment to begin to enjoy.
We’re checking in on our hunger and fullness (I’ll speak more on this in my next blog). We’re stopping during our eating. We’re thinking about the foods that we have in front of us, not the food that somebody else has in front of them. Nor the food that we wish we had in front of us, or that we think we should have in front of us, or that we had in front of us yesterday, or that we’re going to have in front of us tomorrow. We’re just thinking about the food that we have in front of us here and now. And that’s really powerful in order to help you to learn, to trust your body.
There’s also really great learning in eating to discomfort or breaking the rules. Maybe stepping out and challenging those beliefs that you have. Because when you learn and when you eat to that level of discomfort, or when you eat the way you feel you shouldn’t, and then you take that time to notice, you can reflect on what you notice. And that’s a catalyst for change for you because when you feel it in your body, then your mind and your brain start to register things in a new way and that’s when you can really move forward. You’re creating new belief systems that are more in tune with how your body, how your energy system, how your gut highway, how all of that is interacting together.
Lesson 4 – Embrace the Challenges
And the final, and probably most valuable lesson that I learned on my journey to building a healthy relationship with food, and I see so many others learning the same, is to embrace the challenges.
When we work together, initially you create an overarching goal of what it is that you want to achieve. And I work really hard with you in that first session to define that goal so that it is not an exterior measure it’s more of an internal feeling. Remember, what we’re talking all about here is always how that feeling is so important. When it’s exterior, it’s kind of something that’s away from us. And we’re always searching. We’re human beings, we work on feelings and sensations. So when you have that goal set, that is how I want to feel. And it then becomes really easy to embrace challenges. And when we embrace challenges, we embrace them with a purpose or an intention to learn. To find the lesson.
Sometimes we don’t want to find the lesson and that’s okay. But oftentimes when I work with people, they talk about this downward spiral. The rules are broken or the plans are wrecked because there’s a meal they have to go to. Or there’s a party and they go to the party and they’re having fun and they’re driving lots of pleasure, but it’s not as nutritious as they’d like it to be. The whole scheme, or system or rigid boundaries around how you’re operating is just pulled apart. And they find it very difficult to get back on track. That downward spiral starts and then it’s three months, six months, six weeks before we start again.
What we want to do is facilitate an upward spiral. So that when incidents happen, where we’ve fallen off the wagon. We instead use that to learn and experience and grow from. We’re using it, not as a reason to knock ourselves down, but as a way to pick ourselves up and say, remember, every meal is an opportunity.
So we are not defined by any one meal that we’ve had. How we use these challenges really effectively, is by really learning and growing and jumping back into that self-awareness and spending as much time as you can becoming so aware of those body sensations. That allows you to notice the signs and signals quicker of what’s happening for you. And as you begin to grow and develop on that and to practice you begin to re-define your own belief system.
Use your strengths and your resilience to pull you back on track. Use compassion, a lot of compassion to allow yourself grace and to support yourself. Use these challenges as opportunities to bring you to a place where you feel more comfortable around what you eat in the longer term.
So, as a reminder, we’ve been talking about achieving balance. We’ve been talking about how to build a healthy relationship with food is so important when our life, our body, our mind, might feel that little bit out of balance. And I shared with you the valuable lessons that I have learned, and that I see my clients continue to learn as they work on their own relationship with food. I want you to think about this.
What kind of an eater are you? Are you the normal eater who says “I’m not hungry right now so I’m not going to eat”, or “I feel like cakes so I’m going to have a cake?” Are you somebody who might be engaging in a bit of compulsive eating? You’re noticing that you’re mindless eating without even thinking the food has gone, and you’d barely even been aware that you’ve had it. Are you an emotional eater where you’re reaching for food automatically when you notice uncomfortable feelings around you and you’re frustrated with your kids, and next thing you notice that you have a can of Coke and a slice of cake, or maybe a whole cake, or are you a restrictive eater where you’re spending a lot of time, you probably know better than me, how many calories and fats are in specific foods. You spent your life in this cycle of shame and guilt and worrying about breaking rules because you’ve eaten too much or it’s not healthy enough, or you’re gaining weight.
These are the different kinds of relationships that we can have with food that is not really serving our health. They’re not serving us in a way that is beneficial. If you want to learn how to be somebody who eats when you’re hungry, or maybe eats when you have a craving and know that you’ll satisfy that craving and move on. If you want to learn how to choose foods that you believe are going to satisfy you, if you want to stay connected with how your body is feeling during the eating experience and getting a deeper sense of what eating with pleasure really feels like. If you want to stop eating, when you’re full and notice that fullness sensation or that satisfaction sensation to your best health advantage, then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me through any of my social channels.