Sarah Faigle, MPH RD LDN CEDRD
Spring has sprung! For many, spring may trigger thoughts of renewal and spring cleaning. Unfortunately, for some spring is just the next turn of the annual diet treadmill. Fresh off New-Year’s-resolution failures that the diet world capitalizes on, many people experience body image concerns related to spring break and “summer body” prep. This spring has me thinking about more mindful ways to approach our relationship with food and our bodies. With so many of us going through the past year in a state of constant stress and flux due to the pandemic, this spring may be just the time to reflect on how our eating has been affected.
People often talk about different types of hunger: emotional hunger, physical hunger, sensory hunger, and practical hunger. Identifying which type of hunger is driving your desire to eat can be an important step in developing a healthy relationship with food. Each type of hunger is an important and valid reason to eat. We need to allow ourselves to eat for emotional reasons (think about celebrations, for example). It is absolutely okay to eat for taste-related reasons (or we would never have the adventure of trying new foods or enjoying one of our favorite foods). Of course the foundation of our eating should be based on our body’s nutritional needs and physical hunger.
If you take a minute to reflect on whether and how your eating has been affected by the life changes of the past year, what comes to mind? Are you restricting more often due to low mood or lack of support or resources? Are you increasingly fixated on your food or exercise? Are you sneaking food or overeating to self-soothe? Which type of hunger is driving your food choices?
Although life has not returned to “normal,” fourteen months-in is a great time to reflect on how we can renew our relationship with food, our bodies, and our health. With the changing of the season, can we shift our eating related behavior to a more balanced place?
Ideas for reconnecting with food and your body:
1. Visit your local farmer’s market (being mindful of any mask and social distancing requirements). Talk to the vendors, sample some new produce, and ask for pointers on preparation
2. Check in with your hunger and fullness cues. If you feel like your hunger/fullness cues are absent, weak, or unreliable, it may be a sign your eating pattern could use some help. Try a revision on your own; eat regular meals and snacks according to a schedule (breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and maybe an evening snack) for a week or two and see what happens. If you continue to receive limited feedback from your body, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian and have a professional help you re-evaluate your eating patterns.
3. Move your body in ways that bring you joy. The most important thing about making movement a regular part of your life is making sure that you enjoy it! Physical activity can assist with regular hunger cues. Consider activity that is right for you—mindful yoga, dance, seated stretching, a walk outside, a leisurely bike ride, or tai chi—you shouldn’t punish your body to support your health.
4. Choose one day every two weeks to try a new recipe. Many of us get stuck in ruts when it comes to food preparation. Over time, repetition of meals may contribute to decreased enthusiasm or hunger for the food. Trying a new recipe may increase the enjoyment of preparing the meal and the interest in eating it.
5. Be honest with yourself. Have your disordered eating behaviors increased over the past fourteen pandemic months? Are you ignoring hunger/fullness cues? Have you developed an eating pattern that you recognize isn’t optimal for your health and well-being? If so, seek help from friends, family, doctors, and eating disorder professionals, if needed.