Deciding to embark on a new healthy paleo lifestyle can require us to make some adjustments in our life to set ourselves up for success. One such adjustment that might be required is how we feel about the food we put into our bodies. Our relationship with food impacts on the choices we make on a daily basis. Having a good relationship with food helps us to choose the foods our bodies need for health and wellbeing, while a negative relationship with food can keep us trapped in unhealthy patterns.
How do you think about Food?
When you think of your next meal what instantly springs to mind? Do you think thoughts like ‘I’m looking forward to filling up on wholesome food so that I can get back to living my life?’ or do you find yourself saying things like ‘I did really well at such & such today, so I’m going to treat myself at dinner time?’ The flip side of this could be ‘I’ve had such a tough day, I need to chill out with a takeaway to destress’. (We’ve all done it, there ain’t no judgement here!)
The reality is that this is a huge part of how we view food in our culture. We use it as a means of celebrating, rewarding and marking special occasions, just think of how we spend Christmas, birthdays and weddings! But if we eat to celebrate, it’s not that far of a stretch to see why we eat to commiserate also. This is not a new phenomenon, humans have held banquets for as long as we’ve had access to bountiful supplies of food. But what happened before that?
Relationship with Food in Paleo Times
Back in paleo times, before the dawn of agriculture, our ancestors were hunter gatherers. They had no means of preserving their food and so they hunted and foraged on a regular basis, much like any animal in the wild. Their relationship with food was simple, it was a necessity for survival. If you didn’t eat you would starve – and that was a real possibility. Sourcing food required an energy investment for our paleo ancestors. My, how things have changed in the western world!
We get all our meals either at the shop or if you’re lucky enough, delivered to our door by Paleo Ireland! While this is great for our schedules, it doesn’t ask any energy of our bodies. Also, we have access to such vast quantities and different types of food that we never really have to eat only what’s available. We can stock pile food in our homes so that we don’t have to leave and can snack at any time of the day or night.
Now, don’t get us wrong, all these developments are great! But, they do change our relationship with food. We don’t view food in the same way as our paleo ancestors did. What happens when we have access to food all day every day and don’t see it as a way to fuel our bodies? Attaching an emotional response to food brings us so far away from the purpose of food. Viewing food as a comfort which will help us feel better or as a treat that we deserve contributes to us ignoring the physical signs that we need certain food types.
Our Body’s Signals
When we are lacking in particular nutrients, our body usually gives us a signal to let us know we need to increase our intake. That sign may come in the guise of achy muscles, dry skin, or bleeding gums, etc. But, if we only eat from a place of emotional attachment then we can easily overlook our bodies warning signals.
Ideally, food should be viewed in a neutral manner. There is no point in vilifying certain foods, rather we should attempt to change how we view them. A neutral approach allows us to make healthy choices in line with what our bodies need rather than what we want or crave at a given time.
Making Food Choices
Asking ourselves a number of questions before making a food choice can help us to stay on the right track in our relationship with food.
Consider the following questions:
- Is my body really hungry? (If you only want a certain food, then the answer is probably no. That’s a craving and is an emotional response).
- Why do I want to eat this?
- Will I feel bad after eating this? (Food shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself)
- Is my body giving me signs about what I should eat?
- Am I bored?
- Is there something else I could do that would make me feel better? (Such as calling a friend, doing an enjoyable activity, etc.)
When we think about how our bodies break down food and use it to make all of the components that fuel our bodies, food really is amazing! It can also be really tasty. That’s not a problem, we should be able to enjoy our food. It’s when we eat to get a hit of something other than what our bodies need because of a negative relationship with food that the problems start.
If you find that you have an emotional attachment to food, why not start questioning your habits today? Being conscious about what and why we eat can help us to make healthier decisions which will impact our health and wellbeing long into the future.