How’s your food relationship?

What kind of eater are you – a stand-at-the-kitchen counter or over-the-kitchen-sink eater? Or maybe an eat-on-the-go or in-the-car eater? Perhaps most of your meals are eaten in front of the computer or the TV. Or maybe you are one of the rare few that actually sit down, chew your food and enjoy your meals with family or friends.

Our relationship with food tells us a lot about our health. Many of us spend so much time ignoring our food that we cultivate a very poor relationship with it, and therefore have health issues as a result. The average American spends 27 minutes per day eating while the average European spends over two hours a day eating. The ironic part is that Americans tend to eat, on average, 30% more than Europeans.

There is immense value in slowing down and bringing awareness to our food, as well as our approach to food. Keep in mind that we are digesting not only the food we are eating, but also the pace at which we eat, the conversation we are having and the environment we are in. The simple act of bringing awareness to our relationship with food allows us to unravel emotional eating and affords a better relationship not only with food, but also with our relationship to ourselves.

A food diary is a powerful tool

The foods we eat have a tremendous ability to either bring us into balance physically and emotionally or to bring us out of balance. A food diary is a powerful tool to bring awareness to our eating patterns, and I encourage you to keep one for seven days, listing what you ate, when you ate it, how it was prepared, how hungry you were, where you were and how you were feeling, both physically and emotionally. This will allow you to look for signs of balance and imbalance.

Physical symptoms are body sensations. Clues for physical imbalance with your eating habits include: headaches, stomach pain, muscle cramps, coughing, fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, shakiness, muscle weakness, no concentration and pale skin. Clues for balance include: bright eyes, hunger, stamina, natural deep breathing, high energy, restful sleep, focus, alertness, strength, good attention span and good color. Emotional symptoms may be a little harder to notice, but are well worth the detective work. Clues for emotional imbalance include: anxiousness, boredom, fear, anger, sadness, depression, feeling frenetic, agitation, restlessness and hyperactivity. Clues for balance: confidence, excitement, energy, humor-filled, happiness, interest, relaxation, lightheartedness, patience and a feeling of being focused yet calm.

The idea of a food journal may seem unpleasant or outright terrifying. Sometimes people really do not want to look at how they eat. You may have feelings of hopelessness or failure attached to what you eat. You may be surprised that food has an even bigger emotional charge for you than you realized.

A food diary process should be designed to be fun, informative and free of negative judgments. If negative feelings arise, or you feel guilty for eating something “bad,” just remember that recording this information will help you later see the connection between what you eat and how you’ll feel emotionally and physically.