Today I’m pleased to feature an article from my friend Katie Goldberg, a dietician with a lot of great advice for women who struggle with food (like I do!). The thought of trying to eat less this time of year is almost insane. But, Katie’s got some great advice on how it can be done in a healthy way! I know I’m going to take this advice…
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a healthy relationship with food. I have had my share of idiosyncrasies when it comes to eating, and definitely some disordered eating patterns in my past. When I was in college, my dad was sure all I consumed was Diet Coke, salad and chocolate. There might have been some truth to his belief.
As a former gymnast (and – let’s be honest – as a woman), I’ve struggled with comparisons and desires to be a different size. I’ve never been clinically overweight, but let’s just say I’m at a healthier size now than I was at 18. But even now, at a healthier size and as a dietitian, I struggle with having a healthy relationship with food.
Maybe you struggle with extreme control of your food. On the spectrum, you lean towards orthexia, or even anorexia. Or maybe you lean the other way, and struggle with obesity, compulsive dieting, or binge-eating. Most of us fall somewhere left or right of center. And the reality is both sides are tiring, often filled with shame and depression.
We have our normal baggage. And then, we get the holidays. This time of year, we’re inundated with statistics of weight gain, while simultaneously being inundated with messages of excess and indulgence. We find ourselves in the company of family – possibly the ones who (inadvertently?) instilled in us some of our food issues. We look at Christmas cards from friends and see their Pinterest-perfect décor or family photos. We compare. We often try to control the situation with food – either by being stricter with our diets, or indulging to stymie the emotions.
Where does this leave us? What do we do to combat it? How do we turn this ship around?
Food isn’t the enemy. Afterall, food itself is a good gift from God. And righting our relationship with food is a discipleship issue, not just a physical issue. Food can easily entangle us, choke our freedom. Or food can be a chance to worship.
God didn’t need to make food enjoyable. He could have created us to sustain life by eating gruel or dirt. Utilitarian and lacking pleasure. But He didn’t. He gifted us with delicious, flavorful, beautiful food! Preparing and enjoying a meal is a five-sense experience. A good meal can make us feel truly alive.
Maybe this holiday season, we practice feeling truly alive by enjoying the good gift that food was intended to be. What if we were mindful about our eating, if we chose to be fully present when we indulged, if we ate to nourish our bodies and souls? And what if we didn’t feel guilty about it?
Mindful eating is a term that has been floating around for awhile, but maybe the definition or the practice has escaped you. We might eat without realizing how much we’ve consumed. We eat in front of the TV, in the car, at our desks. We have no idea what we’ve eaten. We eat when the clock says so, or we mindlessly clean our plates. We have no concept how much we’ve eaten.
And it turns out that we feel more satisfied when we are fully aware of what we’ve put in our mouths. Mindful eating can help balance us. It requires us to stay in the moment, focusing and making deliberate choices. It allows us the chance to stop and evaluate – am I hungry or is something else going on?
It’s a good practice all year round, but I think it can serve us really well over the holidays. You might find yourself with less control over where, when and what you eat during the holidays. When you can make good choices about what you eat – do so! But there are things to consider when those good choices aren’t available.
There are those seasonal favorites that evoke memories and bring comfort. They come around once a year (but are around for 2 months!). What are those things for you? Whatever they are, choose to ENJOY them. Don’t be afraid of them, but don’t eat the whole dish. Serve yourself a modest portion. And then…
Don’t sneak bites in between chasing your children around the house. They won’t be that age forever – thank God! – so enjoy a few moments of chasing them. If you’re in the middle of a wonderful conversation, put down the fork. Be fully present.
This will also help you eat more slowly, which allows you to be aware of your hunger cues. Sometimes, we eat so fast, our brain hasn’t caught up with our bodies to tell us it’s ok to stop. If you’re savoring your meal, and eating more slowly, you’ll know when your body is satisfied, but not stuffed.
It might not feel like it, but there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season that don’t involve food! Stay active by taking advantage of the seasonal 5k runs, the touch football game with family, the ice-skating with your kids.
For some of you, this will be a breath of fresh air to put into practice. For others, the very mention of the topic brings about fear and anxiety. For a more personalized, one-on-one approach, seek a professional! Whether you need help with an eating disorder, or just want to find a healthier relationship with food, you can find a dietitian by going to eatright.org.
Katie Goldberg, MCN, RD, LD, has been a registered dietitian since 2013, but has always had a passion for good food and a healthy lifestyle. Katie earned her Master’s of Clinical Nutrition from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has worked in private practice, higher education and in a clinical setting.
As the in-house dietitian for dailyServing, a start-up based in Chicago, Ill., Katie contributes to product research and design, always on the lookout for the latest trends in functional foods. Whether it’s at an event or through email, she enjoys connecting people with easy and practical solutions for better health.