What’s your re­la­tion­ship with food?

The Covington News - - HEALTH - JAN MCIN­TIRE news@cov­news.com

ARE YOU HUN­GRY right now? Is it time for lunch or is it the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon? Are you feel­ing bored, stressed or ea­ger to sit down at the ta­ble with your fam­ily? What do you plan to eat for din­ner? Will you have to stop at the gro­cery store or go to a res­tau­rant? When you re­ally think about it, eat­ing isn’t as sim­ple as it sounds.

For many of us, the chal­lenge is that we don’t think about eat­ing. We reach for food when we’re hun­gry — and even when we’re not. We may eat more than we in­tend to when the fla­vor is great and the con­ver­sa­tion is flow­ing. Or per­haps we eat sim­ply be­cause food is in front of us, such as at a party or in the work­place break room.

De­vel­op­ing a healthy re­la­tion­ship with food takes thought and prac­tice. First, ask your­self if you are able to stop eat­ing at the point when you’ve eaten enough food for your body to func­tion well and you feel sat­is­fied. To an­swer that ques­tion, you need to be mind­ful, not on au­topi­lot.

Some peo­ple are on the op­po­site end of the con­tin­uum and need to learn how to give them­selves per­mis­sion to eat and take time to eat. We all know peo­ple who spend too much time at work and are so ab­sorbed in their work that they skip meals as if they have an in­vis­i­ble and bot­tom­less sup­ply of en­ergy. Then there are peo­ple who eat in their cars or at their desks with­out any re­gard for taste or di­ges­tion.

And what about peo­ple who have set very strict rules about what they can and can­not eat, rules that may or may not be grounded in good nu­tri­tion or healthy be­hav­ior? Be­ing at war with food takes away all the nat­u­ral plea­sure of us­ing our senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, and even sound — think about foods that crunch, for ex­am­ple.

Rate your re­la­tion­ship with food: To be­come more mind­ful about eat­ing, try us­ing this scale sev­eral times a day: 1 for rav­en­ous, 5 for sat­is­fied, and 10 for over­stuffed. When you rate your­self 1-5, think about what and how much you eat when you’re that hun­gry. If you’re at 8 or 9, would skip­ping a sec­ond help­ing have kept you closer to a 5?

Sure, it’s a game, but the idea is help­ful: Con­nect with your hunger level and food in­take. Bal­ance is the goal.

How fast or slowly we eat is part of the bal­ance, too. Eat­ing more slowly gives your stom­ach enough time to send sig­nals to your brain that you are sat­is­fied or full. That’s a 5 on the rat­ing scale. If you’re rav­en­ous when you start a meal, eat only half the food on your plate and take a pause to give your body time to catch up. If you are still phys­i­cally hun­gry, con­tinue eat­ing — slowly — un­til your ap­petite is gen­tly sat­is­fied.

Fam­ily val­ues and prac­tices can in­flu­ence how we eat as adults, so it’s wise to con­sider what a healthy por­tion of food ac­tu­ally is. In some fam­i­lies, chil­dren are in­structed to clean their plates, a prac­tice that can in­ter­fere later in life with the abil­ity to judge what a healthy por­tion size is.

Restau­rants some­times serve overly large amounts, so stop, look and lis­ten to your body be­fore you start into that heap­ing plate­ful. Ef­fec­tive strate­gies for por­tion con­trol in­clude shar­ing your meal with another person or ask­ing for a take-out con­tainer — even be­fore you start eat­ing.

Test your fla­vor buds. Here’s another ex­er­cise to help you explore your re­la­tion­ship with food. Take a bite of a straw­berry, fresh pineap­ple or other fla­vor­ful fruit. Let it rest in your mouth. Close your eyes and con­cen­trate on the fla­vor. Then, be­gin to chew slowly. Think about how the fruit tastes and how it can give you en­ergy and pro­vide nu­tri­tion.

Was it hard to go slowly? Re­peat the ex­er­cise and think about how dif­fer­ent your eat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence could be if you sa­vored all your food by sim­ply slow­ing down your eat­ing.

Be­ing mind­ful about what and how we eat can help us truly en­joy food and rec­og­nize the ben­e­fit it pro­vides us. At your next meal, put your re­la­tion­ship with food to the test. Se­lect your food for taste and en­joy­ment, and take the time to savor.

Bon ap­petit!

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