Does your relationship with food ever feel complicated? If so, you’re not alone. Most college students experience that internal head battle when it comes to deciding what goes on their plate. Here are 4 common ways people struggle in this area:
- Feeling a lot of anxiety about eating “right” which takes up way too much of your time and mental capacity.
- Forgetting to eat throughout the day until you realize you’re absolutely starving and grab whatever is most convenient.
- Finding yourself eating when you’re sad, lonely, bored, or stressed and then experiencing guilt afterwards.
- Feeling out of control around food.
If you relate to any of these, I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be this way!
We all deserve to be regularly nourished and to eat without anxiety or judgment.
Below are some ideas to help you start the process of healing your relationship with food. Keep in mind, these aren’t rules to make you feel guilty or anxious, they are ideas to consider incorporating into your life to free you from guilt or shame around food.
Tip #1: Notice when you eat
Do you eat when you’re hungry? When you’re sad? Only when you remember? When you feel you deserve it?
Usually, our messy relationship with food is related to an underlying stressor such as a negative body image, a hectic schedule, mental health struggles, or just wanting to feel in control.
A first step in healing our relationship with food is identifying and understanding those underlying drivers of eating.
Tip #2: Listen to your body’s needs
Listening to your body’s needs means eating when you’re hungry, if you are able to, and being ok with leaving food on your plate when you feel done eating.
Listening to your body also means honoring your cravings. Ignoring your cravings can cause them to build up and lead to a feeling of lack of control and satisfaction around food.
Take time throughout the day to check your hunger and pause throughout your meals and ask yourself, “How does my body feel?” Follow that up with, “Is this food satisfying? Do I want to keep eating?” Getting back in tune with our bodies in this way may take some practice so have grace for yourself!
Tip #3: Don’t label foods as good or bad.
Food is completely neutral, there is no such thing as a good or a bad food. What food is “good” for you at any given moment is totally dependent on your physical and emotional needs at that moment. How many calories, grams of sugar, and sodium don’t matter. Your body can tell you what it needs so just listen to it.
All foods can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Not letting yourself eat certain foods because they’re “bad” can lead to feelings of deprivation and intense cravings. Getting rid of those labels dismantles the power that food has over you.
And remember, food isn’t just fuel for your body; it’s meant to be pleasurable, too! Sometimes the kind of nourishment that we need from food is one that nourishes our souls and not just our bodies.
Tip #4: Take weight out of the picture
Focusing on weight when making decisions about food can lead to disordered eating behaviors. Your weight can’t tell you your health status.
What’s more, research has found that weight loss through restrictive eating is associated with weight gain later. This is because your body doesn’t know the difference between restrictive eating and starvation and your body was designed to fight starvation. Your body fights efforts to lose weight because it’s trying to protect you!
Tip #5: Get help if you need it
If food and eating causes you a lot of anxiety and distress, know that it is totally valid and you may have some legitimate reasons for feeling this way.
And these thoughts and feelings may even seem “normal” at times because others around you often have similar head-battles with food.
However, while it might be common, it’s likely bugging you (if you’re reading this blog) and you may want freedom from spending this much time thinking about food. Plus, you might be dealing with more than something a short list of tips can solve.
If you feel this way, reach out for help. Here are 3 campus resources that can help you:
- UCAN Health Coaching. If you just want someone to share your struggles with and you’re not quite sure what’s going on, we can be a “safe” first step. If there’s more going on than a health coach can help with, we’ll help you get connected to counseling and or seeing the campus dietitian. First session with us is FREE!
- Case Management through NAU Counseling Services. It’s helpful to make that first appointment with counseling services with their case manager. They can help you figure out what you need and who to meet with. If finances are a barrier, they’ll help you figure that out too. Call 928-523-2131 or schedule an appointment through the portal (nau.edu/campushealth)
- Registered Dietitian / Nutrition Counseling. Meet with our amazing, compassionate campus dietitian Riley Perrin. Call 928-523-2131, schedule through the online portal.