We know there is not a cure-all or a one-size-fits-all approach to healthy living. Specifically, when we are discussing how to develop a healthy relationship with food; it really comes down to knowing your body. Listening to our body can teach us to check-in with ourselves whether we feel pain, sleepiness or stressed. It teaches us to connect with whatever emotion drives us to eat certain foods or what motivates us to exercise. I tell my clients to ask themselves is this a “physical hunger” or an “emotional hunger”. Differentiating between the two can help you make a better choice or dig deep into what you are really “feeding”.
If you find that you have real physical hunger, it can be a result of several lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, medications, stress, drinking alcohol or hormones. If never-ending hunger is at play and you don’t have a medical condition such as diabetes, then this is most likely related to your diet. Don’t obsess over calories instead focus on macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat). All of these work together to nourish you and help you feel “full”. While eating, check-in with yourself and monitor those fullness cues. Tips to help you connect with yourself when eating: take 20 minutes to eat, use your non-dominant hand during meals, and listen to your body throughout the meal. Also don’t forget that slight dehydration and/or not eating enough healthy fats (avocados, full-fat coconut, or nut butters) can prevent you from feeling full.
We have all made food choices based on emotions. The question is: do you do this most of the time or occasionally. Stress or feeling pressure can drive us to eat out of control and/or influence our food choices. When feeling hungry or “emotionally hungry” ask yourself if you are eating by how your feel or if your body really needs food. This may take practice but eventually you can tap into the feelings of why you may be emotionally eating. I frequently recommend my clients who struggle with emotional eating to work with a therapist, so you can work through those feelings.
Learning to listen to your body and have awareness is essential in order for you not only to have a healthier relationship with food but also help improve habits that set up how you feel everyday. Remember “every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body.”
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Founder of Silver Spoons Nutrition, Margot Witteveen, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and holds a master's of science degree in nutrition from Georgia State University. Margot's speciality is integrative and functional nutrition. She works 1:1 with her clients focusing on: nutrition, physical activity, stress management, environment, and sleep habits. With over 10 years experience, she helps individuals with autoimmune conditions, diet for their lifestyle, digestion issues, and specialized diets. Margot is currently seeking board certification with IFNA in integrative and functional nutrition. She combines the science of nutrition with the art of healthy living.