How To: A Healthy Relationship With Food

About a year or two into my yoga path, I woke up one morning and realized I had lost about 40 to 50 pounds. Not only that, but I have maintained that weight loss (95%) effortlessly and (100%) naturally.

I didn’t lose weight because I felt unattractive, or that I had a problem.  In fact, I didn’t start yoga to lose weight.  I started yoga because my mind was a mess, and I needed something to bring relief.

The weight fell off because I was not concentrating on how much I disliked my thighs or having to fit into a dress.  Instead I was concentrating on cultivating love and peace for myself, and inadvertently ended up learning how to communicate deeply with my body.  I eat for pleasure and for nourishment, I eat what my body asks me to.

Below are 10 ideas that I always keep in mind to maintain my healthy relationship with food.

  • Learn body communication.  This can come from yoga practice, but it doesn’t have to.  Just start to talk to your stomach.  Acknowledge when you are full, acknowledge when you are hungry.  When you are hungry, eat; when you are full, stop.  I know this sounds easier said than done but like everything, it takes practice.  Soon, when your belly is full you’ll be so acutely aware your stomach’s status, have no qualms about not having dessert.
  • The foods we crave are always available. Remember that whatever you may be craving will always be available to you!  If you are full, why have something that you won’t even taste or enjoy?  You can always have cake, it is not necessary to have it when you know you’ve had enough. When you are actually hungry, junk food, all food tastes 1000 times better.
  • Eat for the right reasons. When we eat out of boredom or emotionally, we are looking for satisfaction that cannot be achieved with food.  So one, we give into the craving and want of the mind, only to (after we’ve finished our treat) realize we haven’t found what we were seeking.  We are not satisfied, we just want more, and then if we do choose to indulge many of us beat ourselves up.  Instead try to drink something healthy, like water or tea, and find a distracting activity.  You may be surprised how quickly you forget about the kitchen.
  • Do not use food as comfort or reward.  When we correlate unhealthy food with a bad day or a reason to celebrate we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.  If you had a bad day meditate, go to yoga, ask a friend to drinks, take a bubble bath. Ice cream has nothing to do with sadness or experiencing said sadness.  If you had a great day or have something to celebrate, celebrate properly!  Plan a dinner with friends, drink champagne- because then it’s about socializing, the enjoyment of food and the community it builds, not saying “I can have this because I did something good”.
  •  PAUSE!! The concept of the pause is impactful in all areas of our lives; as far as food is concerned it is very powerful.

1. The other day I was not hungry and at my friend’s house, she ordered probably the most delicious pizza I have ever seen.  I sat next to her as she opened it, the kitchen full of others ready to attack, and my first thought was GET A PLATE! My second thought was take a pause , so I did.  My body asked for hot water with lemon, and that’s what I had.

2. The second aspect of the pause comes into play is when there is deep hunger. Finally, the food is on the table and we jump into it like we haven’t eaten…ohhh ever.  When we do this, we don’t even taste what we’re eating.  When it’s time to eat take the time arrange your plate (very important step!), make sure you’re comfortable and take just one deep breath. You’ll enjoy your food more, and you’ll feel like you’ve actually eaten. This is especially true of junk food.

  • Do not deprive.  Sometimes I will think about something unhealthy for weeks before I actually eat it. Not because I’m trying to deny myself, but because it’s not what my body wants. I never eat unhealthy until my body is ready; because that’s the only time it tastes good.  This is another reason opening body communication is so vital (and I believe one of the main reasons to begin a yoga practice) when you want a cheeseburger, you know you want it. When you want kale, you know you want it. I eat what my body tells me too, and I eat everything. I never feel deprived.
  • Get back on track. If you gain weight, just get back on track.  When I got home from New Orleans I had gained weight.  When I realized this I didn’t panic, I didn’t place myself on a diet, I didn’t restrict my food intake, and I didn’t say I need to lose 10 pounds.  I simply allowed myself to get back on track.  That means eating what my body was asking for (which was greens and lean protein, in an effort to come back into balance) and providing the exercise I, my body, craved.
  • Find balance.  You have control, not the food.  I’ve noticed when people have a night of nachos and beer,  they often wake up the next morning to bacon, egg, and cheese.  Don’t tell yourself the narrative of “I’ve been so bad, might as well continue!” instead realize there’s no such thing as being  “bad” when it comes to food, just unbalanced, and  instead take the moment to make a healthy choice.  Have an apple, have a delicious smoothie, move on.  When we stop thinking, and start doing without regarding how we look or a number on scale our relationship with food and weight becomes much easier because we learn how to be balanced.
  • Start cooking!!  Ordering out, no matter how healthy the restaurant, just does not grant the same opportunities.  One of my greatest discoveries was the idea that I can cook things that taste like junk food (this is very important when you are changing your eating habits) but are actually very healthy.  Make quinoa with turkey sausage or roast beef, onions, garlic and melty cheese (whatever kind you like) and you’ll forget about the cheese steak.
  • Exercise! I never thought I’d crave going to the gym, I almost failed high school because of a class by the same name.  But once you start conversing with your body, it almost becomes impossible NOT to exercise.  Experiment and find something that works for you.  When we provide our body with physical activity it is much easier to make the proper eating choices.  Health habits produce more healthy habits!

This all takes patience,  practice and honoring that it is not about how you look.  As soon as you start putting food and exercise in the context of looks, it will become difficult.  This is about how you feel, taking care of yourself, and loving your body as the self.  This is not a list of tips to get ready for a bikini (there is no such thing, any body is ready for a bikini—all bodies should feel the warmth of the sun on every inch of skin possible) this is about being healthy, finding balance, and being kind to yourself.  This is about your happiness and health, nothing more-nothing less.