Help me break up with food!
June 13, 2013 11:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I relax with food and have a more healthy attitude towards it?

I guess I have been OCD about food for a long time and subsequently eat quite unhealthily. I understand what is healthy and know a lot about nutrition but I think about food all the time and am always wanting to eat stuff!! What can I do to relax around food and choose to eat healthy and listen to my body's fullness signal? I have tried the Shangri-La diet but it didn't really do much for me. Skinny people of Askmefi, how do you not feel anxious and greedy around food all the time? Thanks mefi!
posted by dinosaurprincess to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Most of the time when I'm in the "gee, I want to be eating stuff" phase, what I really am is bored.

Perhaps when you're looking to eat just by default, you could chew some gum or something and find something else to do that involves your hands? Video games, fetch with the dog, some sort of craft, whatever.
posted by phunniemee at 12:01 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. Sugar (carbs, really) breed cravings for more of the same. Reduce their amounts in your diet, or cut out altogether for a while. Your cravings will only scream at you for a day or two.
2. Replace carbs with more fat and protein. Doing this will make you less hungry on less food. And will make your blood sugar happy! And will cause you to lose weight!
3. Following 1 and 2 will be a bit less yummy than you're used to. Quite a bit. Take the attitude that food is for nourishment, not for fun. At least, not for fun ALL the time.
4. Follow the 80% full rule: stop eating when you are about 80% full. It feels good never to overeat!
5. Practice. If you fall of the wagon, just get back on again. It's ok. Practice turns into habit, and there you go.
posted by kitcat at 12:02 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Former food issues here: now I just eat naturally. You just listen to your hungry signal. You just listen. Eat when you're hungry. Not starving, not peckish, but a little growly hungry. Stop when you're full. No clean plate club here. And no food is off limits. Not one single food. Eat when you are hungry, what you are hungry for. Sure for the first few months it might be "chocolate all the time!!" but eventually that gets old, especially once the "outlawed" feeling goes away. As for feeling greedy and anxious, just remind yourself that the food is there, and can and will be eaten. It sounds like you've really over-ridden that hungry feeling and now you're afraid you'll take the food away from yourself. No one is taking away your food. You get all the food you want. The only guideline is that you have to be hungry for it. Someone at work gives you a cupcake? No problemo. Put the cupcake aside until you are hungry. When you are hungry, eat the cupcake. Need practice? Go to an "all you can eat buffet." Eat only as much as you're hungry for. But I paid $9.99! I must have All I Can Eat. No, not true. The food will still be there. Go to the buffet again tomorrow. Eat only as much as you're hungry for. See? No one took your food away. It will always be there.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:03 PM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]

Best answer: I used to be a lot weirder about food but have recovered mostly since college. Some things that helped me:

1. Most importantly, surround yourself with people who have healthy relationships to food. This isn't always possible, obviously, but if your girlfriends are struggling too, eating dinner out or having them over for a meal can really screw with your mind. "Oh, no thanks, I'm just going to have this tiny salad." (which is clearly not enough to fill up a normal person) or "I'll get a dessert if you do!" are the kinds of things I'm talking about here. If you know anyone who makes comments about your weight or eating habits in a malicious way, CUT. THEM. OUT. Or at least don't eat with them. Family included. This is huge.

2. Get some basic rules down - mine include making sure every meal has a higher proportion of fruits or vegetables, plus some fat, some protein, some carbohydrates. Also choosing whole grains or less processed alternatives. Also using smaller plates. Once your basics become habits, you stop focusing on them so much.

3. Less salt, less sugar. These things make you crave more of the same. Just pay attention to the way you feel after a piece of cake. I'm not saying I don't eat it (I love me some sugar) but it makes it less appealing when you remember that last time you had a huge headache and no energy for hours afterward.

4. In general, pay attention to the way you feel. What makes you feel good? That's most important.

5. Drink water before every meal, and exercise. See above!

Good luck!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I realized that I felt crummy when I ate too much junk-- queasy, bloated, tired, or jittery, or more than one at a time. I almost never feel like that when I'm eating moderately. It's hard to change habits because of some far-off and theoretical goal. But I find it pretty easy to stop eating something fun when I think to myself "One more piece of cake and I'm not going to be able to enjoy the rest of the evening." Taking the emotional value of "good" or "bad" food out of the equation and just sticking to what will make me feel better 2 hours from now helps me a lot.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of the things I do is to eat foods that I really enjoy. It helps me a lot.
posted by BenPens at 12:29 PM on June 13, 2013

Skinny people of Askmefi, how do you not feel anxious and greedy around food all the time?

Something that I really struggle to keep in mind is that being skinny != healthy relationship with food. When I was at my skinniest, I was obsessed with food. Separating out my weight (and the attendant calculations and graphs) from how I enjoy food naturally has been a huge help for me. I don't binge on chips and I also don't breakdown if I have to eat something with cream in it. I do still think a lot about healthy food and how to best balance that out, like making kale chips instead of buying chips or making salty/spicy popcorn in the microwave. I walk as much as possible, and I'm getting back to running after some weird injuries-- I know how I respond physically to eating better, and that helps keep some of it in check.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:29 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I highly recommend reading Geneen Roth, Feeding the Hungry Heart. Sounds corny, but in reality it is a fabulous book. She's been writing about these eating issues for more than 30 years and the woman knows what she's talking about.

Also, cutting out foods is not a good plan. Going on a diet is not a good plan. Figuring out why you are eating the way you are eating (the part you don't like) and then learning to deal with those issues is a long term plan that actually works.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

i am not a skinny person of mefi, but i strongly recommend trying to figure out what triggers your overeating. in my case, i grew up in a poor household, and while we were lucky and always had food to eat, it was never consistent, the type of food always varied based on whatever coupons my mom had that week. i started feeling like i had to eat all of it because there was the chance that i would never get to have it again. it's like the opposite of food-hoarding.

even today, when i buy a certain "special" food, i have to remind myself that i can buy it whenever i want, and that i don't have to eat all of it once. at some point, i'll get to the point where i won't assign that "special" tag on foods anymore. but one step at a time, right?

so figure out why you overeat first. if it takes therapy, then take the steps to make that happen.
posted by kerning at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stuff like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and too much processed junk make my gf eat constantly. Avoiding them as much as possible helps a lot.

For the times she absolutely can't resist something, some St John's Wort seems to kill the cravings a lot.
posted by Jacen at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing I have found very useful (and I think maybe I first heard this on Ask MeFi) is to be mindful of the difference between "stomach hungry" and "mouth hungry."

This made sense to me so immediately that I didn't need anyone to explain it to me, but to explain it just a little bit: sometimes when I say/think that I'm hungry it's because my stomach is kind of empty and growly and generally that's because I am in need of calories! Sometimes when I say/think I'm hungry it's because I want to put something in my mouth and that's generally because I am bored/sad/anxious. Generally the best way to deal with "stomach hungry" is to eat something (ideally something healthy); "mouth hungry" you can choose to treat with things other than food - exercise, books, TV, meditation, really ANYTHING.
posted by mskyle at 12:47 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and she eats a good breakfast, a good lunch, a healthy snack, and a good dinner (she also works out, so has the calories to spare) If she neglects any of these, her blood sugar starts dropping and her brain screams at her to EAT!!
posted by Jacen at 12:50 PM on June 13, 2013

Best answer: Skinny people of Askmefi, how do you not feel anxious and greedy around food all the time?

I'm a skinny person who doesn't have any body image issues, and I consider myself to have a healthy view of food. From knowing so many women who have emotional minefields in this area I've spent some time thinking about it. Mostly I think we need to burn down the media, but unfortunately I don't know how to go about doing that. I do encourage you to spend as little time as possible immersed in it. Cutting out TV, magazines, anything that has a solid message of "Feel bad about your body and yourself so that you will buy things". It is insidious, it's everywhere.

I've also never attached emotions to eating, I've got some food intolerances that took me a long time to figure out so most comfort food actually made my guts hurt and I just felt physically bad after eating them, so turning to food when things got hard never clicked. As well, anxiety destroys my appetite, and I have a lot of issues with anxiety. So, this isn't a matter of my iron will-power (I have very little will-power and horrid self-control, honestly). Don't be looking at someone who isn't struggling with these issues and think they have some inner power that helped them overcome it. I've got a mosaic of other issues I'm bashing my head against, just not this specific one.

One thing I've picked up on is how many women really put all their troubles and problems into the "if I just lost weight" basket. I don't need to lose weight or struggle with it so I don't have that basket, but I still have a ton of problems and anxieties. For me it's really obvious that being thin is NOT the grand problem solver. If you think solving this one problem is the only thing standing between you and ultimate happiness, well, that is a shit-ton of pressure. I can only imagine it's adding into bag of tangled emotions you say you already have about food.
posted by Dynex at 12:58 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you're eating for reasons other than hunger, keeping a brutally honest food diary can help create awareness of what's triggering mindless or emotional eating. Write down everything you eat for a few weeks. I found that the act of recording everything forced me to pay attention to what was really going on.
posted by quince at 1:10 PM on June 13, 2013

Best answer: Carbs make me want more, protein makes me happier (mood elevator) and fat makes me full. I just don't have junk (crisps, cookies, candy, around. ) I eat real meals, at a table, three times a day. If I want a snack, I have one. I drink plenty of water, no juice, no soda, no power drinks, etc.. And I pay attention to my moods and emotions, but I don't let them control my actions. I can feel sad without having to grab an ice cream. And I can reward myself in other ways than eating.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:56 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to be quite heavy. In my twenties, I decided I would not "diet" -- in other words, I would not count calories and try to stafve myself into losing weight. I decided I would, instead, try to figure out how to be healthy and take care of myself. It took a lot of years and a new-ish diagnosis to figure out what was healthy for my unique body. Once I had the right info about my body's personal quirks, I made some dietary and lifestyle changes to accommodate that. I had zero goal to lose weight. But, as an unintended consequence, getting healthier resulted in dramatic slimming down. (In fact, I knew so many men who liked me like that, it was a little bit psychologically uncomfortable to lose weight. I kind of feared I would lose my sex appeal.)

So, fwiw, here is what I think, based on years of reading up, thinking about this yadda, which I probably can't "prove" off the cuff today at this moment:

1) One of the cornerstone, fundamental things I did to get well was I addressed a whole lot of nutritional deficiencies that I had long suffered. My medical condition interferes with digestion and leads to malnourishment, even if you are eating a whole lot. I took lots of supplements for a few years to fix this longstanding nutritional issue. As my nutritional deficiencies improved, I stopped being nonstop hungry. I have come to think that most people who are overweight and just can't stop eating are probably malnourished and that's why they remain hungry and keep eating. Addressing that -- getting the nutrients you need -- might help resolve this issue.

2) I have seen some articles over the years that indicate what germs you carry impact obesity. I spent a lot of years focused on killing the high level of germs I carried. I am convinced this also had a big impact on my weight. (I am not recommending antibiotics. Spicy foods, eating "kosher" -- I mean cleaner, even if it isn't a Jewish thing -- and generally limiting my exposure to germs played a big part in a cokplex process that I can't really explain in one AskMe answer.)

3) I focused on reducing acidity in order to control inflammation. My condition is an inflammatory condition. There is a well established connection between inflammation and infection, also between inflammation and diabetes. I came up with my own anti-inflammatory diet answers, but there happen to be plenty of books out on the topic by folks with more credentials than I have. I highly recommend you peruse the topic, do a little experimenting and see if that does anything for you.
posted by Michele in California at 2:15 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am not a skinny person of mefi, but I'm a pretty healthy one, and one who's definitely benefited from cutting out most breads/pastas/sugars (because I want to eat ALL of them when I do eat them). The answer to your question could also be going low carb (I used something a lot like Whole 30), or it could be something else specific to you.

As someone who's struggled with food in the past, though, I can say that when you switch to just eating well? It frees up so much mindspace. It's WONDERFUL not to spend the whole day worrying about what I might/should/could/shouldn't/probably will anyway eat.

So keep up the hard work of letting go of all that food-related stuff!
posted by ldthomps at 2:36 PM on June 13, 2013

I'm a skinny person- listen, ONLY eat at mealtimes. Eat until you are full- if you have 'normal' mechanisms for indicating when that is. DO NOT SNACK. Do not have snackable foods in your house, do not go through drive thrus, do not eat past 7pm (got that from Oprah, but I eat even earlier just due to schedule). Walk everywhere, and take the stairs.

Honestly, you are probably obsessing about food because you are HUNGRY. Eat wholesome healthy food at mealtimes (like toast and pb for breakfast, chicken (not fried) and salad (no cream dressings) for dinner.

It's healthy food, regular and consistent mealtimes, and constant physical activity. Plus a bit of genetic luck of couse. But master the first three and you'll be good!
posted by bquarters at 6:43 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the things I do is to eat foods that I really enjoy. It helps me a lot.

I totally agree with this too- I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to eat- looking forward to it and or just sort of think through first, hmm, that would be good. Then I ENJOY it and eat it slowly. Then eat a chocolate or two, just to feel satisfied. But no more, because then it passes enjoyment into a sickly feeling. Make your calories worth it. Just eating a bag of chips, just because? Not worth it. It's not that great at the time, then you also feel bad afterwards.

Again, healthy foods, at mealtimes. That's it! No mindless eating.
posted by bquarters at 6:52 PM on June 13, 2013

I would stay away from ''elminating" anything, and as you said you've been 'ocd about food', I would also stay away from even reducing entire food catagories (mainly carbs as mentioned). It sounds as though learning "intuitive eating" might be something that will be helpful....much less to do about the foods you're eating, and more about learning to listen to your body cues and to quiet whatever it is your mind is saying. google it - lots of books!
posted by katie521 at 7:00 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eat an apple fifteen minutes before you eat a meal. Make food a little less important to you.
posted by snowjoe at 9:26 PM on June 13, 2013

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