Is Your Relationship with Food Healthy?

Do you keep eating even when you’re full? Do you constantly think of food? Do you feel guilty after eating? Highly palatable foods can trigger feel-good brain chemicals that are so powerful they can override signals of fullness and satisfaction. As a result, you keep eating, even when you're not hungry or you constantly think about food. The good news — you can improve your relationship with food and create better eating habits. Medical intervention and support are two ways to take control. Here are other strategies to help you eat to live.

  • Avoid highly processed foods. Research shows that these foods, high in the big three (fat, salt, and sugar) are the most addictive. Clear your pantry and refrigerator of these foods and replace them with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Treat yourself better. As a society, we use food to celebrate, show remorse, and express love. We celebrate birthdays with cake, the big game with a pizza party, our kid’s good report card with ice cream, and successes at work by going out for dinner. Unfortunately, this can lead to some bad eating and coping habits. Eating is an easy reward but, in the end, little is gained (outside of extra pounds). Get in the habit of treating yourself to pedicures, shopping trips, a walk with a good friend, or any activity you love but don’t allow yourself to indulge in on a regular basis.
  • Sleep tight. Lack of sleep affects two hormones in our body: leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite and leptin sends a signal to the brain when you are full. When you’re lacking sleep, leptin levels go down, meaning you don’t feel satisfied after you eat, and ghrelin levels rise, meaning your appetite is stimulated. Getting the recommended amount of sleep a night (7-8 hours for adults) can help keep these hormones in balance.
  • Exercise. The endorphins released by exercise can feed your pleasure/reward system in a healthy way, helping you combat food cravings. Find an exercise you enjoy and can do on a daily basis.
  • Eat only when you’re hungry. Utilizing the Hunger Scale can help you manage your appetite. The scale ranges from 0 to 10, with 0 being ravenously hungry and 10 being overfull. The goal is to stay away from the extremes and eat before you are ravenous and stop before you are stuffed. Eat when you feel hungry (2 or 3) and stop when you are satisfied (5 or 6).

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be an exhaustive examination of the subject matter nor a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your primary care physician or healthcare provider before beginning any diet or exercise program.