It is not too late to cultivate a healthy relationship with food

By in Sports & Health

Listen up people — you may not be able to fix your relationship with your ex-partner, but you can definitely fix your relationship with food.

Cultivating a healthy relationship with food can be difficult, especially when you don’t know what it means or how to do it. Fret not, for this guide will give you the tips and advice you need to live a healthy life through your eating.

1. Understand your emotions.

It is not uncommon to associate certain emotions and feelings with eating. As post-secondary students, the stress we feel often contributes to our not-so-great relationship with food. 

You must understand the emotions behind your urge to eat or not eat, and set some time aside to deal with that emotion —  take time to accept that pain, sadness, fear and worry for they are part and parcel of life.

2. Don’t do diets.

Carrie Verishagen, a registered dietitian from Eat Well Saskatchewan, says that diets  can result in unrealistic body standards, which leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. 

“Diets in general really promote a yo-yo dieting way of eating, which can be quite mentally unhealthy,” Verishagen said. “Ultimately, most of them are quite restrictive.”

Instead, Verishagen recommends making “smaller, achievable lifestyle changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life.” She says that a part of cultivating a healthy relationship with food is avoiding strict rules and being more flexible.

“To cultivate that positive relationship with food … involves kind of living in the moment with your food and giving yourself the freedom and flexibility to make unhealthy and unplanned choices,” Verishagen said.

3. Do not count your calories.

It is important to stop counting calories, according to Verishagen, because it is too restrictive. 

“There is no one food or macronutrient [that] is the enemy,” Verishagen said. “It’s just important to know that nutrition needs include adequate protein and carbohydrates, which are present in all food groups.”

Verishagen says that it is time to stop labelling food as good or bad because carbohydrates and fats are equally important as proteins. 

“It can make people feel shameful or proud of different food choices,” Verishagen said. “And instead of focusing on nourishing choices that make you feel good and energize your body.”

4. Plan and stock nutritious food ahead of time, and eat breakfast.

Verishagen says that stocking on nutritious foods ahead of time is important, especially during exam time. 

This includes cutting up fresh fruits and vegetables, boiling some eggs on Sundays, packing a bunch of tuna wraps with carrot sticks or beans on toast. 

Some other recommendations for snack options are fruits, nuts, seeds, granola bars and yogurt, which are easy to grab and go. 

“It’s still important to keep all those snacks available and try to eat every couple hours because that just helps to keep your glucose levels and energy level consistent,” Verishagen said.

Verishagan says try not skipping breakfast because that first meal of the day “can help you improve concentration levels and boost your energy.” 

“Starting your day with a balanced breakfast can … ultimately lead to better performance at school and on test scores,” Verishagan said. “Aim for three to four food groups, and that can be something as simple as a peanut butter and banana sandwich or cereal and milk with a banana.”

6. Hydrate.

To explain the importance of proper hydration, Varishagen says that “dehydration leads to fatigue and can decrease concentration level”.

So fill up a water bottle and have it ready to go — having the water bottle available to you can be a reminder to drink water and stay hydrated. She also puts forward the idea to try incorporating exercise in your busy schedule even if it is for 20 minutes. Exercise helps to reduce stress, improve mood and energy levels.

The lesson of it all

The ultimate lesson and advice is to practice mindfulness. 

Another easy advice to do, which can significantly impact your life, is to leave your desk, go for a walk, take breaks and get yourself moving. Helpful breaks can improve your exam performance.

We are all struggling with one thing or another, but we can all start small with one step at a time. A day of mindful habits can turn into weeks, months and perhaps years of mindfulness. We need to believe that our relationship with food will get better and that the sun will shine once again.

This article is part of the Health Hack series, which covers healthy tips for students to use during the exam season and throughout their university career.

If you would like to know more about cultivating your relationship with your food, you can contact Eat Well Saskatchewan by phone or email at 1-833-966-5541 or eatwell@usask.ca. Eat well Saskatchewan is a free service for Saskatchewan residents to talk to a registered dietitian.

Sakshi Goyal

Graphic: Anh Phan