Which of the following sounds like you’re eating in a way that says you love and respect yourself?
a. Dining in your car spilling food down your shirt as you slam to a halt at a red light.
b. Standing up in the kitchen eating most of your meal raw as you cook.
c. Entering the kitchen starving and downing a bag of chips before you decide what to cook.
d. Scarfing down cold leftovers with your hands out of a container with the fridge door open.
e. Not eating all day to "save yourself" for dinner.
f. Waiting as long as you can to eat until you feel like you’re going to faint and then eating whatever you can find.
g. None of the above.
The correct answer is obviously g. The above are examples of things I’ve personally done, ironically when I was hyper-focused on following a particular diet or clean-eating strategy dogmatically.
With the rise of the health movement, eating strategies, diets, and ideas about food and how to eat are becoming as polarizing as religion and politics.
Eating like you actually love and respect yourself isn’t up for interpretation, though—it’s something vegans and Paleo dieters alike can agree upon. It’s the same for everyone regardless of beliefs, size, shape, weight, or lifestyle.
These tips are the ways you can feel good about yourself, regardless of the food you’re eating:
1. Use your intuition.
If you’ve been dieting for any period of time it's likely that your intuition is the last thing you’re following when it comes to your choices about food. Likely you’re eating with rules and regulations from everyone but yourself.
Your food choices are probably a result of info pieced together from magazine articles, blogs, books, and friends. But when was the last time you asked yourself what you actually crave, desire, and would love to eat?
We're animals that innately know how to nourish our bodies. We have hunger and fullness signals, as well as cravings for a reason, but many of us learn to forgo those signals in order to focus on the advice of others. We do this to manipulate our bodies to look a certain way, based on what's in style.
So rather than making your food choices based on other people’s opinions of what you should eat or look like, try legalizing all foods and simply eat until you’re satisfied—without restrictions. Trusting your body to regulate and nourish itself based on the signals it sends is eating like you love yourself.
2. Get social while eating.
I don’t mean social media—I mean real-life social, with people you can smell, touch, and see in 3-D. Instead of eating alone and taking photos of your food, try eating as many meals as possible with other people.
Humans are social creatures, and food is one of our oldest ways to connect and commune. Food is so much more than mere nutrients—for centuries humans have used food as a way to celebrate, connect, and share one of our few sensory pleasures together.
3. Breathe, bless, and chew.
We often rush through our meals, eat on the go, and scarf down our meals while distracted by the TV or while working at our desks. While this is bound to happen from time to time, taking time to breathe deeply while you’re eating and chew more fully can drastically improve not only how your food digests but also how it tastes.
I used to barely breathe as I ate my food insanely quickly, like a famine was on the way. Taking time to breathe while I'm eating helps me actually taste my food and make a conscious effort to chew it more thoroughly.
I even try to take a moment before eating to bless my food, simply saying this line I learned from Gabby Bernstein: “I love my food and this food loves me.”
I like this line because of its simplicity. It's a simple intention I can quickly say in my mind, grounding me in what I’m doing and trusting that the food will digest with ease and nourish me, making me more present with the pleasure I get from the food.
4. Cut out judgment.
For intuitive eating to work you must legalize all foods previously restricted. Which might mean you overeat some of the foods you previously restricted in the beginning. When this happens it’s crucial that you roll with it without self-judgment or attack.
Judging yourself for what you eat—regardless of what it is or how much—is the opposite of eating like you love yourself, so promise yourself that no matter what choice you make around food, you'll remind yourself it was the right one in the moment and you won’t beat yourself up for it.
5. Make your food pretty.
Digestion begins with your eyes, so try to make your food look appetizing. Think of it this way: How would you plate food if you were making it for someone you loved? Would you put in a little extra effort to make sure it looked as delicious as it tastes?
Give yourself the same attention as someone you love. I’m not saying every meal needs to look like it belongs on Pinterest, but put some effort into plating your food or pay someone else to by eating out at least occasionally.
6. Prepare like you love yourself.
If you know you’re going to be out for the day, prepare yourself by keeping options for snacks on hand to prevent a hangry episode from coming on.
Someone who eats like they love themselves isn’t trying to stay away from food; rather, they constantly have food around in case they get hungry. For someone who eats like they love themselves, food is an ally—a tool to help them feel strong, clear-headed, and capable of completing their tasks.
7. Keep a well-stocked kitchen.
Think about if you were visiting friends or family who loved you and were thrilled to have you visit. Ideally, their kitchen would be well-stocked with lots of food options.
Intuitive eating works only if there are both healthy and tasty options on hand because if there aren't, you'll likely turn to whatever's available—not necessarily whatever you’re craving most.
Treat yourself like a long-term house guest in your own home, keeping a well-stocked kitchen at all times. A person who eats like they love themselves always has options and favorite foods readily available; that way they don’t feel the need to overindulge when they're out—they simply enjoy a portion knowing they can have more whenever they want, without restriction.
I used to deliberately keep all my favorite foods out of my kitchen, so when I was offered them elsewhere I would go crazy, acting like I’d never have an opportunity to eat them again.
Now I can enjoy them in moderation, without judgment, and usually don’t feel the need to overindulge because I know I can always have more at home. But even if I do go a little too hard on the tortilla chips, I let it go immediately without obsessing about it.
8. Date yourself.
If you were eating with someone you loved, you'd be sure to take them out every once in a while or you’d cook for them something new and exciting. You might even re-create some of their childhood favorites, giving them the nostalgic comfort that only a select few foods can do for each person.
So why not do those things for yourself? Allow yourself to try new, exciting foods, re-create versions of your childhood favorites, and even take yourself out for a solo restaurant meal.
I used to think going out to eat or cooking something special was only something I could do if I was with another person, but it doesn’t have to be a special occasion to eat well; it can just be a Tuesday.
Eating like you love yourself involves doing random acts of kindness for yourself around food just as you would with another person you love.