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Last updated on March 9, 2020

Negative feelings about food and weight can derail even the healthiest of lifestyles. If you have a fraught relationship with certain foods or a history of compulsive dieting or binge eating, here are some strategies that can help you start to break the cycle:

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1. Stop punishing yourself for what you ate yesterday.

Dwelling on the past does not serve you or your body. All it does is cause stress and anxiety—which just pushes you further from health and happiness.

2. Practice mindful eating.

Sit down and engage your senses with every meal: Smell food, look at it, and taste it with appreciation. Try not to work on your computer or read as you're eating. Instead, devote all your attention to what's on your plate. This can help you eat slower and better digest your food.

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3. Have gratitude for your food.

Stop and think about how this food got to your plate and how lucky you are to have access to it. It is a gift that is about to nourish your body.

4. Allow yourself to enjoy your food.

If negative thoughts like, "I should not be eating this" or "I'm a failure that I couldn't control what I ate" arise as you're eating, allow them to pass without judgment. Then, come back to gratitude.

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5. Stop vicious all-or-nothing cycles.

Many people will eat a doughnut and then think, "Well, since I already ate junk I may as well just keep going for the whole [day, weekend, etc.]." Thinking like this can lead to a food binge that ends in guilt and shame. Remember that one food choice does not need to dictate the next.

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6. Practice positive affirmations.

Positive affirmations are a powerful tool for reversing negative thoughts and acting in alignment with your values. Here are some that have helped me improve my relationship with food over the years:

  • This plate of food is so good for me.
  • My body knows how to use this food.
  • My body and spirit are about to be nourished with so much goodness.
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7. Let go of the need to be perfect.

No one eats "perfectly" since perfect does not exist. Try to release the need for perfection by remembering you are exactly where you need to be.

8. Stop comparing your plate to other people's.

You have different nutritional needs than your friends, family, and co-workers. Their relationship with food has nothing to do with you.

9. Don't let a healthy lifestyle get in the way of your social life.

If you're out with family and friends, don't stress if the food options aren't the healthiest. Simply choose the most appealing thing available to you in that situation. Remember that rewarding social relationships are a building block of health, too, just as nutritious food is.

10. If you're reaching for food when you're not hungry, ask yourself how you're feeling emotionally.

Why are you reaching for comfort in the form of food? Could you find it elsewhere? Consider going for a walk outside, taking a hot bath, or calling up a friend instead.

11. Remember that this is your one body.

Treasure it. Look after it. Fill it with nutrients. Thank it for all that it does for you, every single day.