Americans have a notoriously complicated relationship with food. We love it fast, cheap, salty and sweet. Despite our sizable intake, we spend less than any other country in the world on food. Conversely, we spend more money on healthcare than any other place on the planet – $9,237 a person to be exact. A funny little coincidence, I think not. Would we rather spend our hard-earned pennies on doctor’s bills treating illness? Or could we maybe spend a few dollars more on feeding our bodies food that nourishes health? Either way we have to pay. Why not make the payment tasty?
Therapy is all about reframing thoughts and behaviors; finding a new way to relate to the world. I say we take the idea of reframing and apply it to food. Forget drastic diets. Forget the notion of denying ourselves pleasure in eating. Forget the strict calorie counting and personal denial. Forget looking at food as numbers. Isn’t it true the second we say, “No, I can’t have that chocolate cookie today; I’m on a cleanse;” we begin to crave and concentrate on the very thing we are trying so hard to give up? And how long can we maintain this behavior? Healthy eating is a lifelong journey. It is about developing a sound body and a sound mind. It is about enjoyment of food and celebration. It is about looking at food as fuel for nourishment rather than a dark hole of restriction and sacrifice.
How can we cultivate a healthy relationship with food for our children?
First, we model it. Plain and simple. We eat for health. We do not eat for gluttony or stress management. We break bread for celebration not convenience. We talk positively about food. And we exercise because we want to feel good not because we are unhappy with our weight.
Second, we reframe the game. We don’t look at what we take out. We look at what we put in. The more we focus on inclusion rather than exclusion, the easier it becomes. I don’t think about denying myself or my family cookies, cakes or fries. I think about including fresh berries, crunchy vegetables and creamy legumes in each meal. “What are we adding?” I ask. Not what are we taking out.
The more we reframe our thoughts on healthy eating and make it a dialogue of inclusion, the less we feel denied. If you don’t feel deprived, you are bound to feel satisfied. If you are satisfied, you are content. And before you know it you have crowded out the crap without even realizing it.