Dancers often base their food choices on the desire to optimize performance through increasing energy and building muscle tone. This desire however, can translate into a tunneled mindset that neglects the use of food to satisfy day-to-day happiness. For example, avoiding dessert for reasons of health and/or body weight risks a restrictive pattern that leads to unsustainable habits.
“Emotional eating” is culturally constructed as a negative behavior. When we think about emotional eating, we imagine ourselves upset. Usually, it involves an action like sitting in front of the screen digging into a pint of ice cream. A healthy relationship with food, however, means that our daily choices honor personal preferences that often stem from emotionally pleasant memories and experiences. Think about when we eat dessert after a meal. Though we’ve eaten dinner and are likely not physically hungry, we eat the sweet treat merely because it’s available and our previous experience is nothing less than enjoyment. Eating dessert, whether physically hungry or not, is part of a healthy lifestyle simply because it makes us happy.
Food choices depend on many factors– from taste preferences and past experiences to daily schedules, finances, moods, beliefs, and values. To build a sustainable lifestyle, consider these four #TTPtips to regain insight into your food choices. Learn why emotionally eating, when used in a way that makes you feel good, is not a problem.
#1: Assess Any Self-Imposed Food Rules
Do you find it hard to “trust yourself” with certain foods? Do you feel that once you start you won’t stop? The first step to overcoming this all-or-nothing mindset is to grant unconditional permission to enjoy those “forbidden” foods at any time. Remove self-imposed rules (such as only eating dessert on weekends). Remember, you cannot truly connect to the positive emotional experience if you believe that you are doing something wrong. Therefore, disconnect the moral value of “good” vs. “bad” from food.
#2: Tune Into Your Fullness Cues
Mindful eating encompasses the practice of making food a satisfying experience. Tune into the flavors and texture of the food as you eat. Often times, the most delicious bites are only the first few. The more you eat past comfortable fullness, the less satisfying the food tastes. Gain trust and comfort knowing that tomorrow you can enjoy the same experience. Therefore, you don’t have to “get it all in before it’s gone!”
#3: Honor Personal Preference Over Health
Though it’s important to consider the physical effect of our food choices, health defines an interconnection between our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Rather than categorizing foods as “good” or “bad” for the sole purpose of health, incorporate foods that you love into a balanced meal plan. To start, create a list of foods that you currently avoid because you or someone else has labeled this food as “forbidden” or “unhealthy.” Begin incorporating these foods into your daily meals as part of pleasant and satisfying experiences.
#4: Caution With Under-Eating:
Often times, busy schedules result in unintentional under-eating. Consistent hunger makes it difficult to regain this positive connection with food. Are your current meals enough to meet your body’s needs? Consider reaching out to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist if you need assistance to better navigate your body’s nutritional needs!