food and body imageself-care

food part V: HOW – the nuts and bolts

So far in this series on food, I have talked about:

When you have a complicated relationship with food

Why achieving a healthy relationship with food is important

The tug-of-war we face in how we relate to food

Choosing a path with food that will get you where you want to go

Catch up on these posts if you’d like.

Now that we have established the basics, you may be wondering how all of this works in real life.  What are the nuts and bolts of the how?  Is there a plan we can follow or at least some guidelines?  

We like plans because:

 a] they don’t have grey areas

 b] they are straight forward

c] they are a great way to avoid internal processes that may be uncomfortable or messy

d] they help us feel more in control of our lives

e] they help us think that we are “doing” something and moving forward in a concrete way. 


When it comes to how we relate to food however, plans can override our ability to check in with ourselves and our bodies.   But at the same time, it is helpful to have something to hang on to, some kind of course of action to keep us on track, and some kind of measure of “success”.  What follows is a map of the skills and daily actions needed to move you closer to winning at your relationship with food. 


Psychological skills required to navigate the journey towards a healthy relationship with food:

  1. An “I will slip up” mindset. Because you will.  And slipping up does not mean you are a failure.  It means that you are used to doing things a certain way and you are growing in awareness of yourself every day. 
  2. A willingness to be messy and sit in the swamp of discomfort and uncertainty.
  3. A willingness to observe and be curious rather than be perfectionistic and judgemental. There is  no room for perfection and judgement in this new way of being with food.
  4. Willingness and excitement to get to know yourself in a new way.


The HOW – actions to implement on your way to a healthy relationship with food

Before you eat [any time during the day when there is no food in your mouth]:

-listen to what your mind is telling you about anything related to food and your body.  When you become aware of the thoughts, capture as many as you can by speaking them, whispering them, or jotting them down.  No judgement.  Just noticing.

-take brief moments to pay attention to what it feels like to be in your body.  What physical sensations do you feel? 

-take brief moments to observe and assess your level of hunger.  Are you hungry?  How can you tell?  Are you full?  How can you tell?  Are you stuffed?  How can you tell?


When you are eating [any time of the day when there is food in your mouth]:

-observe how it feels to be in your body as you are eating.  What physical sensations do you feel?

-observe the speed at which you are eating.  Are you eating slowly?  Moderately?  Quickly?

-observe and assess your level of hunger throughout the meal.  Are you hungry, full, or stuffed, and how do you know?

-observe what your mind is telling you.  What thoughts are going through your head?  Speak it, whisper it, or simply take mental note. 

** these exercises are not intended for you to eat less, lose weight, or trick your body into dieting.  They are meant to get you in touch with the mind-body-food connection.**


After you’ve eaten:

-observe how your body feels.  What is it like to be in your body?  What physical sensations do you feel?

-observe your level of fullness.  Feel the fullness in your belly.  What is your level of fullness and how can you tell? 

-observe what your mind is telling you.  Speak it out loud, whisper it, or jot it down.  No judgement; strictly observation.


You may have noticed a pattern whether before, during, or after eating:



MIND: Observing your thoughts.

BODY: Observing your bodily sensations.

HUNGER: Observing your level of hunger.


 Practical skills you can work on that will be helpful in winning your relationship with food

1. Slow down your eating. Eating slowly will help you feel connected to your body.  Chew, chew, chew.    Experiment with it. Be careful though: the point of eating slowly is not to consume less, lose weight, or sneakily be on a diet.  The point of eating slowly is to increase the food-body-mind connection.

2. Turn your attention toward bodily sensations. Every hour on the hour, do a physical check in.  How does it feel to be in your body?  What places are tense?  Relaxed?

3. Notice your thoughts. Every once in a while, listen to what your mind is telling you.  Say it, whisper it, or write it down.  No judgement or evaluation.  Just noticing. 


I have just given you many years to a lifetime of things to work on. 

Over and over, you will forget to do the above.  That’s okay.  Try, and try again.  You will zone out, psychologically flee your body, and do things on autopilot.  That’s okay.  Be kind to yourself.  If you are prone to beating yourself up, notice what your mind is saying to you.  Speak it, whisper it, or write it down. 

This is not a one and done type of plan or intervention.  If you are looking for that, this is not the place for you.  All of what is written above is in service of a rich, fulfilling, and enjoyable life.  The above skills and action steps will move you in the direction of:

  1. Achieving a neutral relationship with food.
  2. Freeing yourself from food obsession.
  3. Enjoying your life more.
  4. Loosening sticky thoughts around negative body image due to your relationship with food.

Do you want to learn more though an in-person workshop?  If you live in the Victoria area, I will be hosting a 2-hour workshop called “How to Win at Your Relationship with Food” on November 6 and 18, 2018.  You can view the course in the online activity guide on page 47  here.   You can register here.  In this workshop, we will take a deep dive into the psychology of how we relate to food and how to live life in such a way that food and body are not the central obsession.  Get ready for a hands-on, life-changing experience!


Until next time,



Individual and couples counselling services in the Westshore

Serving those in Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Sooke, and all of Greater Victoria





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