How To Improve Your Relationship With Food Through Meditation

A healthy relationship with food is a key part of an overall healthy life. Between the unrealistic beauty standards imposed by popular culture and false information spread on social media, disordered eating habits and damaged relationships with food are becoming more common. 

CookingLight emphasizes that a healthy relationship with food is not related to calories, vegetable servings, nutrients, macros, or the quality of your diet. Instead, it's about the attitude that you have towards food and your level of awareness when it comes to your eating behaviors. A positive relationship with eating also involves identifying behaviors and mindsets surrounding food that aren't beneficial to your overall health and working to improve them. Classic signs of an unhealthy relationship with food include feeling shame around certain foods, cutting out complete food groups (not due to allergies, intolerances, or doctor's advice), mindless overeating, eating without hunger, emotional eating, feeling anxious around food, and interchanging food choices with your worth and identity.

If you've decided to improve your relationship with food, it's time to manifest the life you want. One of the most effective ways to start healing an unhealthy relationship with food is through meditation. The ancient practice, which involves clearing your mind to reach a state of tranquility, has a range of physical and mental health benefits (via the Cleveland Clinic). Using certain meditative techniques, you can begin to transform how you relate to food and, consequently, the behaviors that stem from those feelings.

How meditation helps your relationship with food

Meditating involves quietening the mind, which can rely on several techniques. One of the most common methods is finding a quiet space where you won't be disturbed and count your breaths. Every time your thoughts drift away from your breaths, bring them back and start counting from one again. Jenna Hollenstein, author of "Eat to Love: A Mindful Guide to Transforming Your Relationship with Food, Body and Life," explains on her website that regular meditation practice can help prevent automatic mindless eating and build tolerance for uncomfortable sensations, such as hunger or anxiety.

One of the more direct meditative practices to heal your relationship with food is mindful eating. Psychology Today explains that mindful eating involves being "fully present" as you eat. It's the opposite of mindless eating, which describes eating so quickly and carelessly that you're not even aware of what or how much you're consuming. Mindful eating has a range of proven benefits, including reducing impulsive eating habits, increasing the pleasure that food brings, and highlighting any triggers that may contribute to your unhealthy relationship with food (via Your Body the Temple). It's important to note, however, that mindful eating may not be the right course of action for those with eating disorders or individuals with a history of disordered eating patterns (via WBUR). If you are recovering from an eating disorder, speak to your healthcare provider before incorporating the practice into your lifestyle, as mindful eating can be ineffective or even triggering in certain people when implemented without guidance. 

In a culture of fast food and scarfing down dinner while scrolling through Instagram, mindful eating is quite different from what many people are used to. As such, it can take a while to get the hang of it.

How to eat mindfully

The key to mindful eating is to tune in to your body and listen to the messages it sends you (via ActiveCare Health). Start by setting aside time for your meals, whether it's 15 minutes or an hour. During that time, don't multi-task at all. That means no TV, texting, or mindless scrolling. Rather, focus on every bite of food, paying attention to all the sensations that come with it. Note how it tastes, smells, and feels in your mouth as you chew slowly. Notice how your body feels after each bite and the thoughts that arise in your mind as you eat. Pay attention to how you feel while eating without judging yourself. Headspace notes that mindful eating doesn't enforce restrictions around food; the goal is not to change your diet but rather to be aware of it in order to foster healthier habits. 

Along with mindful eating, you could also try a guided meditation to improve your relationship with food. Nutritious Life shares a 15-minute meditation for mindful eating, highlighting that guided meditation can make the practice more accessible to a modern audience. Guided meditation can be a great way to go if solo mindful eating doesn't feel right for you or if you'd like a little help to start. Whether you commit to a routine of mindful eating, guided meditation, or solo meditation, this ancient practice can help you to connect with your own body and pave the way to healthier eating habits.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).