What was your favorite meal when you were a kid? Mine was my Nonna’s cooking, especially her gnocchi. I’ve blogged about her food before. I used to spend time in the kitchen, helping her create to gnocchi and adding ingredients to her sauce. Now, I’m able to recreate her gnocchi on my own. I enjoy every bite. And I’m pretty sure it will always hold special memories for me.
Most of us have these memories. When we’re younger, we just enjoy food a whole ton. We love trying new flavors, we love eating it. Most of all, we love playing with it. As we get older, many of us lose touch with this enjoyment. I think this has to do with diet culture and how we start to label foods as “good” and “bad.” If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or chronic dieting, this enjoyment is often completely lost. Resulting in food becoming scary and the eating disorder thoughts remove all joy and pleasure surrounding food.
But, it doesn’t have to be lost. One of my hopes is to support my clients in being able to enjoy food again. Which sounds really terrifying to some clients and sounds exciting to others. Food is supposed to be enjoyed! It’s the very substance that keeps us alive and we are allowed to give ourselves permission to unconditionally enjoy and eat it.
When you feel ready, here are some tips on learning how to find pleasure in eating.
PS Some of these might seem quite challenging depending on where you are in recovery. If this doesn’t seem doable right now, it’s okay to revisit later.
Write yourself a permission slip
First, practice giving yourself either verbal permission or even written permission to enjoy what you’re eating. Remind yourself that food is something that we’re meant to find pleasure. I’d recommend to take out an index card or piece of paper and actually write out a permission slip. It would say something like this “I give myself permission to eat ____ because ____.” If you’re having trouble writing this out on your own, you may want to practice in session with your dietitian or therapist.
Find Someone To Enjoy Food With
Have you ever heard the saying, “count memories, not calories”? I actually have a sign in my kitchen that says that. It’s a great reminder that food isn’t all about simply fueling your body. It’s more about nourishing your body and your soul. It’s about connecting with people. Think of all the occasions in which food is the central focus. Birthdays, holidays, graduations, dinner dates, lunch dates with old friends. After all, it’s not just about enjoying the food, but about enjoying the moment. If you have someone to enjoy the moment with, it becomes less about the food and more about the memories.
Honor Your Cravings
Next, Honor your cravings. Listen to your body and give it what it wants! Nothing is off limits and not any one food is “good” or “bad”. Especially because the only “bad” foods are those that are expired. Try to feed your body foods you are in the mood for.
I think a lot of people struggle with this, I often get a response that’s something like “But, if I honor my cravings, I will never stop eating X food!!” And I TOTALLY understand that concern and where it’s coming from. The mindset a lot of us has it “once I start I won’t stop.” And this might be true at first. However, I find that with my clients, when they learn to give themselves unconditional permission to eat, they are able to enjoy all foods and a variety of foods without shame or guilty. In the end, with less restriction, both physical restriction and psychological restriction, of foods, we find increased balance and enjoyment and overall wellbeing.
Try New Recipes
If you like to book or bake this next one is for you! Although overwhelming, I usually browse pinterest for some recipe inspiration (here is a link to yummy recipes to try!) I also really like the website “Budget Bytes.” She has some pretty tasty and easy to make meals on there! You also may consider trying a meal delivery service like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. Hello Fresh is my personal favorite (I’m not sponsored by them! haha).
Alternatively, if you’re not a chef, that’s totally fine. You may want to consider making a reservation at a new restaurant. Or trying a new burrito bowl combination when you go to Chipotle.
Set The Mood
Another tip is to set the mood. I totally eat in front of my computer or a TV more often than not. But there is something special about setting the table, lighting a candle and eating a meal without any distractions. This can help you slow down a bit and really taste the food, which will make food more of an experience than just checking something off your to-do list. It is particularly fun to do this with a friend or family member 🙂
Enhance the taste of food
Enhancing the taste of food will let you customize the flavor to your liking and enjoy it more. Use butter, salt, BBQ sauce, dressings and other condiments. These can make a huge difference when it comes to enjoying the taste of your food. I encourage you to use these flavorful ingredients to help you really enjoy your meal!
Certainly, it can take some time to find pleasure in eating. But, the main takeaway I want you to get from this blog is that enjoying food is totally acceptable and normal. Above all, there should be no shame in eating the foods that you love. If you feel guilt, chances are it’s coming from the eating disorder, old diet rules or diet culture. Remember to speak with your dietitian about ways to find pleasure in eating. My hope is for you to find food freedom and pleasure in eating.
If you or a loved one is struggling to love food again, and you would like to work with one of our Registered Dietitians, please click here or call (240) 670-4675 to make an appointment today.