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Food is an important part of everyone’s lives. Whether you are indulging in sweets, nurturing your body with nothing but nutrition, or cooking yourself a grand meal to enjoy with family, food is often found at the center of the theoretical world. According to Earnest, the average household food budget this year will be $6,800. Not only does food have nutritional value, but it also carries a real financial cost.

Take a moment to consider the emotional and financial cost of what you are eating. For example, a five-dollar piece of cake can be seen as derailing from a diet or a health regimen. A five-dollar bag of pistachios, on the other hand. cost the same monetarily, but hold a much higher nutritional value and a smaller emotional debt than the piece of cake.

While fueling our bodies should be the primary reason for eating, oftentimes we overlook the purpose of food. By forming a positive relationship with your plate, you can maintain a healthy body and mind. By focusing on food’s strict nutritional purpose — you can help yourself determine the value of its consumption as well as the importance of the relationship you have with it.

What Does an Unhealthy Food Relationship Look Like?

According to Dr. Mary Pritchard, a professor in the department of psychology at Boise State University, “The number one cause of food restriction is body dissatisfaction,” simply because “ninety percent of women don’t like what they see in the mirror.” Thinking of food as the enemy of your body is unhealthy and can cause you a severe amount of emotional debt.

If you are focusing more on what the scale says than getting proper nutrition into your body, or are dieting more often than not, you are intentionally depriving your body of crucial nutrients it needs. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight to be healthy, if your primary reason for dieting or restricting your food intake is to be skinny, you have failed your body, mind, and soul.

Unfortunately, our human brains think for the most part in absolutes — meaning that it’s normal for you to feel like you have failed when you slip up on a diet, but if you open your fridge and find yourself instantly counting calories or beating yourself up, you may have an altered way of thinking about food. Focusing on the sheer cost of your mistakes can leave you beating yourself up.

Rules are important. I say that and then I’m going to add a caveat by saying this: if your eating habits are confined to strict rules like no carbs, no sugar, and no fun ever, then you are doing your relationship with food a disservice. While rules help maintain order in the world and even give you a sense of control, they can also be as damaging as they are restricting.

When you break a rule it doesn’t mean you have failed, it means you are human. Beating yourself up for making a diet mistake is worthless to your success as a person, however, chances are you do it almost every day. The voices in our head calculate the cost of eating that cupcake, that candy bar, or that entire bag of M&M’s.  The truth is, it’s not the food that was wrong — it’s your relationship with it.

What are you going to get out of talking to yourself in a manner that is not building you up? Nothing but guilt and doubt and disordered eating, that’s what.

Do Not Fear Food, Embrace It:

The easiest way to change our thoughts about eating is to pause and ask ourselves: “Why am I eating this? Am I hungry? Am I bored? Sad?” before you take the first bite. If your body needs fuel, you will know because you will feel hungry. If your body does not need fuel and your reaction to reach for it anyway is purely emotional, focus on addressing the cause of your stress eating instead of turning to food.

Do not aim for perfect; aim for healthy. 

Don’t allow yesterday to dictate today. The more you focus on the physical and emotional cost of the food you’ve already eaten, the more you will spiral into the realm of an unhealthy relationship again. Punishing yourself for eating something you enjoy only creates unwanted stress in your body that you don’t need.

Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of “all-or-nothing perfection” in which you make a bad food decision and then continue to eat bad food because you messed up once. Similarly, if you eat a donut, enjoy it, but control your urges to eat several. What doesn’t serve your temple of a body is unhealthy, unneeded, and certainly not cost-effective.

Nutrition plays a vital role in the formation of our brains. A healthy diet promotes biological processes in the brain. Cells and synaptic connections rely on nutrients like folic acid, zinc, fatty acids, and iron to work properly and help the brain’s tissue remain healthy. Body processes that rely on the brain also depend on this nutritional support.

With that said, EAT regularly. When you deprive yourself of valuable nutrients you will not function at your fullest potential and may compensate by overeating. The hungrier you are, the more likely you are to eat the wrong foods for your body.

What we put into our bodies is just as important as WHY we chose to do so. The emotional, physical, and financial costs of our relationship with food can take a toll on both our minds, bodies, and pocketbooks. Having a healthy relationship with food ensures that you will intake the proper nutrients to keep your body happy and running smoothly, making your overall life better.

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