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5 Ways I Improved My Relationship With Food

Toxic relationships. We’ve all probably encountered them before. 

With an ex, maybe a friend, and for some, even food. 

In complete honesty, my relationship with food always felt harder to maintain than my relationships with people. With social media almost unavoidable and the never-ending pressure to meet beauty standards plastered all over pop culture, it’s no surprise it can be difficult to feel confident and happy in your own body. I know it was for me for a while. And, in the spirit of embracing hot girl summer vibes as summer 2021 approaches, here are some of the ways I overcame the toxicity surrounding my relationship with food and found joy in the salads *and* ice cream sundaes that life has thrown my way.

Intuitive Eating 

Simply put, intuitive eating is all about eating when you’re hungry, and not eating when you're full. Sounds pretty, well, basic right? Turns out, it’s a little bit more of a commitment than you’d think. This is because half the time we eat when we’re emotional, bored, being social, and not actually hungry at all. I used to feel almost programmed to want food during certain activities, times, and social gatherings when I wasn’t even hungry. And while sometimes this type of eating is fun and important for a balanced life, being cognizant of the choices you make throughout the day and deciding if you’re really hungry after all, can be *kinda* life-changing. Through intuitive eating, I no longer feel like I have to eat dinner because it’s 6 P.M. or lunch because it’s 12:30. I eat when I think my body needs nourishment, energy, and most of all--when I am *actually* hungry. In other words, it relieved a lot of the pressure I used to feel about what I would be eating and when.

Finding Healthier Alternatives 

One day I realized that I don’t have to compromise the foods that I love to live a healthier lifestyle, and after that, the game changed. While a decadent piece of chocolate cake or a cheeseburger and fries is always OK to have, I didn’t like the way it made me feel. I still wanted something sweet after dinner or a savory snack after a night out, but I wanted it with less of the guilt, bloating, and tiredness it made me feel. I soon started replacing chips and cookies that offered no nutritional value with options that were higher in protein, had less added sugar, and were made with ingredients I could *actually* pronounce. I found desserts that my sweet tooth loved, like homemade banana bread, strawberries with chocolate hummus, and “smart sweets” gummy bears to enjoy after dinner. This made my healthier lifestyle more sustainable because I was still allowing my body to indulge in what it was craving, just in a way that was, well, better for me.

Giving Myself Permission to Be Human

I have found the months of the year where I am living at my university to be the hardest in making consistent healthy choices. This is because college is fun, spontaneous, and filled with academic and social commitments; and, I wouldn’t change that if I had the chance. However, this can make what I’m eating for dinner the last thing on my mind. When I moved into my first college apartment this past year, I made myself feel guilty for going out, getting an insomnia cookie at 2 A.M., and basically enjoying life. For a minute, it became hard for me to even want to be at school. I put pressure on myself to eat and work out like a stay-at-home mom who is a part-time soul cycle instructor. Seriously. As soon as I *actually* listened to my own advice *for once* and gave myself permission to find balance and moderation in the typical college lifestyle, I was able to seamlessly incorporate more nutritionally dense foods and fitness into my days. Meanwhile, I started to savor and enjoy the imperfect, spontaneous days of my fleeting college years.

Pressing The Unfollow Button 

If anything was going to derail my healthy relationship with food, it was going to be social media. The accounts I followed, the people I aspired to dress like, live like, and look like, were flawed. Since making an Instagram in the fifth grade, I had never looked up for long enough to realize how filtered and surface-level the accounts I followed really was. About a year ago, I changed that. I took a few hours, and I scrolled, and kept scrolling, through who I followed. I saw my friends, Justin Bieber fangirl accounts, and travel destinations. Those stayed. But mostly, I noticed that there were models, influencers, foodie accounts, workout accounts, all with an unrealistic take on what it means to *actually* be healthy and happy. 

I knew what I had to do. 

I pressed the unfollow button about 500 times. 

I replaced the accounts that made me feel bad about myself with accounts that made me feel motivated, empowered, and beautiful in my own skin. I followed wellness accounts with recipes that were attainable, and workouts I could do from wherever I was. Pictures of people who were all different. Career-driven people, positive people, kind people. The kind of people I should really look up to.

Moving My Body

I used to go to the gym after making myself feel bad because I had an unhealthy weekend or convincing myself that I was gaining weight. I only ever wanted to look good. And honestly, it made working out feel like a chore. Today, I like to think that working out and eating healthy are meant to complement each other. When I do one, doing the other is a lot easier. The more I began eating healthy, the more I genuinely wanted to workout, and vice versa. I knew as long as I prioritized them both and got into a routine where I was able to eat healthy in moderation and move my body every day, I was on the right track. And just like having something different for dinner every night, I changed my workouts too. I tried pilates, hot yoga, long walks, short jogs, spin, strength training, dancing, I mean, you name it--I tried it. This kept my body moving every day, an easier task than it had been for me in the past. I learned what workouts make me feel better and that I enjoy doing the most. And while I’m not going to write to you all today that I work out only because of how it makes me feel and not how it makes me look, I will say that I workout *mostly* because of how it makes me feel.

How it makes me look is just some added motivation, tbh.

My relationship with food is one that I am committed to for the long haul, and honestly, it’ll probably be the longest relationship I have. 

Or any of us have, I guess. 

That’s because, since birth, food has *literally* been there to fuel and allow us to grow into who we are today. And that never ends. 

Just like in any relationship, I know it won’t always be easy, it will never be perfect and it will take work. I hope these five tips can help you as they help me. Ever since I decided to make these changes in my life, I have been a happier and more confident version of myself, and I see food as my friend--who helps me thrive and hypes me up whenever I need it. 

And let me just tell you, it’s awesome.

Caylie is a junior communications and journalism major at the University of Connecticut. When she's not writing for HerCampus, she's probably writing for her blog, Going In Blonde. While her laptop charges, you might find Caylie going for a run, scrolling through Tik Tok, or taking a million photos of her dog.
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