How to reframe your relationship with food

Food, glorious food! It can be the source of pleasure, but also the cause of anxiety. Ok, so eating too much or eating the wrong foods are the traditional concerns we have: these have stood the test of time, transcended generations and plagued us endlessly.

But in the modern world, we also add extra layers to this already complex relationship: eating ethically, being a good role model, making sustainable choices, ensuring we have the right nutrients regularly, listening to our bodies and the intolerances it may have. And yet, we have to eat. It is completely essential to our basic existence.

But we are way beyond simply surviving these days. Not only do we know that food gives us fuel, but we also know that it can have an impact on our mental health, our immunity and even our mood. Food can aid us in our recovery from illness and our ability to navigate tricky changes, such as menopause. There is so much research out there to arm us with tools for our changing bodies, emotions and needs.

As François de la Rochefoucauld famously said, “To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”

Beyond the health aspects of our eating, there’s also the emotional and psychological attachments we have to how and what we eat. We love food, it has taken on a meaning like few other things in this world. It can be an expression of love, used as a reward or a threat.

All too often do we place a greater emphasis on food than simply refuelling our body, we attach emotions to it. We use it to treat ourselves, impress others and, for many of us, we are vastly aware of our fortunate position, with some simply not having enough to feed themselves or their families.

The power of hypnotherapy

Because food can give us such pleasure and even alter our moods, it’s no wonder our attachment to it is so strong, and why breaking poor habits or introducing better ones can be really challenging.

It’s because of this complexity that hypnotherapy may have the answer, providing a myriad of options to support you to change your relationship with food. There are the extremes you might have heard of, such as ‘gastric band’ hypnosis, where you see the results of having a gastric band fitted, without ever going under the knife. This approach can be very successful but may be more than you are looking for. 

Perhaps you are looking for something that makes a smaller adjustment to your diet and mindset. You may wish to cut out sugar, knowing it isn’t great for you but also wanting to practise what you preach where your children are concerned. They’ll only fall for the “these are just for mummy and daddy” trick for so long before they figure out you’re munching on the treats you limit them from having.

Or perhaps you want to cut out dairy, believing you may have an intolerance to it, however, the idea of never eating cheese again is proving a bit much. 

Hypnotherapy can help you to swerve these specific foods and can be tailored to your particular needs and requests. In this respect, it is unlike most approaches to food and weight management. The possibilities hypnotherapy can offer are endless. 

On the flip side, you may have anxieties around eating some foods, possibly having had a traumatic experience whilst eating once. Choking on a bit of bacon fat can put you off your favourite breakfast sandwich for life. If you have developed a fear or anxiety around some foods, then hypnotherapy can provide a long-lasting solution to overcome this. It can support you in tackling that fear head-on, without having to relive the trauma. Bacon butties can once again return to your menu, hurrah!

Eating and weight management often go hand-in-hand. Of course, we need to consider other contributors to our health, but commonly, food plays a significant role in how we look and feel about ourselves.

A more general weight-loss approach may be what you’re after, and in order for that to succeed, it is usual for your therapist to start by looking into your affinity with food. Your hope could be to slim down for a big occasion or make a long-term change to how you approach food. Whichever goal you’re aiming for, some psychology has to be factored in as we place so much value and meaning on what we eat. 

A tailored approach 

The way you connect with food and use it to support you emotionally is particular to you. There may be broad categories that you could roughly fit into, but your relationship with food is somewhat unique. The way it may have been used as a reward, or even a threat, when you were a child will have a huge impact on how you relate to it as you grow older. We all know of households who were keen to avoid waste and meals were used as a bargaining tool, “You won’t be watching any TV until you’ve finished all your dinner!”.

The shift in thinking from “I must finish everything on my plate” to “I will stop when I’m satisfied” is one that many of us have tried to adapt to but that mindset is hard to change. We strive to break free from it, but then go and place the same notion onto our children – insisting they eat it all up, especially if they are out for a meal and someone is paying for it. 

All this without even mentioning the added complexities of ‘treats’ – the Friday night takeaway after a long week, or the slice of cake as a reward for finishing a piece of work. The bargains we make with ourselves are so unnecessary. We know truly that food is food, and it doesn’t define us, nor should we have a reason to eat our favourite meals, but sometimes, these habits are hard to break without the right support.

And let’s not forget that food is often pivotal in how we socialise: going for a meal with friends or having them over for a BBQ. We can even express love with food, treating someone to a dish you know they enjoy when you want to express thanks or affection. 

It can be hard to navigate this world. But, fortunately, hypnotherapy can help in providing insight into the thinking behind certain relationships with food. It can help you avoid certain foods, cut out the snacking and make healthier choices if that’s what you want. However, it is not about offering nutritional advice. For that, you need a different raft of professionals – Nutritionist Resource is a great place to start.

There is no question that our connection with food is complex. Hypnotherapy can be an incredibly effective approach in unravelling and understanding this, as it combines therapy with a tangible solution. It doesn’t leave you defenceless against cravings, nor does it resemble a fad diet. It is you and your goals that steer the therapy you receive.

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Written by Jessica Chapman

Jessica Chapman is a therapist and teacher with a passion for the outdoors and being creative. She enjoys assisting others in making positive changes to their lives alongside working on her own aspirations.

Written by Jessica Chapman

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