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4 Ways Self-Care Affects Your Relationship With Food

“Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you most need to make time to relax.” ― Matt Haig

We've all been there.... you rush through the day, doing things for others, trying to tick off items on your to-do-list and you barely have a minute to yourself. Yet when you get to the end of the day you really feel as though you deserve a "treat" for all of the hard work you have done for others so you turn to something easily accessible, maybe those glasses of wine, pieces of chocolate or biscuits you've had your eye on all day.

How much time we dedicate to ourselves and to self-care can have a direct impact on our relationship with food. What actually is self-care? Self-care is any act that allows you to take care of yourself and your needs. It could be taking time to have a nice bath, booking in a massage or just giving yourself some relaxation time. It could however, also involve, spending time to prepare a nourishing meal for yourself, going to a yoga class or spending time with friends. Anything that allows you to take care of your needs and that supports both your long-term and short-term wellbeing and happiness is a form of self-care.

Here are 4 ways in which making time for self-care in our daily lives can shift and improve our relationship with food:

It improves our mood

Many people often think that self-care is a selfish act. It seems indulgent to take time out of the day to relax , take care of ourselves or to take care of our needs. However, when we don't make enough time for self-care it can have a very negative impact on our mood and leave us feeling incredibly resentful of others. I am sure you can remember how stressed and overwhelmed you have felt on those days where you have rushed through just trying to get everything done. Self-care may at the time, seem like a waste of time. However it allows us to invest some time in boosting and improving our mood for that day and week. After some self-care time, we can then approach tasks and the day from a place of calmness and confidence rather than stress and overwhelm. We also approach our relationships feeling more happy and positive, rather than resentful and angry. This in turn can improve our relationship with food. Often when people are feeling stressed, sad or anxious, their relationship with food is negatively affected. Many people comfort eat or binge eat when they experience negative emotions and others may end up losing their appetite and starving themselves because of how down/stressed they feel.

It communicates to our mind and body that we value ourselves

When you make time to engage in self-care, you also communicate to your mind and body that you are worthy and valued. You deserve the time and effort it takes to take care of yourself, your body and your needs. When you feel worthy and valued (by yourself) you are also much more likely to take the time to then cook/prepare delicious and nourishing meals, you are more likely to want to move your body in a way that feels good, to prioritise sleep and to take other actions to prioritise your health and wellbeing. Often, when you don't believe you "deserve" self-care, often this also translates to not feeling you "deserve" the time and effort it takes to prepare meals/ eat nourishing food etc.

It allows us to chose helpful "treats" and coping mechanisms

Self-care is a way of taking care of our mental health. When we aren't building in helpful coping mechanisms and forms of self-care such as movement, journalling, meditation or connecting with others, we instead often turn to unhelpful coping mechanisms or quick fixes. These quick fixes can often include things such as food, alcohol, gambling or shopping. Unless we make time to truly take care of ourselves, we will turn to quick fixes when we feel down/stressed/anxious that often actually end up leaving us feeling worse long-term.

It encourages for self-compassion

Self-care is a way in which we can show ourselves self-love and self-compassion. By treating ourselves with care and making time for ourselves we are also more likely to talk to ourselves in a kind and compassionate way (because we feel that we are deserving of that kindness and compassion). Many people are very harsh on themselves and very critical of themselves and this often goes hand in hand with them not feeling deserving of any time/self-care. Unfortunately this critical inner voice can often drive a very unhealthy relationship with food, where someone is either punishing themselves with extreme and restrictive diets for not feeling "good enough" or where someone finds themselves over-eating or comfort-eating because they feel so down and bad about themselves.

So yes, life can get busy and often you and your needs may fall to the bottom of the to-do-list. However, prioritising self-care isn't selfish. In fact, it allows you to be the best possible friend, sister, mother, son, father etc. that you can be. It also allows you to come into relationships and interactions from a place where you feel replenished and positive, rather than depleted and resentful. Finally too, self-care can significantly improve your relationship with food and your body, allowing you to be more inclined to want to nurture and nourish your mind and body through your food and lifestyle choices.

“Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ― Parker Palmer


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