When sweet and savory smells of cooking your favorite creamy soup or fruit-filled baked good waft throughout your home, what do you notice happening in your body? Do you salivate, take a deep breath in and smile with contentment or does an internal voice whisper “I can’t eat it.”? I’m here to tell you: Yes, you can.

It’s More Than Permission

We all have a relationship with the food we eat. Is your language around food, and how you handle the food you eat, healthful and helpful?

An unhealthy relationship with food can run the gamut from siloing foods into “good” and “bad” categories, purposely steering clear of specific Food Groups such as fruits or feeling bad about overeating highly palatable foods. This kind of relationship can lead to creating food rules or feeling you need permission to eat certain foods like.

Instead of thinking you need permission to enjoy all foods offered or available to you, recognize that you have the right to eat whatever, whenever and how much you choose. That said, a clear understanding of the intent behind the foods you choose may be worthwhile.

What Do You Want?

As you make food choices, think about what you want. Do you want to consistently overindulge until you feel stuffed and uncomfortable? Do you want to spend time being social with family and friends while depriving yourself of your favorite foods? Or do you want to make it through each day (including those with social engagements) feeling satisfied while enjoying recipes you simply love? Once you know what you’re aiming to accomplish when making food choices, your path toward a happier and healthier you will become clearer to navigate.

It’s About Planning

Regardless if you’re managing your weight, have a medical condition impacted by food like diabetes or none of the above, showing up to meals feeling ravenous can work against your nutrition goals. Be mindful and plan to nip hunger in the bud by eating a snack ahead of time.

Satiate appetite with snacks that provide a source of carbohydrates paired with protein and a little bit of fat. Great tasting, transportable options are a small apple with walnuts, half a banana and peanut butter sandwich or thawed frozen raspberries mixed into unsweetened Greek yogurt.

By eating a small snack before running errands, getting to your kiddo’s sports or simply attending a get-together with friends, your food choices will be more purposeful. You’ll be able to enjoy a taste of dessert without letting hunger and cravings lead to overeating.

When You Celebrate, Do So Like A Kid

How many five-year-olds restrain themselves from enjoying the foods they love? Not many. Lean into the same “anything goes” mentality for the recipes you prepare and the foods you enjoy—especially during special occasions. If you feel giddy eating sweet-tasting, chocolate dipped strawberries or velvety smooth potato au gratin, enjoy them. And just like a young child, listen to your body’s cues for when you begin to feel full.

When it comes to listening to your heart when you eat, understanding why you choose the foods you do, and holding back judgment, is essential for opening your lens to the idea that all foods can fit. There’s no need to feel deprived and “have to” eat anything. Instead, meet yourself where you are and begin each eating occasion like it is a new opportunity to practice self-compassion. You may be surprised how quickly your language around food changes.

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