A better relationship with food comes from setting kind food limits.
So, what is a kind food limit? It is a limit that supports you, opens up growth opportunities that you want in your life and ultimately leads to greater well-being.
A kind food limit takes into account what you desire for taste and pleasure and what your body needs to work well and feel good.
It also accounts how you feel when you eat a particular food (physically, mentally and emotionally). It also helps you check your energy need right now and in the near future so you have the fuel you need.
The big picture of kind food limits is that they help you to make food choices that you feel good about, so you can stop stress eating for good.
That’s to say, you feel good in a well-rounded sense. You feel satisfied so you can focus on what’s happening in your life rather than thinking about food. Satisfaction is important because if you don’t enjoy what you’re eating or you’ll feel like there’s something missing. And that’s the perfect setup for mindless stress eating that leaves you feeling unsatisfied and disappointed with yourself.
Kind food limits are mostly positive, meaning that they move you toward something you need or desire.
Some examples are:
- Planning a meal at a favorite restaurant
- Enjoying a meal with a friend
- Looking forward to favorite comfort meal or dessert
It could also be a little less glamorous and commit to a meal simply because you know your body needs it to feel better.
You also need the nutrition to fuel your body considering what you’ve got going on for the rest of the day. You might drink a glass of milk with lunch rather than soda, because that’s what you need today. Tomorrow you may have different needs.
Think about when you come home from vacation or after the holidays, sometimes you might need to eat more of the food you missed in the previous days or weeks. Or you might need to reset kind food limits, especially after enjoying traditional feasting foods around holidays. Eating isn’t perfect and there isn’t a need for judgement either. Life happens in cycles and kind food limits support you regardless of the cycle you’re in at the moment.
For me, eating more traditional desserts around holidays is part of the way I connect with my culture. I eat those traditional foods in a concentrated way because they are time consuming to make, they are part of meals with family and friends and they are a connection with my ancestors.
If I lived in Italy, I would have a different experience. I know I would enjoy those foods more frequently, but less of them, with a great cup of coffee and interesting conversation sitting outside in the sunshine. But right now, I’m in the states and it’s a very different vibe!
If you’re like most of us and busy during work hours it’s often a grab what’s available situation – it’s easy, quiets your hunger, but ultimately most of the time not what you really want to eat. Sometimes this is just the way it goes, but when every day is a grab and go type of day it can become nearly impossible to set kind food limits.
Well-balanced meals – most of the time – support you in a variety of different ways.
After eating a well-balanced meal you’ll probably feel:
- emotionally more aware
- focused on your task
- thinking more clearly
- resting more deeply
- managing feelings more accurately and peacefully
Kind food limits also help you stop mindless eating and stress eating sooner than you expected.
Reaching for the candy bowl on your coworker’s desk, just because it’s there can become a habit. In fact, you might even find that you walk by the coworker’s desk when you want a piece of candy!
The feel-good part of your brain excitedly lights up at thought of candy and then the sight of it can starts the cascade of relief before you’ve even taken a bite.
But, eating candy right before you have a big chunk of work to get done and a deadline to meet isn’t always a good idea.
Give yourself a moment to consider the outcome you desire and make a decision based on what you want.
Making a choice at this moment means saying, “not right now.” It doesn’t mean banishing candy, after all, candy is made for pure enjoyment. Eating for enjoyment is part of normal eating. Kind food limits are about kindness and care – of yourself and for your own long-term well-being.
Setting kind food limits is a very achievable goal! A kind food limit helps you be more aware of your needs. What your brain needs for fulfillment, your mind needs for satisfaction and your body needs for energy.
Here are three practical steps you can take to set kind food limits:
1. Identify what you’re really hungry for and/or if you’re even hungry at all.
Slow down, rather than reaching for what’s immediately available. It may take some planning and time to get what you want and need. You’re worth the wait!
2. Notice food rules like, “If I have this pie, I’ll need to work out x number of hours!”
Listening to yourself requires that you become quiet and still for a moment as you learn about your needs and make decisions based on kind food limits.
3. Eat until you’re satisfied.
Eating to satisfaction usually happens when you eat a well-balanced meal with protein, carbs and fat. Use your body as your guide and trust the feedback you receive for what works for you. When you thrive it’s easier on your system and your body feels better.
Being quiet so you can hear the feedback your body gives you is the pathway to develop kind food limits.
Get to know what supports your well-being and what you like – it’s a winning combination that benefits you for years to come!