blog title graphic with an orange flower on a beige background that says, how to have a better relationship with food

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 you want, and ultimately leads to greater well-being.

A kind food limit considers what you desire for taste and pleasure and what your body needs to work well and feel good.

It also accounts for how you feel when you eat a particular food (physically, mentally, and emotionally). It also helps you check your energy needs now and soon so you have the fuel you need.

The big picture of kind food limits is that they help you make food choices that you feel good about, so you can stop 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 essential because if you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, you’ll feel like something is missing. And that’s the perfect setup for mindless stress eating that leaves you unsatisfied and disappointed.

Kind food limits are primarily positive, moving 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 your 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.

When you come home from vacation or after the holidays, you might need to eat more of the food you missed in the previous days or weeks. Or you might need to reset 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.

Eating more traditional desserts around holidays is part of how I connect with my culture. I eat those conventional foods in a concentrated way because they are time-consuming to make, are part of meals with family and friends, and 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 engaging 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-is-available situation – it’s easy to quiet your hunger, but ultimately, most of the time, it’s not what you want to eat. Sometimes, this is just how it goes, but when every day is a grab-and-go type, 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 expected.

Reaching for the candy bowl on your coworker’s desk, just because it’s there, can become a habit. 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 the thought of candy, and then the sight of it can start 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 desired outcome and decide based on what you want.

Making a choice now means saying, “Not right now.” It doesn’t mean banishing candy; 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 your 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 hungry for and if you’re even hungry.

Slow down rather than reaching for what’s immediately available. Getting what you want and need may take some planning and time. 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 your body’s feedback is the pathway to developing 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!