Do you think about food all of the time? When you see or bring to mind a certain food does it elicit certain feelings or emotions? Our dietary approaches, beliefs and habits affect how we relate to food.
People relate to food in many different ways. For some it encompasses a major portion of their day. Now, we all have to eat, but for the individuals that I am referring to food rules their days. The planning, preparing and consuming of food is almost always on their minds. Along with this they often have strong convictions about food and may feel that there are good foods and bad foods.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those that are somewhat towards food. They may be very educated, healthful eaters, but they do not spend their days obsessing over it. They do not see certain foods and think of it as good or bad and they probably won’t feel guilty after consuming certain foods.
A 2012 study in Eating Behaviors looked at how different dietary approaches affect how people relate to food. There were those that followed a restraint model of eating and others who practiced moderation. In the study, an individual following the restraint model actively restricted foods while those who practiced moderation self-regulated eating based on responding to their needs and desires in a reasonable manner.
For example, a moderate eater may prepare a plate for themselves with small portions and if they still feel hungry after consuming those portions, they would be comfortable getting more. A restrained eater on the on the other hand has certain rules for eating and will not budge on those. These may include low carb, low sugar, exact portions, etc.
The mindset of moderate eaters is more focused on their diet as a whole rather than an individual meal or food item. Again, this individual may be a very healthful eater and may in fact read food labels, look at macro-nutrients, and be concerned with the quality of the food they consume. The difference however, is that they strike a balance between healthy eating, internal cues from their body and experiencing satisfaction from the foods that they eat versus following a set of inflexible food rules.
In the study, restraint was linked to worry about weight, less perceived ability to manage weight, more emotional and binge eating and lower life satisfaction. On the contrary, those that were categorized as moderate eaters believed they could effectively manage their weight and had lower emotional and binge eating.
How would you describe your relationship with food; are you a moderate eater or do you find that you restrain?