Vegan, junk-food junkie, pescatarian, sweet-tooth, plant-based, paleo, closet eater—there are many words used to describe our relationship with food. Kara Short, owner of Fit Coaching (coaching for fitness, nutrition and life), states, “I see people use food as fuel, nourishment, as a reward, to celebrate, to sabotage, to comfort, to fix boredom and more.” As a personal trainer and nutrition coach, Short has some advice about bettering this close, personal relationship.
The many relationships with food
Many may wonder—is there a right or wrong relationship to have with food? Short shies away from those words. “Saying right or wrong leaves no room for anything in between. To me, it’s sort of like saying good or bad food or good or bad self. Having those hard terms is like an on-off switch. I like to approach food relationships with my clients on a continuum of better to worse. Instead of asking if it’s good or bad, I ask them to look at their relationship with food and decide if they can do a little better.” Listening to hunger cues, stopping when satiated, feeling that you control food and not the other way around and not submitting to emotional eating are signs you are in a healthy relationship with food.
Short wasn’t always into fitness. Hers is a transformation story. Short explains, “I’m a busy mom of three kids who ended up being overweight post-pregnancies. I put great effort into raising them to be happy and healthy but not much effort into my own self-care. We joined the Y when my youngest was two. It was then I figured out how to transform myself. From then on, I took the time to exercise and eat better. It launched me into a career. I will celebrate 10 years in business this year!”
American culture is quick to show us ice cream as an aid for a broken heart or that sitting around the kitchen table with friends eating cheesecake can cure any bad day or blues. Short says, “Simply put, using food and eating food as a coping mechanism is emotional eating.” If you find yourself reaching for junk food, sweets or the closest drive-thru as a comfort, reward or form of stress management, you are likely engaging in emotional eating.
Emotional eating is often triggered by stress. And we’ve certainly been faced with stress lately. In one study that included a national random sample of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, 39% admitted to overeating and 31% (nearly a third of respondents) said their diet worsened during the pandemic.
Working on the relationship
So what are the first steps to fostering a positive relationship with food? According to Short, it starts with taking ownership of your actions and choices. She explains, “If you are conscious of what you did, own what you ate and move on, it takes any guilt or shame out of it. I’d encourage anyone to make small, easy changes while being consistent at what you’re trying to improve. And then to set yourself up for success by remembering that if temptation is in the house, you’ll probably end up eating it, so keep your environment supportive of your goals.”
To learn more about bettering your relationship with food, Short recommends reading on precisionnutrition.com. Short concludes by adding, “I have dedicated my professional life to helping people become fitter, stronger and healthier. Whatever obstacles arise, I am here to help people build the habits needed to look and feel better for life.” Find Kara at procoach.app/kara-short.