An illustration of a downcast girl with her hands in her pockets as she looks down with a vegetable wallpaper in the background

What is the key to a healthy relationship? 

I’ve heard that it’s trust and respect. Balance is another fundamental tool. My mom always stood by communication being the key, and, as cliché as it is, that’s the answer I’m most drawn to because communication requires all of those things. 

It takes a great level of trust, respect and effort between two people to find their natural rhythm of open expression and intent listening, but the end result is often a balanced connection. I’ve found this to be true in any relationship, even one with food. 

I didn’t start viewing my body’s connection with food as a relationship until after I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. My condition was characterized by abdominal pains triggered by certain foods and irregular bowel movement patterns. Dietary changes, probiotics and medications can improve symptoms, but I learned the hard way that IBS-D can cause major disruption to your daily life if not managed properly. It took me running off of a football field mid-performance to finally understand that learning my body’s language was crucial to repairing my relationship with food.

Learning my body’s language was crucial to repairing my relationship with food.

My first step was to keep a log. My doctor suggested I jot down the food I ate, the beverages I drank and any brand names I consumed at every meal and then note any symptoms. It took me a while to understand its language. In time, I learned that my body struggled to digest dairy, and anxiety was the biggest trigger of my erratic diarrhea. 

My friend, Alexis Lawson, a health and wellness professional and nutrition specialist, shared a powerful quote with me while discussing the journey to a healthy food, mind and body relationship. She said, “Listen when your body whispers, before it starts screaming.” In our conversation, she stressed the importance of knowing that no two nutrition journeys will be the same because everyone’s body is different, and we are each marked by varying sensitivities and insensitivities. 

Listen when your body whispers, before it starts screaming.

Here are a few more tips she shared with me about the relationship between our bodies and food:

Try food testing.

Your body communicates what it likes and what it doesn’t through gas, heartburn and indigestion, among other things. It’s important that you listen. Start by eliminating some foods—dairy or gluten, for example—for a week and note how your body reacts.

If nothing changes or your symptoms are mild, then you know that you don’t have to completely eliminate it from your diet. If you do note changes or symptoms, then you’re one step closer to improving your diet. It’s truly a matter of trial and error. 

Before you eat, ask yourself whether the food or drink benefits your body and mental health.

It is important to always know what you’re putting in your body. For example, if your body has told you that dairy is a problem, then be sure to note whether or not the entrée you’re planning to dive into at a new restaurant is dairy-based.

It is important to always know what you’re putting in your body.

Is it processed? Is it an anti-inflammatory food? Build that trust with your body and develop a better understanding of how it will react to various foods.

Remember, no one knows your body better than you. Just like in any relationship, remain fluid in your journey and keep communication key. This approach will help in sustainability and longevity.

What is your relationship with food like? Have you developed a meal plan for yourself that is both tasty and wholesome for your body?

Image via Rebecka Skog, Darling Issue No. 15

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