Diet culture wants us to believe that food must be perfect. Made with perfect ingredients and diligent portions in order for it to be considered “good”, while all other experiences are subsequently deemed “bad” or “not good enough.” This reliance solely on external labels or rules disconnects us from being able to trust that our bodies can and should be allowed to have fun with food. Not to mention, it causes a significant amount of shame towards ourselves and our bodies.
Maybe you have started to avoid foods that you once enjoyed: birthday cake at a party, ice cream after the beach in the summer, or a bag of chips with your sandwich at lunchtime. Feeling that these foods have no place in the diet solely based on external rules and labels is an example of rigidity in thoughts around food.
In our work with clients, we tend to call these types of food “fun foods” because they add more than just nutrition to the plate. While food is necessary for fueling us throughout the day, we can also choose to eat food just because it tastes good. And that’s okay. We talk a lot about Intuitive Eating with our clients, and at the center of that is satisfaction without a side of guilt or shame.
Re-incorporation of these "fun foods” is a scary yet liberating action step in recovery from disordered eating. In our work, we find that consistent exposure to these foods helps to reduce the anxiety surrounding intake throughout the day and increase flexibility with food.
The ability to have fun with food is possible when you can learn to distance yourself from the moral language (ie. good foods, bad foods and guilty foods) and view food as just food. Once you start to view all foods as morally neutral, it becomes a lot easier to find ways to build connections around and have fun with food while also choosing options that feel good in your individual body.
4 important factors of fun foods
That's right! Despite what diet culture may tell you, these foods actually provide energy, protein, carbohydrates, and fats (sometimes even calcium) that our bodies need and can use as fuel to get us through our days. All foods are composed of different ratios of macronutrients that impact how much energy they are providing us at a given time. Being able to understand the type of energy you are needing in a given moment can help you integrate fun foods in a way that feels good. More on that here.
Fun foods are one of the many pleasures of life and almost always a part of holidays and family traditions. It is important to encourage ourselves to feel comfortable and even work to enjoy full participation in these events.
Eating disorders and disordered eating patterns can often be isolating and make social gatherings uncomfortable. Challenging the rules and beliefs around fun food can help make attending birthday parties, reunions, and a pasta party with your sports team more enjoyable.
Enjoyment of food is part of a healthy relationship with food. Denying yourself foods you really enjoy because you’ve labeled them as “bad” can lead to overeating or out-and-out binging on “forbidden” foods.
Let’s be real, it can be hard to feel good about having fun with food: our choices, when and if to eat, what to eat. Period. With a culture that glorifies dieting and thinness, thinking of food as a pleasurable experience can be tricky.
With that being said, it is possible to start having fun with food again. Let’s dive in with six ways to start this process.
6 ways to start having fun with food
1. Ditch the food rules
The way we talk about food matters. When we start to label food as “good” or “bad”, it can start to translate in our brain as “I am good for having this food” or “I am bad for eating this”. This is a slippery slope that can negatively impact your relationship with food (and your relationship with yourself).
It may be time to reflect on your overall relationship with food and body to see how it’s impacting your ability to have fun with food again. Our Jumpstart to Intuitive Eating Course can help you start to reflect on how you view food. If you’re noticing your relationship with food could use a little TLC, make sure to give us a call and schedule an appointment so we can support you in your journey.
2. incorporate flexibility into your schedule
When intake becomes too rigid, it can steal some of the joy from the experience. That’s why building in some flexibility to your schedule can help open up new opportunities for having fun with food!
An example of this would be scheduling a few days (or at least a number of days if you don’t want to be too specific) when you plan to eat a meal out (breakfast, lunch or dinner - if this is financially possible). This not only gives you a spontaneity boost, but it can increase variety and make each week a little different from the last. Our Flexible Meal Planning Guide helps to break down options on how to increase flexibility without ditching structure all together.
3. Brainstorm new flavors, cuisines, textures - make a list!
By building flexibility into your weekly routine you have the opportunity to try different types of food, depending on what you’re craving or have been wanting to try!
Try creating a list of different fun foods you enjoy, including flavors, cuisine, and textures that sound interesting to you. This can help map out some new places in your area to experiment with.
4. Say yes!
Saying yes to spontaneity, outings and parties with friends and family that involve food can be a great step towards integrating more fun into this process. These opportunities help you be able to focus on food to help support connections and make memories rather than solely on the need to restrict or micromanage them. No better way to start having fun with food than connecting it to enjoyable, meaningful experiences!
Side note - we recommend starting with friends and family who are going to help cultivate a positive experience around food versus a more triggering one.
5. get curious and experiment
Try something new! Even if you are at your favorite restaurant, try an experiment of ordering whatever sounds the best to you at that moment or something you have yet to try!
Experimenting with having fun with food can be a great way to figure out new favorites that you may not have known about. And the great thing is, if you don’t like it - no big deal! Try to approach these scenarios with curiosity rather than judgment.
6. practice self compassion
Examining your relationship with food can be difficult - especially living in our diet culture. It’s hard to work through and try to let go of some of the food rules that have potentially provided comfort to you over the years. Remember, you are not doing anything wrong by enjoying food - as much as diet culture tells us otherwise. Getting pleasure and enjoyment from food is natural and can be a fun experience! Food is not the enemy - expectations around what and how we “should” be eating is. You have full permission to enjoy all foods!
how NourishRX can support you
In summary - food can be fun! But we understand that it is a lot easier said than done, especially when you may have diet culture breathing down your neck.
This is a process and doesn’t just change in one day. Go easy on yourself as you move through this journey and know that we are here to help you find a little more pleasure from your plate. Ready to have a little more fun with food? Give us a call and see how we can best support you today through 1:1 nutrition counseling or our self-paced courses.