Throughout my many years of coaching and talking to people about their diets, I have discovered there are three basic—and polarizing attitudes—when it comes to food, and none of these types of relationships are generally helping my clients’ lives.
Do any of the following sound familiar?
Relationship Type 1: The Obsessives
This group accounts for a very small percentage of people:
These are the people who have become so strict and neurotic about their diets, they’re just not that cool to hang out with anymore. They become visibly stressed out when they might be forced to stray momentarily from their perfect diet, so much so that they start to look resigned and disinterested during any social function with food (which is most social functions, of course).
They can’t go a meal without pulling out their food scale and weighing and measuring their macros, even at the family Christmas dinner, making everyone eye-rollingly uncomfortable in the process.
Enjoying a drink or Happy Hour with a friend no longer happens for the Obsessives, and they tend to avoid being around others when it’s time to eat. In the end, their obsessive diet habits serve to strain their relationships with family and friends. Seeing as connection is the source of happiness, it goes without saying their happiness starts to suffer, too.
Relationship Type 2: The “I don’t want to be an obsessive” so I choose to enjoy food instead. All the time!
This group makes up the bulk of the people I come across:
These are the people who claim that they don’t want to become obsessive and neurotic and socially awkward like the Obsessives, so the only other option must be to let themselves go and enjoy food whenever they get a chance, they argue.
Sometimes they pretend they’re going to start making better food choices, but they’re easily influenced by whatever social function filled with crap food comes their way, so every night becomes an opportunity to indulge in the greatest feast of their lives!
Their excuses to indulge include:
“Food is social. I don’t want to be the awkward guy in the corner not eating and enjoying himself.”
“Food is comforting and makes me happy.”
“Food brings people together.”
“I don’t want to deprive myself of good food. You only live once.”
The result: Their diet get derailed more of than it stays on track. As a result, their health suffers. Their body composition isn’t what they want it to be. They don’t see the performance gains in the gym they otherwise could, and they ultimately become discouraged. All of this results once again in a less happy life.
Type 3: The Lazys
These are the people who claim they want to eat well, but they don’t have the “time” or “energy” to shop for good foods and cook healthy meals. The term “food prep” is a foreign one to them. So, they find themselves picking up ready made foods filled with all sorts of processed ingredients, or eating out multiple times a week.
The result: See above! Health, performance, happiness tanks!
What if I told you there’s a fourth relationship you can have with food that takes the best of each of the polarizing examples above, and ditches the worst of each prototype?
Type 4: Food is Fuel 90 Percent of the Time
These people recognize that food can be social and fun and a creative outlet for those who enjoy cooking, but “everyday food”—which should make up 90 percent of your eating—is just fuel to help their bodies function optimally.
Seeing food this way takes the emotions out of eating and motivates you to prioritize finding the time and energy to shop, prep and cook the best foods you can for your health, wellness and performance.
And just like training, you’re allowed to take a “rest day” from the Food is Fuel attitude (10 percent of the time ish), where you get to loosen the reigns. This means you get a day, maybe once a week, to enjoy whatever your dinner party host is serving, or to order a couple drinks or a carb-heavy meal.
The result: You become at peace with the role food plays in your life. You start to feel healthier. Your performance at the gym takes off. Your body composition changes and your start loving the way your body looks. Your emotional connections with others remain intact, and your happiness starts to sky rocket!
As always, just some food for thought. Ask yourself: What type of relationship do you have with food, and could it be improved?