Fixing Your Relationship with Food
Mia Rigden spent most of her young adulthood in pursuit of great food. Then she became a health coach, got her master’s in nutrition, and designed a food journal called The Well Journal to help others get to a place of food peace. She still pursues great food.
Her philosophy is this: The only way to stick to any particular approach is to really love it. Nutritious food has to taste good. And to know what’s right for us, we can’t just take a fad diet on its word; we have to take stock of how any food makes us feel—in body, mind, and spirit. (Yes, cauliflower rice can sometimes offend on a spiritual level.)
Her advice is applicable on any given day, but now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when our normal food routines are thrown off by restaurant closures, stay-at-home orders, and shortages of certain staples we might be used to having on hand, it’s a reassurance that there’s still joy in eating—especially when we’re looking for it.
Nutrition beyond the Numbers
We derive pleasure from food because we need to eat. This is the body’s way of making sure we have the energy for our heart to beat, our eyes to blink, and every other internal and external move we make. But food is more than calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Food is comfort; it reminds us of home, our values, our community, and our connection to others. It is a way we experience and express culture, something that unites us and guides our daily routines. And in a time of so much uncertainty, when many of us are not able to go to restaurants or dinner parties and feel like we have to stock up far in advance, food feels more valuable than ever.
Through my client work and personal journey, I’ve realized that no matter what your health and wellness goals are, it’s hard to get the results you want if you are at war with your taste buds. Enjoying food is a fundamental part of the human experience, but many of our modern nutrition and dietary theories are disconnected from the energetics of the food we eat, and these are intricately entwined with how we experience and metabolize food.
There is merit in the numbers and setting boundaries for our health, but nutrition is just not as simple as counting calories and grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. By focusing primarily on measuring food intake, we miss a crucially important element. That’s why I created The Well Journal. Using it is a daily practice that connects the dots between what we eat and how we feel.
Instead of trying to manipulate our meals, we have to find the place where pleasure intersects with nutrition. These are what I like to call productive foods. When we identify what these foods are for us, we start to crave them. For this reason, I don’t believe in cheat meals, or going on or off the wagon. Studies show that in-the-moment eating—consuming foods that give you momentary pleasure—does not make you as happy as consuming nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, dieting and restricting food intake also makes us more attracted to food and can therefore cause us to overeat. (Ahem, yo-yo dieting!)
How do you get to a place where eating a healthy, balanced diet feels effortless? First, you need to educate yourself. Learn what’s in the food you eat, read labels, eat mindfully, increase your vegetable intake, and drink plenty of water. Gradually cut out added sugars, refined flours, and processed foods so you can regulate your blood sugar levels and stop craving them. You also need to do some self-discovery: Are there certain foods that don’t agree with you? What are the flavors you like the most, and what foods are an absolute no for you? If you hate cauliflower, for example, stop torturing yourself with cauliflower rice.
And last, it’s not just about what we eat but also why and how we eat. If your healthy routine is cumbersome, stressful, or alienating, it will be hard to stick to, and you’ll lose some of its benefits. You have to enjoy the process, which will be different for everyone. Some of us love cooking. Others don’t, or they might simply lack the time or resources to pull it off. And good food is better in good company—which many of us are sadly missing right now. Sharing meals helps us slow down, de-stress, and connect with one another. These factors need to be a part of the equation when we talk about nutrition and making sustainable lifestyle changes.
Remember, you are the expert of your body and life. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. There’s no formula for this. Maybe now—a moment when we have no plans, no dinner reservations, and no company—is the time to tap into our inner wisdom and find that sweet spot where the joy of eating intersects with good nutrition. No calculators necessary.
Mia Rigden is a nutritionist, the founder of RASA, and the creator of The Well Journal. Rigden holds a BA in English literature from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in nutrition and integrative health from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She is licensed as a holistic health coach by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a graduate of the International Culinary Institute’s grand diplome program in culinary arts. She lives in Santa Monica, California.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.