“Oh, man, I could totally go for a doughnut right now.”
“Isn’t that vegan ice cream amazing?”
Yes, even those types of conversations can, in the end, make you healthier. Evidence suggests that talking about and thinking about food can actually improve your overall wellness in the long run. These conversations don’t have limitations. They can be about anything food-related: what you like, what you don’t like, what you’re craving, a recipe you want to try… Any topic goes.
Of course, sharing healthy recipes and health habits helps you learn from your healthier friends to bolster your health, as well. The more you think about how you’re feeding yourself, the more likely you are to make thoughtful choices. However, what about those other conversations — like, say, ones about how much you love cupcakes?
Even conversations about your cravings and fantasizing about eating sweets still serve you by keeping food and health at the forefront of your mind. Suppressing the cravings and desires to eat unhealthy foods only causes them to come back with a vengeance later on — stronger, and harder to ignore. Talking it out might help you realize that you don’t want the doughnut because you remember how you will physically feel after you eat it. Or, if you were about to eat the doughnut to ease stress or boredom, talking can help to ease those tensions.
You might realize that you do, in fact, really want the doughnut and eat it anyway. That is also the better choice. Studies prove that when you deprive yourself of foods you crave, your health suffers — as does your weight loss regime. So, even that decision makes you healthier.
The point is, talking about the food you want can help you sort out those feelings.
Learn from the people around you
Most Americans have a shockingly low level of food and nutritional information at their disposal. USA Today conducted a report on the nutrition education programs around the country (of which there are very few) and discovered that over half of them failed.
Talking about food and nutrition with the people around you is a good way to educate yourself and combat that problem. Whoever you’re talking to likely knows something you don’t, and vice versa.
Steer clear from talking about a specific identity goal or goal weight
Psychologist Art Markman, Ph. D., preaches, “If you want to succeed, don’t tell anyone.” Evidently, “when people announce an intention to commit to an identity goal in public, that announcement may actually backfire.” By telling someone that you want to lose a certain number of pounds or that you want to be a yogi whose body and lifestyle just screams “health,” you’re actually preventing yourself from achieving that goal.
In a study cited by Markman, those who told people an identity goal (i.e., a statement like “I want to be ____!”) partially transformed themselves into their goal. By telling someone “I want to be a yoga teacher,” you’ve partially become a yoga teacher to that person. The study then discovered that you’re less likely to work hard to become the person you want to be once this happens, because you appear to be there already.
Having a community of people with similar goals can bolster your progress; but avoid telling people a specific weight goal or a type of person you want to become.
Don’t surround others with your negativity
There’s another caveat to the “talking about food makes you healthier” rule: You have to keep it positive.
By voicing negative or shaming thoughts about food, you’re bringing down the people around you and potentially sabotaging their health, as well as your own.
Studies show that conversations about food guilt, body shaming, and dieting can actually lead to adverse health effects such as obesity. Thinking about food in a gratifying and positive way, on the other hand, leads to lasting health. Due to mirroring, the psychological phenomenon wherein people naturally mimic the words, feelings, and actions of those around them, negative thoughts could bring your friends and family down with you.
Instead, remain positive when you talk about food. Think about food as a way to take care of yourself and your body. Focus on the way food makes you feel.
Above all, surround yourself with good role models when it comes to food, health, and body image. You just might mirror them, in return.