I don’t know about you, but food is a way for me to enjoy life. Tasty meals can be a way to celebrate important life events, and cooking a nutritious and delicious dish is so satisfying.
Sadly, a lot of women struggle with their relationship with food. I’ve heard of so many women who deal with emotional eating and guilt about eating. Many women try endless diets without seeing much success.
Having a healthy relationship with food makes a difference in your physical and emotional well-being!
What Is an Unhealthy Relationship With Food?
Before you can work to improve your relationship with food, you need to understand what an unhealthy relationship with food looks like. By unhealthy, I don’t mean that you’re eating junk food (although that could be part of it). Instead, I mean feeling guilt, fear, or shame surrounding what you eat and how much you eat.
Here are some signs that you might have an unhealthy relationship with food:
- You eat junk food or desserts in secret.
- You cycle between restricting food and binging food.
- You feel guilty after eating.
- You have foods that you avoid because you have labeled them as bad for you (outside of medical needs, like allergies).
- You jump on the latest diet trends.
- You use diet apps or calorie counters to tell you what you can or cannot eat.
- You don’t listen to your body when it says you are hungry.
- You are constantly dieting.
Also, it is common to have mixed attitudes toward food. Some days, you might catch yourself feeling more shame regarding food than other days.
The goal is to treat your body with kindness and to experience more and more positive feelings toward your diet. :)
What Is a Healthy Relationship With Food?
Having a healthy relationship with food has to do with your motivation for why and what you eat. Like other “relationships,” this can take time and patience to develop.
As people, we don’t just eat to survive (although that’s important of course!). Sometimes, we eat to have fun, to celebrate, to learn more about our culture, to learn more about another person’s culture, or to sustain our health.
It’s OK to want to eat a variety of different types of food for a variety of different types of reasons. People with a healthy relationship towards food recognise this, and they don’t feel shame over what and how they eat.
Here are some signs that you have a healthy relationship with food:
- You let yourself enjoy food.
- You eat when you’re hungry and, most of the time, stop eating when you’re full.
- You don’t weigh yourself frequently. You understand that the number on the scale isn’t worth obsessing over.
- You don’t make food choices based on calories alone.
- You don’t worry about what other people are eating. You pick what sounds good to you.
- You don’t hide food or eat in secret.
- You don’t try to explain or rationalize your food choices.
- You can enjoy all food in moderation.
- If you sometimes overeat or undereat, you move on. You don’t stress over it or feel anxious.
Tips to Improve Your Relationship With Food
Getting healthier takes time. You don’t expect fitness changes to happen overnight, and you shouldn’t expect your relationship with food to change right away either. :)
Your goal in all of this should be to treat yourself with more compassion and understanding. This is something most of us can always work on!
Here are some things that can help you improve your relationship with food:
Be Mindful When Eating
Your body is smart. It knows when it is hungry and when it has had enough to eat. Pay attention to how you’re feeling as you eat your food. Stop when you feel full.
Mindfulness during a meal can be tricky, especially if you’ve relied on calorie trackers in the past. It’s a skill that can take some patience to develop.
I suggest trying to eat food that you enjoy. Savor your meals, and eat them slowly when you can. Often, we eat in front of our phones or television. This distraction can make us miss our body’s natural cues so try to avoid it as much as you can.
No Food Is Forbidden
Orthorexia is a condition in which a person obsesses over eating only food they consider to be healthy while avoiding food that doesn’t meet their standard for health. Unfortunately, this eating disorder is on the rise.
However, obsessing over eating only certain types of food can often cause deficiencies and micronutrient imbalances.
More than this, though, forbidding yourself from eating certain foods is not healthy behavior. Food isn’t inherently good or bad, and people who have a healthy relationship with food recognise this.
Eat When You’re Hungry
This is such a big one! Don’t be afraid to eat when your body is telling you it needs food. Some days, due to increased energy levels or even hormone changes, your body might need more food than other times.
However, it’s also important to make sure you’re eating because you’re really hungry, not because you’re bored, sad, or stressed. Using food to soothe a negative emotion will often make you feel worse, and it can lead to feelings of guilt and shame.
Stop When You’re Full Enough
This goes back to eating mindfully. Feelings of being full can creep up on you without you realising it. Try to eat slowly, and check in with your body every couple of bites to see if your hunger is disappearing.
People who stop eating when they feel satisfied will feel better after eating, even if they’ve eaten food that isn’t considered “healthy.” This can help limit feelings of shame or regret.
Eat Regular Meals
Regular meals help you stay satisfied throughout the day. Letting yourself get really hungry often leads to overeating. Breakfast in particular can help your hunger levels stay stable all day long.
Picking meals that are nutritious will help you stay fuller and feel more energised throughout the day too.
Don’t Keep Tempting Food in the House
Remember, foods aren’t inherently good or bad. Even unhealthy food has its purpose. For instance, a piece of cake is an excellent way to celebrate a birthday!
Despite this, keeping food that doesn’t make you feel good or you know is unhealthy in the house can fuel an unhealthy relationship with food. If you struggle to control how many chips you eat, don’t keep them in the house. Instead, enjoy them during the occasional dinner out.
Allow Yourself to Enjoy Eating
Some people are foodies, while others prefer to keep their meals simple. Either way, letting yourself enjoy the food you eat is a great way to build a healthier relationship with food.
You can practice enjoying your food by:
- Cooking at home and trying new spice or flavor combinations. Enjoy your creativity!
- Eating slowly to savor each bite.
- Picking out new fruits and veggies at the store. See which ones you like!
- Planning out your day with scheduled room for meal times.
Spend time with friends and family who love you and value you. This can help you recognise that you deserve to treat yourself with compassion and respect too.
Similarly, try to spend time with people who are healthy eaters. If people regularly make comments about the way you eat, you might want to think about avoiding them, at least during meals.
If you find yourself struggling to improve your relationship with food, consider seeking professional help. Dieticians, psychologists, psychiatrists, or therapists can all help you develop a better relationship with your body and with food. If you can, try to find professionals who specialise in eating disorders.
Having a healthy relationship with food is central to feeling content with yourself, eating well, and even just enjoying life.
I really hope this article has helped you think more about your relationship with food and given you strategies to care for yourself! Remember, being healthy includes your mind and body! :)
Love Rachael Xx