Does having a healthy relationship with food seem…complicated? Like any relationship it can take work but the freedom and joy on the other side is so worth it! Read on to learn about some of the signs of a healthy relationship with food vs. an unhealthy relationship with food and 5 ways to start having a better relationship with food today.
Do you ever struggle with feelings of guilt around food? Or find that you’re constantly thinking about it? If you answered yes, you are definitely not alone and your curiosity about how to have a healthy relationship with food is the perfect place to start.
We have to eat. Every single day, and multiple times at that! So if you’re struggling in your relationship with food, it’s no wonder it can feel all consuming.
We are constantly bombarded with messaging around what we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat, which foods are “good” and which are “bad”. And whether we realize it or not, we often translate this to being “good” or “bad” ourselves. How crazy is it that it’s almost the norm to associate our own morality with the foods we do or do not eat?!
When this happens, spending so much time in our head can lead to feeling incredibly disconnected from our body and it’s cues including hunger cues, fullness cues, and what our cravings may really be telling us!
Developing a better relationship with food is about learning to understand and trust our body, and allowing room for food to be about more than just nutrition! Food is love and can also be one of the greatest sources of connection – to our own bodies, to our community around us, to our families and our history, and in exploring new cultures and the world around us.
While we can become so focused on physical health, it is nothing without our mental and emotional wellness. Having rigid rules around eating and plaguing ourselves with guilt around food can be extremely detrimental to our health, not just mentally but physically too.
– Having rigid rules around your eating, including foods you “can” and “cannot” eat
– Feeling guilty for eating certain foods
– You label certain foods as “good” and others as “bad”
– Restricting whole food groups
– You find yourself constantly jumping from one diet to the next
– You feel anxious eating in public and worry what others are thinking about you
– Restricting and/or binging on food
– You avoid certain social situations due to the food choices available
– You eat in secret or feel shameful about eating
– You recognize and understand your body’s cues including hunger and fullness
– You eat when you’re hungry. Read about the 3 different types of hunger here.
– You’re able to stop eating when full, and also eat past fullness sometimes and know that’s ok!
– You give yourself permission to eat all foods and don’t feel guilty
– You give yourself permission to eat for pleasure and enjoyment as well as physical hunger
– You have flexibility in your eating
– You don’t feel the need to justify your food choices
– Your eating habits don’t dictate your mood or how you feel about yourself (aka – “I was so bad!”)
– More mental space
– More freedom in your eating and in your life
– More pleasure and enjoyment from food
– A greater sense of connection to your Self and your body
– A greater connection to others
– Ability to be more present in your life
There are so many benefits to developing a better relationship with food! But I think what stands out the most for myself and my clients included is FREEDOM! So much more mental freedom, more freedom to do what you want to do and live how you want to live!
So where can we start in changing our relationship with food? Here are 5 steps to get you started.
1. Mindful Awareness
The first step to creating change is awareness. What thoughts come up around eating? Are we judging ourselves? Are we feeling guilty? Are we following rules that no longer serve us?
Sometimes bringing awareness to these thoughts can be uncomfortable so when we apply mindfulness (awareness without judgement) it creates space for us to explore what’s coming up with more compassion.
So as you explore the thoughts, rules and beliefs you have around food, eating and your body, try to tap into that mindfulness and tune in with curiosity instead of judgement.
Using a Food journal like this one can help guide this process in a curious and compassionate way.
2. Pause and Create Space to Explore
Awareness opens the door for change. As you start to become aware of the thoughts, rules and beliefs around food that are not supporting you in forming a healthy relationship with food, try pausing and asking yourself – what is the most loving thing I can do for myself in this moment?
For example, if you have a rule that you should not eat carbs with dinner, you may pause and ask yourself –
- Where did this rule come from?
- How does it make me feel?
- What would it look like to add a carbohydrate to dinner?
Another example may be after a stressful day, you find yourself on the couch mindlessly eating, you may pause and ask yourself –
- Why am I eating?
- Is food actually making me feel better right now?
- What is the most loving thing I can do for myself right now?
Sometimes food is the answer, yes, even for comfort! But other times you may be in need of something completely different to best meet your needs.
3. Always Honour Hunger
What should you do when you’re hungry? Eat. It’s that simple. When we delay physical hunger it only perpetuates our desire to eat leading to what can feel like overwhelming cravings and perpetuate a restrict/binge cycle.
Honouring hunger is one of the best ways to reconnect with hunger and fullness cues and rebuild that trust with your body.
4. Create a Menu of ways to Nurture (With and Without Food)
As you bring more awareness to your eating habits and reasons for eating, having a “menu” of options to serve the different needs that come up can be an incredibly helpful tool!
You’ll want to include some ideas of things you can do in the moment when you don’t have a lot of time, as well as others you can do when you have a bit more time.
What are some of the ways you practice self care? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
5. Practice Permission
A very important part of building trust in your body and relationship with food is practicing permission to eat all foods.
When foods are “off limits” it creates this pedestal effect where they hold a lot more power than they are really worth. Like the old adage says, we want what we can’t have. And this definitely holds true with food.
Restriction can be both physical and mental, meaning when we physically avoid eating certain foods, or when we think we shouldn’t eat them or feel guilty when we do. Both of these only lead to wanting and thinking about the food that’s off limits more.
So the next time you’re craving one of your “off limits” foods, try giving yourself permission to eat and enjoy it! And see how different the experience feels!
While this may seem scary at first, with practice it becomes a lot easier and eventually these new thoughts and feelings around food can become the norm! Changing your relationship with food can take time. Be patient and compassionate with yourself in the process and know that sometimes you have to get it wrong to get it right!
If you’re looking for more support around developing a healthy relationship with food check out the Make Food Feel Good Program here. It is absolutely possible and I am here to support you every step of the way!
If you found this post to be helpful, it would make my day if you would leave a comment and/or star rating below— I love hearing your feedback and learning how I can best support you! If you put any of these tips in practice, tag me on Instagram @lindsaypleskot so I can see and cheer you on!