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What's a healthy relationship with food?

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

 A group of people gathering to eat together enjoying a healthy relationship with food

What is a healthy relationship with food?

Our bodies need food for fuel, nourishment and to keep us alive! But food also plays a part in our cultures, and our connections with others and even has emotional ties.

When we provide our body with food and nutrients, our body “responds”. It tells us if we liked that food, if we are still hungry, if we are satisfied with the food we ate and if we are full, as well as a host of other feelings and emotions.

This relationship, as with all other relationships in our life, requires frequent check-ins and needs to be cultivated and tended to.

What does a normal relationship with food look like?

Although everyone’s relationship with food looks different, and there is no one “normal” way of eating, generally, a positive relationship with food is one that is stress-free.

A healthy relationship with food can make eating feel effortless, and allows you to have an unparalleled connection to your body. Removing the stress and anxiety from eating can be challenging but can have incredible benefits for your mind, body and soul.

A normal relationship with food lets you be in the driving seat, rather than feeling like food has a hold or control over you.

How do you know if you have an unhealthy relationship with food?

It can be challenging to pinpoint a negative relationship with food as our feelings around food can be transient. Sometimes you may feel free around food and in a good place with your relationship, but other times you may feel guilty, overwhelmed and stressed around food.

Identifying the signs of a toxic relationship with food can be helpful to develop an awareness of how you are feeling around food on a regular basis. It can also help you pinpoint situations that trigger you to engage in unhealthy behaviours around food.

The signs of a negative relationship with food:

  1. You think and worry about food all the time

  2. You often have negative thoughts about how you look and what you are eating

  3. You base your feelings on the food you’ve eaten that day

  4. You rely on external sources like calorie counters or apps to tell you when you’re done eating for the day

  5. You have a long list of foods you can or cannot eat

  6. You often restrict food

  7. You often binge food

  8. You feel guilt and overwhelm when thinking about eating in a social situation

  9. You have tried various diets, cleanses and detoxes to lose weight and feel better about yourself

  10. You regularly ignore your body’s natural hunger cues

  11. You use foods to comfort, distract or numb yourself from your feelings as your primary coping mechanism

5 ways to build a healthy relationship with food

Now you can recognise the signs of a poor relationship with food, we can rebuild a better relationship with food. Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive and rebuilding your relationship with food takes time. These five tips can be a great place to start…

1. Realise that you aren’t the problem, society is!

Diet culture is a huge industry making a lot of money off individuals' insecurities. Diet culture perpetuates the idea that being smaller is better, and that food has morality. This exacerbates people's unhealthy relationship with food, movement and our bodies.

2. Try honouring your hunger signals

This may be easier said than done if you’ve been ignoring feelings of hunger for a long time. Tuning into your body and trying to tease out and recognise feelings of hunger and honouring these feelings but eating can be a great step in the right direction.

3. Team up with a professional

Working with a nutrition professional who has experience with intuitive eating, and mind-body connection and takes a holistic approach to nutrition and wellbeing may be useful. Everyone's experience with food is different, so working with an intuitive eating nutritionist can support you to get to the root of your issue with food.

4. Audit your social media accounts

Social media can be a great place for meeting like-minded people and building community. But, it can also be somewhere that harmful stereotypes are perpetuated. Audit your social media to ensure that the people, brands and businesses you follow are a positive influence.

5. Develop your self-care toolkit

If you feel like you rely on food as a distraction when you feel emotional, then developing other techniques to deal with your feelings may be helpful. This could include working with a professional, speaking to loved ones, meditating, engaging in hobbies and activities or going for a walk.

If you are concerned about your relationship with food and want to create a positive change by improving your relationship with food then our nutritionists can support your journey.

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