I’ve noticed a trend every time I post anything about food.
Whether it’s healthy eating tips, recipes that I love, or what I ate on my 90 Day Journey, I always see so many comments that say something along the lines of “I want to have a healthier relationship with food.”
Seeing those comments over and over obviously made me wonder how I can help.
Talking about what a healthy relationship with food even looks like seems like a good place to start! What does it even mean? It can be confusing because there’s a lot of mixed messages on social media thanks to diet culture. It blurs the line between “healthy” and “damaging,” and honestly it’s frustrating.
So – what IS a healthy relationship with food? Let’s talk about it.
It’s not about what you eat
Your relationship with food really doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re actually eating! You can eat pizza and cupcakes all day long and still have a healthy relationship with food, just like you can eat veggies and salmon all the time and still have a good relationship with food.
So it’s not about what you eat. It’s about WHY you eat and how food makes you feel.
It’s about eating to feed your body, meet your needs, and choose foods based on what makes you feel good.
It’s about NOT choosing foods based on the “rules” that diet culture pressures us to follow.
Signs your relationship with food could use some work
Sometimes a bad relationship with food can appear as “healthy.” It’s easy to feel as though you’re just practicing discipline and it’s common to feel like resisting the food we want = success. Diet culture celebrates restriction, calling it “strong” or “willpower.” Even though we’re told over and over that it’s healthy to live life this way, it’s really not.
Here are some signs that your relationship with food isn’t actually serving you in a positive way:
Feelings of guilt
Labeling foods as “good” or “bad”
Frequently crash dieting
Restricting favorite foods, and then bingeing when you give into cravings
Stressing out about going out to eat or about eating in a social situation
“Punishing” yourself with a hard workout after you indulge in something “unhealthy”
Obsessing over counting calories, macros, food groups, etc.
Questioning your body when you feel hungry
Allowing no flexibility in your diet
Like I said before, diet culture blurs the line between what is healthy and what is damaging. Choosing to make more nutritious choices, to eat according to your needs, and eating the best foods to fuel your body are all healthy. Yes, they take some commitment and willpower, but in the end, it should be about what makes you feel good. Not guilty.
If you’re dealing with any of the signs listed above, it’s possible that your mindset has crossed the line from “healthy” to damaging. But don’t worry! I have some tips to get you back to eating healthy in a HEALTHY way.
A healthy relationship with food looks like…
Sometimes we get so deep into diet culture that we forget what a good relationship with food even looks like! I know because I’ve been there. Since I’ve worked on my attitude towards food (i.e. striving to nourish vs. restrict), I’ve noticed the way I interact with food has changed. Things like…
Eating when I’m hungry
Stopping when I’m full (even if it means leaving some food on my plate)
More flexibility with my diet (which means more variety!)
Less stress over planning and tracking every morsel
More energy (because I’m eating enough!)
Eating is more FUN!
I trust my body
I can enjoy social situations
I can eat all foods without guilt
Of course, the word “healthy” is subjective. What feels “healthy” to you might not match my exact experience. And remember – it’s a process! All of those changes won’t happen overnight, and sometimes it comes naturally while other times I really have to work on it.
How to fix your relationship with food
Creating a better relationship with food takes some work, but it’s so worth it. Here are some ways to change your mindset about food and let go of any stress you have about eating.
Practice mindful eating – Instead of telling your body what it needs, let your body tell you what it needs. Mindful eating means being more present during your meals. Get rid of distractions like your phone, TV or work and enjoy your food. Pay attention to every detail from taste to how it makes you feel. And learn to understand your hunger and fullness cues.
Give yourself permission to eat when you’re hungry – Again, listen to your body. I PROMISE you can trust it! The more you do, the more in control you will feel.
Accept that all foods can fit – Yes. ALL foods. Labeling foods as “good” and “bad” is a habit that serves no good purpose because all types of food provide some kind of nourishment. Yes, some foods fuel our bodies more than others, but food is about so much more than that. It’s social and emotional. Sometimes we need food to nourish our spirit. If you’re overwhelming yourself with guilt every time you eat those foods, you’re only hurting yourself.
Remove yourself from situations that promote food guilt – If your trainer at the gym is telling you to restrict or making you feel guilty, find a new trainer or gym. If a friend is constantly food shaming herself or others, give yourself a little space. If the accounts on Instagram are pushing intense diets with unrealistic results, unfollow. Go find the accounts that promote nutrition from all food groups, eating enough, and listening to your body.
Ask for help if you need it
THIS IS IMPORTANT – Sometimes these problems have deep roots. So don’t be afraid to ask for extra help if you need it! I consulted with my dietitian before I wrote this post, and you should talk to your doctor, dietitian or other health professionals for extra guidance!