What Does it Mean to Have a Healthy Relationship With Food?

Hey guys!

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!

12 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to Have a Healthy Relationship With Food?”

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  1. Jane says:

    Yes, BUT you’re talking food addiction here too right? When you realize that that highly processed food is pumped with stuff like high fructose corn syrup (which is very addictive), you might want to avoid it. The sad thing is, it’s almost unavoidable if you go to supermarket. Even a stupid tomato sauce is with sweet additives to keep you hooked.
    So sure, you can include everything you want in your diet and be happy about it. But accept the fact that what youre doing is comparable of using cocaine. Except it doesn’t leave you drulling on a floor in pleasure, it leaves you drulling in your couch craving another bag of potato chips. It gives you pleasure, of course! But when the high ends, the crash comes.
    Healthy relationship with food is, like you say Cassey, eating when you need to and not obsessing about it. Kick your drug addition of high processed food and start eating food as it was ment to be eaten – as a body fuel, not ‘just’ for the pleasure. You’ll feel better.

  2. Laura says:

    I really needed this. I have been struggling with food so much. Thank you.

  3. Ashley says:

    Food guilt is real. I find it hard to practice mindful eating due to outside influences too. If I eat with a group, they always comment about the fact that I may leave food on my plate when I’m full and trying to make me feel guilty for not eating all of it. I find that eating small meals frequently works best for me.

  4. Veera says:

    I really needed this. Thank you!

  5. Kavya says:

    Hey Cassey , I am 17 , 5’7″ and 59 kilos .I used to be 68 kilos . I am in a perfect weight but all of it is fat . Ive been working out to lose saddlebags and fat in my thighs , But it isn’t working . I am worried that I will be under weight after few more kilos but it is not changing my thighs at all . What should I do ?

  6. ❤ cassey's follower says:

    Can you tell the recipe for the delicious looking pizza

  7. Growing up says:

    Dear Cassey
    It may seem like a shock but it’s been 2 years since I started my fitness journey and I proud to say I had reached my goal mid last year but i continue to keep myself fit
    but since I have gotten the so called fit I ve been obsessing over my body I go thru whence break downs when I gain weight but get imdiate Excitment on loosing some I have started to focus my entire life around my body
    Even so I try not to wear loose clothes in fear of being my past self

    1. KcL says:

      I recommend you read the book “More than a body” it could really help with your self-image. It’s natural for bodies to change over time. Your body will change and that’s okay, but you have to value it for more than how it looks. 💜

  8. FHX says:

    Love this ❤ such a positive mindset X

  9. Aly Larsen says:

    I love this! Cassey, you always explain things so perfectly. Balance is SO important and SO hard to find. And it looks different for everyone because we are all different! Nourishing and caring for your body is such a dramatically better perspective than restricting and punishing. Love you so much Cassey <3

  10. Erika says:

    Thanks for the post! I think where I get confused is the line between discipline to make your body feel better vs. eating whatever I want (a million chocolate chip cookies). I think the first one gets shamed as dieting, but eating a million cookies is probably not good for you either. I like what you said about the intention behind it being what’s important.