7 Ways To Improve Your Relationship with Food


If you have developed an unhealthy relationship with food for one reason or another and would like to take practical steps to repair this, then this article is for you.

To improve your relationship with food, you must start by trying to understand your personal relationship with eating, and to then think about what drives and maintains this.

These questions may help you explore this, try verbalising the answers:

How would you describe your relationship with food? i.e unhealthy, sometimes healthy, difficult

What do you do to make you believe that your relationship with food is this way? i.e eat very well one day and then terribly the next, eat a lot of food in one go, eat too much, purposefully skip meals regularly, feel guilty when eating certain foods, feel guilty all the time, look at food as an enemy, try different diets each month, eat very little and base your happiness on this ‘achievement’, feel as though food is a constant burden to your goals, being worried about certain foods etc.

What has contributed to the development of this?
i.e feeling emotions (happiness, sadness, excitement, boredom, loneliness), feeling overly stressed due to finances, family, relationships, bereavement, work. Comparing yourself to others, being unhappy with self-image, pressure to look ‘ideal’, lacking in energy, tiredness, having categories for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, misinformation around what to eat and what not to eat, fear around food information, a health condition, intolerances, allergies.

The answers to the questions above are ones you’ll have to reflect on and actively start to become conscious of if you wish to truly improve your relationship with food. At the same time, and at your own pace, placing your efforts in the below steps will help you re-connect with yourself, your thinking, and your rights to have a healthy relationship with food.

  1. Recognise your triggers for any behaviours you feel are counterproductive to your progress of rekindling your relationship with foodActively be aware of why you are choosing to do this behaviour – become mindful. Accept that this is something you have consciously or subconsciously taught yourself to do and reflect on why that might be, and whether it serves your goals or not. There is no right or wrong here, just awareness. This will help you to create the changes you know need to change. Write these down or make a mental note.
    2. Work on removing negative emotions and feelings of guilt/shamefulness/fear around food. This may take a while to undo but working to see all food as equal is key. Removing all pressure around food is vital to re-establishing a healthy attitude towards eating. Guilt and shame will reinforce the exact behaviour you want to stop, it will keep you in the cycle you are currently in. Eat food you consider as ‘bad’ and accept it as food, as you would a ‘good’ food. Just because the ‘bad’ food might be higher in calories which may trigger you, this doesn’t mean it cannot be part of a healthy, balanced diet – in fact, healthy and balanced includes foods of ALL types in proportions that are going to benefit you, your physical and mental health. This is about the relationship with food that YOU wish to maintain. 3. Accept there are no good or bad foods. These have become terms to describe food based on the overconsumption of high calorie/fat/sugar foods contributing to health issues in the absence of a healthy/balanced diet. Food is food, each with different properties. Eating less nutritious foods within a balanced diet doesn’t make you unhealthy and it does not increase your risk of health issues. Allow yourself to enjoy less nutritious foods without feeling ashamed. 4. Make your ultimate goal to establish eating habits that nourish your body and mind – this doesn’t mean 100% ‘nutritious’ food – this means being aware of what your body needs by consuming a range of nutrients and minerals, but also allowing yourself to consume foods that have less nutrients and minerals because we like the taste and they are part of life/circumstances that bring us joy i.e parties/gatherings/catch-ups. Learn to look as food as bringing you nourishment, energy, and enjoyment.

    5. Take only small steps, but consistently. Even if you currently consume a diet mainly of less nutritious foods and minimal nutritious foods, you probably know that over time this will increase your risk of malnutrition and health issues. However, making yourself feel guilty and ashamed about this is not the way forwards, so if this is you, continue to follow these steps, and make small, manageable changes every day that improve this balance – your diet isn’t ‘you’ and there is nothing to feel ashamed of. Focus on what you can do to improve your relationship with food. Reading this post and wanting to create healthy, balanced adjustments to your diet for the sake of your physical and mental health is admirable. Do not let your current dietary situation make you feel ashamed or guilty – implement one small thing every single day until you feel you have met a balance. Example Small StepsSmall steps include examples such as 1) x1 glass more of water per day, a handful of blueberries alongside your breakfast cereal, 2) Instead of toast with butter/jam x7 per week have avocado on toast x4 per week and butter and jam x3 per week, 3) Allow yourself to enjoy a piece of cake without the feelings of guilt/replace these with feelings of positivity and gratitude that something so delicious exists (what did you like about the taste, smell, texture?) – SMALL changes consistently over a period work.

    6. If it helps, you may wish to create a list of adjustments you know will serve your goal of establishing a healthy, balanced attitude towards foodEnsuring you have structure within your eating if you tend to skip meals, or allowing yourself to enjoy a creamy coffee a couple times per week if you tend to avoid them due to ‘calories’ and always opt for americanos instead. Small changes, small steps, small improvements – the slower you go the more chance you have at being able to regulate your changes and come to terms with your new behaviours – it is common for individuals to feel a sense of loss of control once they start changing behaviours against old ‘rules’, but small, slow steps will allow time for thoughts/thinking to align. 7. Do not be afraid to ask for professional support Your relationship with food relies on various factors all relating to the state of your mental health in relation to your environment, up-bringing, self-image, self-confidence, self-esteem, stress management, genetics and more  – it is important to understand the different levels of disordered eating, from feeling as though your relationship with food is mildly impacting, all the way to a full blown eating disorder whereby your mind is trapped within a self-destructive state and it’s only a matter of time before your physical and mental health deteriorates.

While it is important to recognise that there is a scale, matter, where you feel fit on this scale – asking for help, is always an option. You certainly do not have to be on the worse end before you seek support, and it is always advised to take a preventative approach if you feel things are becoming worse or not getting better.

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