creating a healthy relationship with food.

July 11, 2022

In a perfect world we listen to ‘what our body needs’, eat intuitively and feel ‘in control’ of our food choices. However, for many this is unrealistic. Ironically, feeling out of control or stressed around food is often not about a lack of self-control, it stems from food restriction (this can be physical or mental restriction). For example, constantly fixating on what you are eating, following strict ‘food rules’, and needing to ‘be good’ in the quest to lose weight and/or ‘look a certain way’. 

These behaviours of course cannot be maintained long term, and typically result in feeling out of control. This can lead to yo-yo do dieting or even binge eating and most importantly is extremely stressful and create feelings of shame and/or guilt. This only further fuels food restriction and the cycle begins all over again. 

Breaking this cycle of restriction is critical and the first step in being able to create a healthy relationship with food. Remember, healthy eating is not and nor should it ever be perfect eating! Here are some of the key components of what having a healthy relationship with food looks like. 

Balance and diversity

We know food diversity is one of the most important factors for overall health so it makes sense that eating a balanced and diverse diet will also facilitate a healthy relationship with both food and your body. In a practical sense this means including a wide variety of foods, not eliminating entire food groups or foods (unless due to genuine intolerances, genuine dislikes or ethical/environmental reasons) and avoiding diets, especially fad diets. 

Being comfortable around food

Feeling comfortable, relaxed and in control around food is also integral in developing a healthy relationship with food. Being comfortable incorporates feeling relaxed (not anxious) when eating in public or with friends or when eating certain foods, having the capacity to stop when you feel full (and trusting this sensation) and being able to eat for both fuel and for pleasure. 

Maintaining a degree of flexibility

The ability to be flexible with your eating habits is perhaps the most important factor in creating a healthy relationship with food. Life and health are in a constant state of transition and naturally ebbs and flows. For example, when we travel our food intake will be different to when we are at home or work, and likewise changes as we age, or when we are sick, or being extra active. Being flexible in your thinking gives you the capacity to cope with these changes and listen to our body and trust what it needs at that point in time. 

Note: Most importantly, creating a healthy relationship with food often takes time and effort to achieve and for many is a constant work in progress, but it can be done!