By Linda K. Laffey, MFT
Whether food seems like a friend or a foe, the truth remains that we all have a relationship with it. Our bodies need it regularly for sustenance, and we also enjoy socializing around food as a culture. However, not all of us have good vibes when it comes to how we feel about it.
Your emotions about food could cover the spectrum from guilt to sadness to anger to loneliness. It’s vital to know how to develop a healthy relationship with food. Not only will this help you to feel better mentally, but it will also contribute to healthy body functioning.
How to Have a Healthier Relationship with Food
While you likely have a different relationship with food than your friend or co-worker does, it’s still possible that you all have healthy relationships with food. Here are ten steps to support you as you work toward that healthy balance.
1. Accept Your Relationship with Food
Good or bad, positive or negative, it’s crucial for you to come to terms with your relationship with food. This first step focuses on being honest with how you feel about food. An excellent way to pinpoint your emotions is merely to write them down.
2. Redefine What Food Means to You
Once you’ve identified some of your emotions surrounding food, it’s time to redefine what food means to you.
For example, instead of disliking mealtime because of the temptations it brings, try to focus on how energetic nutritious food makes your body feel after a meal. The idea is to reimagine the entire purpose of eating.
3. Remove the Labels of Good vs. Bad
If you’re like most people, you probably tend to label food as good or bad. Here’s the thing. Chips aren’t inherently evil, and fruit isn’t angelic. Sure, some foods are more nutritious than others, but no food deserves unwarranted powers. By removing the labels, you strip food of its power, leveling all food to one even playing field.
4. Identify Unhealthy Food Habits
After disarming food, per se, it’s time to get real about how you’ve let food have power over you. Do you have any unhealthy food habits?
Consider if you frequently do yo-yo diets? Do you stash sweets away for eating in secret? Or, does the way you feel dictate how you eat?
5. Practice Self-Love and Forgiveness
Identifying unhealthy food habits can feel like a grueling process. In other words, it can honestly get you down. Maybe you feel like you’ve failed, or you’re upset at yourself for the way food seems to control your life.
No matter what the hurdle is, please be kind to yourself and forgive. Few of us live up to self-made standards. Mostly because they’re unreachable in the first place. So, see your rocky relationship with food for what it is—it’s life. A good mantra for most of us is, “I forgive myself for every mistake I’ve ever made.”
6. Help Yourself Stay the Course
Along those same lines, remember to give yourself the one-up with your relationship with food. If you’re trying to eat less processed food, such as crackers or cookies, don’t go down that aisle at the grocery store. Stick to the outer aisles where the healthy products are typically sold.
7. Don’t Forbid Specific Foods
Even when you’re trying to cut down on specific foods, don’t outlaw them entirely. Portions are a significant key to staying healthy, after all.
Plus, your relationship with food should also embrace the idea of lingering. Savor how your food tastes—no matter if it’s a sliver of chocolate cake or an orange.
8. Keep a Food Journal
Writing down what you eat is an excellent way to stay accountable for your decisions. Plus, it will unveil particular habits and highlight trends in your eating patterns.
9. Get in the Habit of Cooking
Nothing says, “I have a healthy relationship with food,” better than prepping and creating a lovely meal out of it. Instead of popping another ready-made meal in the microwave, try to learn about more dishes to cook. Get in the habit of chopping fruits and vegetables shortly after your shopping trip so that you can munch on them during the week with little effort.
10. Commit to Making Ongoing and Sustainable Changes
Lastly, take this relationship one phase at a time. Remember that some days will feel better than others. Having a healthier relationship with food takes time. Keep trying, and in the end, you’ll be grateful you did.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to address a pattern of disordered eating or an eating disorder that may be negatively impacting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT