I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with food lately. A few years ago, I struggled with an eating disorder. I existed within a vicious cycle of restricting, binging, purging, and overexercising to exhaustion. At my lowest point, I went to therapy and did group sessions with other young women who also struggled with their body image. After going to therapy and doing a lot of work on myself, I beat my eating disorder and I am in a much better place now. Not every day is easy, but I can finally say that I have a positive outlook on my body, and I am so proud of how far I’ve come.
As I focused on getting better, one of the most important changes I made was how I thought about food. Whether you’re struggling with an eating disorder like I did, or you’re trying to lose or gain weight, or you just flat out want to eat healthier, it’s important to consider your relationship with food and how you can improve it.
To me, it’s not so much about eating one thing over the other, or eating less or more of something. Having a positive relationship with food is about fueling your body with the nutrients it needs and maintaining your physical and mental health by eating.
What does this mean? It means that we should make nutritious choices when we can, but it also means that we let ourselves indulge in a slice of cake without feeling guilty. Balance and moderation are key.
Since I’ve improved my relationship with food, I feel way better about my body. I want to share some ways you can do the same.
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Here are 16 ways you can improve your relationship with food:
1. Avoid counting calories.
I understand why people who want to gain or lose weight count calories. It’s to make sure they are eating the correct number of calories per day to achieve the results they want. However, I don’t think counting calories is always good for mental health. When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I tracked my calories obsessively, and it took a toll on me. I equated my self-worth to a number, and that wasn’t good for my mental health. If counting calories helps you, I’m not telling you to quit. I just don’t think it’s beneficial for everyone.
2. Eat 4-6 small meals every day.
When you eat more frequently, you’re less likely to overeat, and you can also consume a wider variety of food to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs.
3. Try to cook at least one meal per day.
By cooking frequently, you can be more aware of the ingredients that go into your food. You will have more control over what you put in your body.
4. Learn a new recipe every week.
Try to view cooking as being exciting and fun. If you attempt a new recipe every week, you’ll have the opportunity to explore different food options. Who knows, you might just discover a new favorite meal!
5. Try to limit your consumption of refined sugar.
When I consume refined (or processed) sugar often, I feel sluggish. Consuming too much sugar can have a profound impact on your mood and overall wellbeing. Try to substitute processed sugars with fruit when you can.
6. Allow yourself to indulge every once in a while.
Don’t make yourself feel guilty if you want to indulge in a slice of pizza or a sweet treat. Having a positive relationship with food means enjoying the food you eat. As long as you eat a balanced diet most of the time, you can still enjoy the “unhealthy” foods you love.
7. Stay away from crash diets and laxative-filled “fit teas.”
These are both SO BAD for you! You will never see me promoting weight loss teas or shakes on Instagram. Why? Because they are filled with laxatives to give you quick results, but you will not see any long term benefits from using them. Stay away! It’s not worth risking your health to lose a few pounds that you’ll gain right back.
8. Find nutritious alternatives to the “unhealthy” foods you like.
For example, try cauliflower crust pizza, or have a fruit smoothie instead of a milkshake. You don’t have to give up anything completely. It’s all about making the best choices for your body and mind.
9. If you are struggling with your health, always consult a doctor.
The tips I’ve listed here are advice based on my experience, but if your health is in danger, nothing is more valuable than the advice of a doctor. It’s always best to seek help when there’s something wrong.
10. Try to always be aware of the reason why you are eating.
Are you eating because you’re hungry, or are you eating because you’re stressed? Avoid mindless eating by being aware of your relationship with food, whether you’re actually hungry or not, and how your emotions affect your eating habits.
11. If you are an emotional eater, find a way to relieve stress that doesn’t involve food.
It could be something creative like drawing or writing, or it could be some light exercise. Watching YouTube videos. Hanging out with a friend. Anything that is safe and prevents you from emotional eating is good.
12. Consider weighing yourself less often (or not at all!)
I don’t ever weigh myself anymore, and I am a way happier person now than I was when I stepped on the scale every day. Some people find the validation of the number on the scale empowering, but I didn’t. If you enjoy tracking your progress by weighing yourself, keep doing it! But just know that it’s not a requirement to weigh yourself at all. If your scale causes you more stress than relief, throw the damn thing out the window!
13. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day.
Even if you feel hungry, you might just be dehydrated. You can prevent overeating by making sure you’re drinking enough water.
14. If you still feel hungry after eating, wait 20 minutes before you decide to eat something else.
Don’t eat too quickly. After you finish a meal, give your body a little time to properly digest everything before you reach for your next snack. You are likely to feel satisfied after the 20 minutes have passed.
15. Stop comparing your body to everyone else’s.
Overall body image is an important part of having a good relationship with food. Learn to love your body the way it is, and stop comparing yourself to others. Self-acceptance is key.
16. Be patient and kind to yourself.
No matter what happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. Building a positive relationship with food takes time and effort. If you fall, get right back up and try again. This lifestyle change might not be the easiest to make, but it will be well-worth it in the end when you love your body and truly enjoy eating.
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