In the pursuit of good health, we can forget that we simply cannot be well without a healthy relationship with food. Part of maintaining good health is about what we eat, but it’s also having a healthy mind. You can eat a lot of vegetables, green smoothies and organic quinoa, but if you cannot stop stressing about that chocolate you ate the other night, then it’s not a healthy way to be.
What does a healthy mind look like when it comes to food? Here are a few things I believe a healthy relationship with food encompasses:
- Being guided by your internal hunger and fullness cues, rather than following a set ‘allowance’ of what to eat
- Choosing nutritious food, but also not being so restrictive that you cannot enjoy those pleasurable foods you love
- Acknowledging that food is an important part of your life, but it doesn’t take up all your thoughts or cause you stress and anxiety
- Hunger is the main reason you eat. You may eat for other reasons than hunger (such as boredom or emotions), but it isn’t a big part of your overall food intake and if you do, you don’t worry or stress about it
- You don’t judge yourself because of your food choices.
To start building a healthy relationship with food, the first thing to do is to quit dieting. Dieting breeds restriction and a ‘good food/bad food’ mentality, which only leads to overeating and a cycle of guilt and deprivation. The guilt and anger of not sticking to your diet can mean food becomes more of a punishment, rather than for nourishment and enjoyment.
While giving up dieting sounds easy on the surface, it’s often tricker than it sounds. If you’ve been a long-term dieter, years of ignoring your body’s internal cues means you’re disconnected from your hunger, fullness and satisfaction to guide your choices. Along with this, there are often body image issues and faulty beliefs about food, as well as an unhealthy view of exercise.
The good news is, you can find a healthy relationship with food. Sometimes you just need support and guidance. Breaking up with diets looks different for everyone, but a good read to get you started is Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. Other things you can do to start changing your food relationship include gradually introducing new foods you’ve been avoiding, starting to become aware of your hunger and fullness signs, and beginning to eat mindfully.
Rebuilding a healthy relationship with food can take time, but it’s a journey worth taking.
Nicola Jackson is a NZ-registered nutritionist with a passion for helping people to develop a healthier relationship with food. Nicola’s blog Eat Well NZ tells you why you don’t need to quit foods, follow rules, or go to the extreme to be healthy. Her blog showcases a balanced approach to eating well, with plenty of healthy recipes and other tips on nutrition, fitness and wellness. You can also find Nicola on Facebook and Instagram.