At first it may be difficult to believe but our relationship with food is more human than you think. Much like our relationships between one another, our relationship with food requires constant effort to maintain. As our relationship with food is likely the longest and most important relationship we’ll ever have, it's essential that we make the effort to ensure that it’s constantly growing and developing as we move through the various stages of our lives. Similar to bad relationships with one another, a bad relationship with food can be toxic and unhealthy affecting multiple areas of our lives. Fortunately, a good relationship with food is much like having a healthy relationship with a friend or significant other. It’s enriching and empowering, inspiring you to tackle and thrive in all elements of your life. But what do good and bad relationships look like with food? And how can we identify and improve our relationship with food?
To start with, healthline.com suggests that a bad relationship with food often involves regular dieting, restricting or overeating foods. People in this category often ignore their bodies' natural hunger cues and feel shame or guilt when they eat certain foods they have labeled as bad foods. In contrast, Healthline.com describes a good relationship with food as one where you are open to eating all foods in moderation, you eat the foods that you enjoy and you know that the foods you eat do not define you as a person. Unlike the restrictive qualities of a bad relationship with food, an article published by Forbes.com states that a good relationship with food should feel “effortless” as there’s no pressure to eat perfectly.
We’ve established what a good and bad relationship with food looks like but how can we improve our relationship? An article published by Harvard.edu proposes taking a ‘Mindful Eating’ approach to your diet. Simply put, mindful eating is the incorporation of mindfulness in your day to day eating. Harvard.edu describes mindfulness as “becoming more aware of, rather than reacting to, one’s situation and choices”. What this means in a dietary context is using your physical and emotional senses to determine what to eat. Ideally this would result in an improvement in the eating experience and an appreciation for the food choices that you’ve made. This style of eating should encourage you to make choices that nourish your body as you aim to respond to your physical and emotional needs from food.
In conclusion, it’s clear that our relationships with food can be as complex as relationships with people. With that said, our relationships with food deserve the same amount of attention. There are varying approaches to relationships with food and no single approach is right or wrong, as long as it fosters a healthier relationship with food.
If you find that your relationship with food is not serving you well, and you struggle to develop a positive connection, seeking professional help is a recommended step. There's no shame in asking for assistance, as our relationship with food is often deeply rooted in many factors beyond our control.