Cultivating a Healthy Relationship with Food

Many people nowadays are open about their struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with food. The prevalence of eating disorders, whether it be anorexia nervosa, orthorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or EDNOS, is widespread, affecting an estimated 10% of the U.S. population. One very important but often overlooked way to preempt the possible growth of disordered eating thoughts is to change the way we talk about food. This simple change can do wonders in creating a healthy relationship with food for us and those around us.
cultivate a healthy relationship with food

Disclaimer- I am not by any means saying that simply changing dialogue on food has the power to eradicate eating disorders. They are a mental disorder and have real psychological implications. I am simply providing a method to stimulate a healthy relationship with food (independent from an eating disorder).
How many meals do you think you’ve had in your life? How many bags of your favorite snack have you consumed in your lifetime? How many times have you attended a party or gathering where the main attraction was food? Ok, ok, sorry for the questioning…. but the prevalence of food in our lives is crazy to think about, right?

Since food itself is something so central to our lives, you can imagine that how we think and talk about food is important to the development of ourselves, loved ones, and progeny.

A well intentioned effort to steer your kids or loved ones in the way of healthy eating can go haywire very easily. Humans are very good at “black or white thinking” (see Common Cognitive Errors), so we find it easiest to get a point across by categorizing something in this manner. In food talk, we converse about cheat foods and normal foods, good foods and bad foods, healthy foods and unhealthy foods. We all have a tendency to think in this dichotomous way (which stems from evolutionary psychology), but when this black-or-white thinking is verbally reinforced, it becomes more ingrained into our brains.
Conversing in this manner could promote food restriction, negative generalizations about health. “Bad” foods are antagonized, while “good” foods are glorified. Although some foods are unarguably less nutritious than others, the core essence of all foods is the same- to nourish our bodies!
It’s important to talk about food as a means to nourish the body,as ALL nourishment is positive. Thinking of food as a means to fuel your body motivates you to fuel your tank with premium gas- antioxidant rich and nutrient dense foods. At the same time, it doesn’t restrict you to ONLY eating “premium” quality foods. Fuel is fuel. As long as you don’t put diesel in your car (not that I’ve done that before he he he), your car will run. My car runs better using premium gas, but it runs nonetheless on regular gas. So indulging in a less nutritious treat once in a while is NOT going to do any harm!

Here are some dialogue samples that demonstrate ways to redirect a conversation that encourages a healthy relationship with food.

1) Daughter- “I can’t believe I just ate this… it’s so unhealthy. I’ll probably gain a pound from this. “
Response- “How many things have you eaten thus far in your life! One tiny thing in that list is not going to hurt you. Don’t let it have that power over you!”
2) Friend- “Dude I can’t believe I just ate that! Now that I’ve put that crap in my body, I might as well continue to eat crap the whole rest of the day!”
Response- “You have many more opportunities to nourish your body with foods that will make you feel amazing. Making yourself feel worse right now does no good. “
Hearing these responses from my friends and family when I present my unhealthy food thoughts to them has been incredibly helpful. I’m now at the point where I can counter my own unhealthy thoughts with these responses! I by no means have a perfectly healthy relationship with food, but I am surely getting there.
Hopefully these tips will help you create a more positive and healthy relationship with food. To continue on your healthful eating journey, download this mindful health journal… with daily encouragement to nourish your body, soul, and mind  —> Mindful Health Journal.

Hi Y’all! My name is Zahra and I’m a 19 year old college student passionate about growing spiritually, learning endlessly, and living healthfully. I love to express my deepest sentiments and ponderings through writing. I thank you for reading my words; I hope they nourish your soul!

February 1, 2018
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18 Comments

  • Reply Yariella Coello

    Very interesting post. Good to take a step back and think about this now and again!

    February 6, 2018 at 5:35 pm
    • Reply Zahra

      I’m so glad you enjoyed, Yariella!

      February 15, 2018 at 3:41 pm
  • Reply Keziah

    Thank you for sharing this very detailed post. I do need to work on my relationship with food. I find it easier to eat when Im in a good mood and almost impossible when I am stressed out.

    February 5, 2018 at 9:40 am
    • Reply Zahra

      Ah yeah I feel ya, I often try to stress-eat my problems away (but that technique of problem solving NEVER works lol)

      February 6, 2018 at 5:03 pm
  • Reply Farhaj Hussain

    Love this post.. A great way to reapond when people talk some negative things about some food.. Love your examples

    February 4, 2018 at 11:14 am
    • Reply Zahra

      Thanks for your support, Farhaj!

      February 6, 2018 at 5:03 pm
  • Reply Helene

    This is such an important topic. Thanks for sharing- loved it!

    February 3, 2018 at 5:25 pm
    • Reply Zahra

      So glad you liked it! Thanks, Helene 🙂

      February 6, 2018 at 5:03 pm
  • Reply Renee

    You make this all sound so loving and wonderful. It’s fantastic. So many people are out there struggling with those nasty, negative food thoughts.

    February 1, 2018 at 9:17 pm
    • Reply Zahra

      Thanks so much for your suppport, Renee!

      February 6, 2018 at 5:04 pm
  • Reply Keri

    Thank you for this! It is so important to look at food as the fuel that it is and to remember that we always have the choice about what we’re going to eat next.

    February 1, 2018 at 4:10 pm
    • Reply Zahra

      Ah yes! I actually look forward to making new decisions each day about what I can fuel my body with 🙂

      February 6, 2018 at 5:06 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    Very good points! I noticed listening to my children vs. listening to my granddaughter recently showed how incoded our minds because about food. My granddaughter feels free to eat anything until she is not hungry any more. My Teens and early twenty kids feel they can overeat on good food, and limit or feel guilty about even the smallest amount of rich food. This really makes me think about what thoughts I share with my children. Thanks for sharing.

    February 1, 2018 at 3:32 pm
    • Reply Zahra

      That’s so true– when we’re children, we practice self-kindness and self-love…. but somehow that diminishes as we grow up! Thanks for your support 🙂

      February 2, 2018 at 2:52 pm
  • Reply Michelle K Polizzi

    Thanks for writing about such an important topic, Zahra! I feel like we’re constantly beating ourselves up over eating a sweet here and there, and the guilt is so not worth it. I’ll definitely be using your line about “more opportunities to nourish” the next time I encounter negativity on this topic!

    February 1, 2018 at 2:41 pm
    • Reply Zahra

      I’m so glad this helped you, Michelle! That line always gets me motivated and excited to start a new day 🙂

      February 2, 2018 at 2:53 pm
  • Reply Wendy | Life and Business with Wendy

    Love this post. As a coach, I’m so aware of the negative things we say to ourselves and the reactions we can have to food. I’m so pleased you added the daughter and friend examples. Brilliant.

    February 1, 2018 at 12:38 pm
    • Reply Zahra

      Thanks so much for your support, Wendy!!

      February 2, 2018 at 2:56 pm

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