How to have a healthy relationship with food

We’re always being bombarded with the ‘right’ types of food and diets, but you should only listen to one thing when it comes to nutrition, and that’s your own body. It’s YOUR relationship with food, not somebody else’s. Read our guide to how to have a healthy relationship with food that works for you.

What is a ‘healthy relationship with food’?

We’re constantly surrounded by food; conversations about food, endless streams of graphic food shots on Instagram, good food, bad food, diets, clean eating, detoxes, juice cleanses, Nutribullets (we still have no idea what these are), takeaway leaflets, “is it buff-ay or boof-eh?”, protein this, calories that… and sometimes it’s all a bit too much!

Having a healthy relationship with food is important for everyone, whether you’re young or old, an athlete or couch potato, slim or carrying a bit of weight.

Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity, put it nicely, saying, “A healthy relationship with food is in many ways simply seeing food as food without any value label placed on it.”

A healthy relationship with food is individual to you

And this relationship is totally individual to you. Yes, it’s important to eat your 5-a-day and drink enough water, but ignore the adverts, ignore the latest fad diets that work fast and ignore the endless articles online (apart from this one). Try to focus on what your body wants, likes and needs when it comes to your relationship with food.

Intuitive eating is a philosophy based on these principles, so check it out if you’d like to let hunger and fullness dictate what you eat rather than some kind of newfangled crash diet.

Is a healthy relationship with food an eating disorder?

No. Focusing on having a healthy relationship with food doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you should focus on in life. It shouldn’t take control.

However, if it does and you feel troubled about your relationship with food, then you should speak to your GP about how you are feeling.

“The key to having a healthy relationship with food is remaining balanced,” says Beat. “Being too rigid, restrictive or strict about nutritious eating can cause problems, including disordered thoughts or behaviours.” We’ve got some tips on getting a balanced diet here.

Becoming too restrictive and obsessed with healthy eating could be a sign of Orthorexia, which is usually seen as a version of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

How can I improve my relationship with food?

  • Eat mindfully. Listen to your body and be aware of what and how much you’re eating. Are you really hungry or just bored? It’s OK to eat food that makes you feel good, but try to avoid emotional eating. What kind of food does your body want? Are you full now?
  • If you are full, try and resist the urge to eat more. If you feel you can’t stop eating, you may be struggling with Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
  • Aim to eat everything in moderation. Maybe you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, but it’s more than OK to mix food with pleasure — just make sure you don’t start replacing breakfast with chocolate. Hopefully you can find something from every important food group you can enjoy.
  • Don’t see any foods as inherently bad. Just remember the above points when you’re eating particularly sugary or fatty foods. Moderation is your friend.
  • Don’t feel guilty about yesterday’s food intake. Don’t feel guilty (ever) for what you have eaten, and don’t punish yourself for it.
  • ENJOY food. What you eat doesn’t have to be just fuel – experiment with meals and recipes and enjoy what’s going in your mouth.

I’m struggling with my eating habits

There should be no pressure when it comes to your relationship with food – that’s when it becomes unhealthy and dangerous. As Beat says, “When we start to see some foods as worthy/unworthy or clean/unclean, we can equate our food choices to saying something about us – we are worthy/unworthy or clean/unclean.”

If you’re reading this and becoming stressed over how you view food, rather than calmed by it, then take a step back and seek support. Speak to your local GP who will be able to recommend the right treatments for you. Read our article ‘do I have an eating disorder?’ for more support if you’re worried. You can also contact The Mix directly for help, or call Beat on their helpline

The sooner you seek support and treatment for an eating disorder, the easier it will be to recover.

Next Steps

  • Beat help people overcome eating disorders through helplines, online support and self-help groups. Call 0808 801 0677 or, if you're under 18, call their Youthline on 0808 801 0711.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.



By Ally Thomas

Updated on 27-Oct-2022

Photo credit.