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.

girl eating big slice of pizza

You go enjoy that pizza.

What is a ‘healthy relationship with food’?

We’re constantly surrounded by food; conversations about food, 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.”

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 new fad diets and ignore the articles (apart from this one). Try and focus on what your body wants, likes and needs.

Is that not 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,” say Beat. “Being too rigid, restrictive or strict about nutritious eating can cause problems, included disordered thoughts or behaviours.”

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? 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. There’s nothing wrong with chocolate, just don’t eat it as a replacement for cereal at breakfast.
  • Speaking of breakfast – EAT BREAKFAST. It really is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism and sets you up well for a productive day.
  • 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 eating. Food doesn’t have to be just fuel – experiment with meals and recipes and enjoy what’s going in your mouth.

I’m struggling with this to be honest

There should be no pressure when it comes to your relationship with food – that’s when it becomes unhealthy and dangerous. As Beat say, “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. You can also contact Beat on their helpline on 0345 634 7650 (open every day, 4pm to 10pm).

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.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.




Updated on 26-Jul-2016

Photo credit.