Six Ways to Heal Your Relationship With Food

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” – Unknown

While this saying applies to everything in our lives, food is unique because we all have to engage with it every day. We all have a relationship with food, and the quality of this relationship drastically affects our health.

Western medicine focuses on treating the physical manifestations of disease. But if we look deeper, you can see that there’s an imbalance — or dis-ease—in the body that’s caused symptoms to appear. Look even deeper and there’s the ‘why,’ and it’s probably from how you are eating.

So, how are you eating? Better put, how are you using food?

“Food is a language,” as Geneen Roth, bestselling author and expert in emotional eating, beautifully puts it. “We use food to express something deeper, to try to get through to yourself. Everything you believe about life, being alive, what enough is, if you’ll ever get enough, what you deserve, and whether what you want is possible for you” comes out directly on your plate.

What can we do about it?

Six Ways to Heal Your Relationship With Food

1. Drop the diet ASAP

For many, especially regarding Binge Eating Disorder (BED), going on a diet is the worst thing you could do. You don’t need any more information on “good” and “bad” foods, and giving yourself more restriction only means even more guilt if you’re imperfect with your diet. Again, it’s about how you feel when you eat, not what you’re eating. With BED, even if you eat a regular-sized meal, but feelout of control and guilty afterwards, it’s considered disordered eating. 

2. Enjoy every bite!

This is my personal favorite, which I discovered for myself over a year ago. I dropped all diets and rules that were sucking the life out of me for no real reward and instead proclaimed myself to be on the “enjoyment diet.” I only ate what I would honestly enjoy the most in that moment, even “bad” foods, mindfully enjoying every single bite. “It isn’t food that’s good or bad, it’s our experience” that matters, says Megrette Fletcher, M.Ed., RD, CDE and co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating. 

3. Be honest with yourself

This means choosing the food that you actually want, not just what’s conveniently in front of you. Additionally, looking honestly at “the truth of [your] inner and outer experience,” says BED expert and psychologist Amy Pershing, LMSW, ACSW and founder of Bodywise. It’s critical that you get to the root cause of your eating patterns, even if it’s painful or difficult to look at.

4. Decipher your food language

Just as it takes time and effort to learn any language, food requires the same dedication. Take several weeks to let yourself eat whatever you want without feeling guilty. Roth recommends observing without judgement what you’re trying to tell yourself: Are you punishing yourself, thinking, “You deserve this,” “I’m scared,” “Don’t come near me,” or “Come closer”?

5. Leave the past in the past

Stop punishing yourself for what you ate or did yesterday by actively practicing acceptance, forgiveness and love with yourself. “Many have suffered extraordinary hardships,” says Pershing, so you may be eating to fill a decades-old wound that can never be filled by food.

6. Focus on the positive

Practice affirmations. “Eating is a chance for me to nourish and nurture my being,” as Fletcher says. Psychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D., recommends appreciating what’s not going wrong with your body, like how great it is that you don’t have a toothache right now! Make a list of all the bad things that aren’t happening and find joy in all that you do have.

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