Building a Healthy Relationship with Food

We all have some sort of relationship with food and eating. Over the COVID-19 pandemic, with the pace of our lives slowing tremendously, many of us became much more aware of what our relationship with food looks like. The cultural values of thinness often lead to fears of gaining weight, shame around eating what we believe we shouldn’t, and cycles of bingeing and restricting. Even if you have not particularly struggled with shame around eating, many of us found comfort in Doordash and Uber Eats during the pandemic.

Our relationship with food is complex because it has taken our whole lives to develop. If you struggle in this area, know you are not alone. Below are some tips to begin to nurture your own relationship with eating.

1. Acknowledge the messages you received about food and eating growing up. Most families have some sort of culture, spoken or unspoken, around eating. Maybe your mother brought home treats for you every night after work, or your father wouldn’t let you get up from the table until you finished all the food on your plate. This is not about what your family did right or wrong—it is about becoming aware of the foundation of your relationship with food. Awareness is always the first step to change.

2. Allow yourself to feel the pleasure of eating tasty food. For many of us, going for the cupcake after dinner is full of so much back and forth. We may want it because it’s delicious, but we believe we shouldn’t have it because of the sugar and fat and calories. This leads us to either deprive ourselves from something we really want, or shame ourselves for choosing to eat a simple treat. What if, next time you wanted the cupcake, you simply allowed yourself to experience the pleasure around eating it? Experience the pleasure of the cupcake, just as a test, and note how different it feels afterwards.

3. Engage in mindful eating. A lot of times, we eat while working, watching Netflix, feeding the kids, or talking with one another. We finish many meals unaware of what the food even tastes like because we were so distracted. Try eating a meal mindfully—focus on each bite, noticing the taste and texture of your food. This will help you slow down your eating as well, which helps prevent discomfort post-meal.

If you have been struggling with eating and you are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.

Written by Kathryn

2021 Graduate Intern

Resources: Allender, D. (Host). (2021, June 25). Food, kindness, and our bodies [Audio podcast episode]. In The allender center podcast. The Allender Center. https://theallendercenter.org/2021/06/food-kindness-bodies/

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