How to Foster a Healthy Relationship with Food cover photo nuhw
In the post-COVID era, many of us are starting to evaluate the toll the last few years have had on our relationships. Being at home more or avoiding large crowds could very well have caused changes in how we perceive ourselves and others, even if this was temporary or circumstantial. In similar ways, many clients are sharing experiences of how their relationships with food have changed due to the increased consumption of information available on social media at this time. Diet culture is a real beast to try and overpower!
Did you ever think of the foods on your plate as something you could have a relationship, or better put- connection, with? If not, take a second and evaluate how you connect with the foods you eat. If there are feelings of fear, shame, guilt, anger, or anxiety, it may be time to look deeper. The good news is that there are things that you CAN do to improve your relationship with food, just like you can improve your relationship, or connection, with others.
healthy vs unhealthy relationship with food
But before we start, let’s first talk about why we eat and why food is important and is a good thing. By doing so, food becomes less of a burden and more purposeful. We all need a source of fuel to go about our day and this helps us feel GOOD. Eating gives us energy and provides our bodies nourishment to tackle our to-do lists and be present for making memories. Sitting down to eat something is a nice break from the mundane. We get the opportunity to ENJOY food and have a little mood boost if we choose to take it. So, what are some simple steps to help if we want to practice feeling better towards food? Here are a few tips to consider:
Identify any food labels that are creeping in. What needs to go and what can stay? For example, I tell my clients that I do not believe in good or bad foods. Instead, I like to think of all foods as an opportunity for nourishment. When we see foods as good/bad, we add limitations. This often results in obsession. Instead, when we feel neutral towards foods, the novelty wears off and we can move on to the next thing. What happens when you say to a toddler, “Do not touch that.” They touch it! We do similarly with foods when we label them as “bad.” Think of food labels as bugs that keep flying in your face, just shoo them away!
couple reading food label
paying attention to hunger and fullness

Tune into personal and unique cues or signals that your body communicates to you about how you physically feel when eating something. Is your belly rumbling or do you feel so full you feel nauseous? Are you starting to get a headache or are you focused and distraction-free at work? Both can signal a level of hunger or fullness that we can learn to understand how well we are responding to our cues. If we are overly hungry, we have waited too long. If we are uncomfortably full, maybe we ate quickly or with distractions. When you match your hunger cues appropriately you feel balanced rather than experiencing extremes of hunger or feeling stuffed. When you feel uncomfortable on either side of the hunger scale, something is not aligning well. This is something your dietitian can help you understand more!

Slow down and savor. Food is a source of enjoyment, plain and simple. When we like something, it is important to slow down and pay attention to our experience. For example, note the taste, texture, and smell, of a food while eating it. You learn to appreciate it. When we eat quickly because we feel like the food is ‘bad” we lose this skill entirely and often have negative emotions following. Mindful eating is an art that takes practice but can provide a lot of positive healing towards the foods we eat.
person enjoying their food
Seek professional support. So many of my clients have enjoyed working with a professional to understand where their relationships with food evolved throughout the years. The food and our experience are so personal so it makes sense that sometimes it may be appropriate to work with a professional. When we understand and have the information, we can feel freer and more capable of making steps!



Kelly is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a passion for helping individuals and families. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from…READ MORE