Why I Have a Bad Relationship with Food (And 5 Ways to Change It!)

Creamy pastas. Cheesy pizzas. Confections galore!

When I turn on the television to watch my favorite show, there are commercials of chocolate fondue waterfalls gliding over fruit, cookies, and pound cake. When I’m out running errands, many storefronts display their freshly baked loaves of bread, and the sharp, creamy aromas of cheese hang in the air as I walk by. (I’m seriously getting hungry as I write this.)

But just as my mouth starts to salivate, the familiar chorus in my head starts:

No, you can’t eat that! You’re too fat.

But it’s the weekend. I’m allowed a little wiggle room.

That’s very unhealthy. If you eat that, your progress will be set back.

If I buy something decadent and eat it, I bully myself the rest of the day. If I don’t buy it, I’m spending the rest of the day thinking about it.

Does this sound like you too? Let’s read on to see how we can have a better relationship with food (and stop all the guilting and shaming).

1. Ending the Shame Game

My relationship with food has been volatile for about 16 years, since high school.

I would bully myself for being too fat, so I would restrict my diet – dangling dangerously near anorexia.

I hated food and enforced strict food rules to accompany that mentality.

But looking back now, my hate for food really stemmed from not feeling good enough.

It’s time to unravel 16 years of the same destructive mindset. Because we all gotta eat if we wanna live, amirite?

It’s time I stopped telling myself: No, I CAN’T eat that! And instead, focus on what I CAN eat. The negative approach only feeds my anxiety, shame, and guilt, while the positive approach instills love – a love for myself, my food, and my eating experience.

2. Setting Myself Up To Succeed

I have to unravel 16 years of a bad habit. This way of thinking is drilled into my brain, and it’s not fair to myself to expect immediate changes overnight.

If I set a goal too big right away, I won’t achieve that goal. I will have set myself up to fail.

Using the SMART goals strategy will help me to attain goals that I can actually keep.

MyFitnessPal has some great questions to help figure out how achievable my goal is, so I can set myself up to succeed. And in turn, I WILL have a better relationship with food.

SSpecific: Is my goal clear enough that I know what behaviors I need to change in order to reach it?

MMeasurable: How will I know when the change has been accomplished?

AAchievable: Can it be done, and is it possible to reach this goal in a reasonable timeframe?

RRelevant: Is this goal related to the area(s) of my life that I’d like to improve?

TTimely:  Is there a deadline?

3. Food Journaling

I always thought of food journaling as a way to count calories (AKA a strict rule to follow). I’d have periods of time where I was diligent about keeping track – which also made me more aware of how often I would be in a calorie surplus. When I was consistent about logging my food, I stuck to my goal, but the one meal I forgot or didn’t have time to log, my routine fell off. And I wouldn’t pick that up again for months.

Well and Good has a new approach to food journaling (which is similar to any type of journaling): writing about my thoughts toward food and how those thoughts affect me.

I absolutely love to write (hello! freelance writer here). Delving into my consciousness and unloading it onto paper is wonderfully therapeutic to me. I may discover a new way of thinking about food, after all!

Well and Good suggested starting with an intuitive eating journal.

Intuitive eating isn’t about dieting or following a meal plan. It’s about tuning into what my body is telling me physically, mentally, and emotionally at all times and making food choices accordingly. Simply stated, if or when I’m feeling hungry, I tune into that feeling and then eat what my body is telling me to eat.  

4. Mindful Eating

I have the worst habit of sitting down to dinner and immediately turning the television on. Or, I’m replaying the events of the day, thinking about my to-do list, or a blog post I’m writing.

I’m absentmindedly eating. And I almost ALWAYS overeat because I’m not listening to my body.

A great habit I need to get into is mindful eating – being present and in the moment when I eat to enjoy every sensation of my food completely.

Eating mindfully will allow me to enjoy the complete experience. Appreciating the edible masterpiece I’ve created. Savoring all the flavors. Breathing in the layers of aromas. Noticing the many sensations in one bite.

I’ll also be able to feel when I’m full, preventing overeating.

5. Asking for Outside Help

If none of these methods work (and I’m really hoping they do), I’m not going to beat myself up! Outside help may be exactly what I need instead.

I know there are therapists out there for disordered eating. They’ll be able to help me heal my relationship with food once and for all.

Wrapping Up

I have to unpack 16 years’ worth of negative thought patterns towards food.

I know I need to stop shaming myself whenever I eat (because I need food to live, and I definitely want to live a long and happy life!).

When I set myself up with the right goals, I know I’ll be able to achieve them, which will finally put me on the positive path of a healthy relationship with food.

Journaling about food will help me to understand why I had a bad relationship with food in the first place.

Being present while I eat will help me to enjoy every detail of my meal, and I’ll actually notice when I’m full and won’t overeat.

If trying all of these methods doesn’t work, I know I can seek a therapist for disordered eating and help me heal my relationship with food.

How’s your relationship with food, and how’d it get there? Do you have any tips that aren’t on this list?

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