When it comes to relationships, the connection a person has with themselves is the most important. This relationship is centered around how the body, mind and spirit are nurtured, nourished and challenged. With the nourishment of the body, food and fluids are the key elements to how the body feels and moves. If the things going in are bringing negativity, exhaustion and stress, the interconnection will suffer. Just like any relationship, a positive and healthy relationship with food takes work — and it is a meal-by-meal, daily choice.
A negative relationship with food is not innately ingrained. Babies and toddlers have no problem asking for food when hungry, and they stop eating when they are satisfied. Overeating or self-deprivation are learned behaviors from outside influences. Many negative relationships with food come from a feast or famine mentality; the outdated goal of having a “clean plate” at the end of the meal is completely negligent of the self-awareness of being satiated. Many times, this setting of overeating is then rewarded with more food in the form of dessert.
From teen years to early adulthood, the sphere of influence changes as self-awareness comes with a change in hormones and physique. Food can be a source of social time, from cooking with family to dining out with friends. It can also become a source of loathing, as awareness sets in to how food affects the look and feel of the body. Food can be both inclusionary for one circle and a method for exclusion in another. This not only challenges the emotions that come with being in community, but it also changes how nourishment is conducted.
Is food consumption, or lack of consumption, a control mechanism or just an issue of mismanagement?
This relationship is so deeply integrated into the relationship with oneself, that there may not be a clear, singular answer. So, what steps can be taken to help one have a healthy relationship with food?
- Analyze the issue (if any). When did the internal cue of hunger start being ignored? Or, inversely, when did the cue of satiation get bypassed?
- Acknowledge outside influence. Be aware that the body does need nourishment at regular intervals, and that a “clean plate” is not required.
- Be mindful and intuitive while eating. Practice being self-aware of hunger and learn how to feed the body in a way that will bring energy, strength and healing. Then, try to stop consuming food when the feeling of satiety registers in the brain.
A healthy relationship with food does not come easy to many. It takes years of practice, patience and kindness — especially to oneself. Know that there are millions out there (if not everyone) who struggle with a relationship with food as well. Food should be something that fuels the body and brings joy when consumed, not a source of shame and self-hatred. Balance, understanding of nutrition and self-love are the roots to healing a negative relationship with food.
Finally, all relationships stem from trust. Build trust with yourself by making positive choices daily. Figuring out what works and what does not is a constant give-and-take. Building a healthy relationship with food requires self-trust to make choices that honor the relationship with the body. Tools and guidance build a healthy positive relationship. Over time, a foundation is created and an empowering relationship with food can be obtained.
Building a healthy relationship with food may feel overwhelming, but is absolutely possible.
Coach Melisa Rehm has a Bachelor’s in Health & Wellness Promotion with a Master’s in Health Education from Texas State University. Coach Melisa is a CrossFit L2 coach and certified AFAA group fitness and personal trainer as well as a multi-club Anytime Fitness owner and the co-owner of The FieldHouse Athletic Club.
Coach Kati Epps is the founder of MyBody GX with a background in chemistry from Colorado State University, an ACE certified personal trainer, health coach and nutrition specialist.