Updated: Aug 22
This post was adapted from episode 31 of the Nourished & Free™ podcast. Listen to the full episode.
You may have a bad relationship with food whether you struggle with feeling stressed with food, binge eating, turning to food for every emotion, or are constantly jumping from one diet to the next.
If you're here, I'm guessing you've already started to overcome this and heal your relationship with food... and it might not be going well. You might be asking yourself, "how can I change my relationship with food?", and "what am I doing wrong?"
I want to help and give you the 3 reasons why you might not be seeing progress with your bad relationship with food. But first, let’s explore what an unhealthy relationship with food actually looks like.
What Is an Unhealthy Relationship with Food?
An unhealthy relationship with food can look different for everyone. But it usually involves negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors surrounding eating.
It often stems from years of dieting, restriction, and societal pressure to conform to certain beauty standards or to reach a certain weight.
8 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship with Food
If you're struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food, you may experience some of the following:
Diet Mentality: You might be constantly cycling between restrictive diets, feeling guilty for eating certain foods, and labeling foods as 'good' or 'bad.'
Food Obsession: If you have a bad relationship with food, then thinking about food could dominate your daily life, making it feel like thoughts of food take up 95% of your brain and it is hard to focus on anything else. You may become obsessed with meal planning, calorie counting, or tracking macros.
Emotional Eating: You may find yourself using food to cope with emotions such as stress, boredom, or sadness, rather than addressing underlying feelings. This is okay every once and a while, but may cause issues if it is happening regularly.
Food Shame and Guilt: You might feel ashamed or guilty after eating certain foods, leading to a cycle of emotional distress. This may even lead to emotional overeating as you try to cope with the shame.
Body Dissatisfaction: You may experience a negative body image or may strive for an 'ideal' body shape, often at the expense of overall well-being.
Rigid Food Rules: A bad relationship with food can often result in restrictive food rules, with strict boundaries about timing, quantities and even whole food groups.
Yo-Yo Dieting: You may also jump from diet to diet and experience frequent weight fluctuations due to cycles of restrictive dieting followed by overeating, which can impact physical and mental health.
Loss of Intuitive Eating: You might also feel disconnected from your body's natural hunger and fullness cues due to years of external dieting rules and restrictions.
Why Do I Have a Bad Relationship with Food?
If you’re experiencing some of the issues listed above, you might be wondering how you got to this place. But the truth is, it takes a lot of hard work to NOT have a toxic relationship with food in today’s society.
Diet plans, diet foods and unhealthy messages about body size are everywhere around us. If you’re like many of my clients, you probably grew up around women who were (nearly) constantly dieting.
When you see, hear and experience these things every day, it’s almost impossible to build a healthy relationship with food.
Even if you’ve been working on intuitive eating, you’re not alone if you feel like you’re still struggling. The good news is, there’s still hope. Explore some of the most common reasons I see clients struggle with disordered eating - even after trying to fix it - and how to break free of them.
3 Reasons You Still Have a Bad Relationship with Food
Reason 1: Lack of Awareness
The first reason that I typically see when it comes to women not making progress in their bad relationship with food is a lack of awareness. Many of us fall into the trap of going through life on autopilot, not taking notice of things. Awareness is a skill we have to cultivate if we want to heal our relationship with food.
It doesn't come easily in a world where we're constantly getting constantly overloaded with information. We have to be protective over what we give our energy to. In fact, a lot of us have gotten into the groove of not really giving our energy to anything because we're so overstimulated that we tap out.
Awareness is easy when you're unplugged... But how many of us are truly unplugged? We have to be intentional about cultivating that skill in a world that we have everything at our fingertips and screens constantly in front of us. There's a million things going on at once, and we're always overwhelmed and stressed. You have to learn how to weave awareness in with that kind of life.
How lack of awareness impacts our relationship with food
We simply don't know what we don't know. How are you supposed to know if the cause for your overeating is emotional if you don't even know that you're feeling emotions in the first place?
The way that you know what you're feeling is to become aware of the feeling, such as my client experienced just this past weekend as shown below 👇
Likewise, being aware of our food choices and how they make us feel, assessing our hunger levels, our cravings, our emotions, how we're feeling in our body all contribute to our choices with food and being able to make the right choice(s). They're pivotal for understanding your relationship with food and where it's at so that you can make progress forward.
By cultivating awareness, we can make conscious choices that really do align with our goals and values; that's when we start to see progress in our relationship with food.
Reason 2: Diet Mentality / Restrictive Mindset
The second reason that you may not be seeing progress in your bad relationship with food is that you're stuck in a diet mentality / restrictive mindset. Whether you're dieting to lose a few pounds before the wedding next month or trying keto because your doctor told you to, it can be a huge barrier for you in healing your relationship with food.
Here's the thing, restrictive tendencies do tend to make us feel better in the short term. They make us feel like we're in control, like we're working towards a goal, or maybe we even lose a little weight. However, in the long term they're unsustainable and they often lead to a restrict/binge cycle, or it creates an unhealthy obsession with food.
I cannot tell you how many women have come to me after following some sort of diet like Weight Watchers, Noom, or Optavia and they're extremely stressed about food. They would give anything just to see it as fuel or something they enjoy, but instead it's either good or bad and there's no in between. That restrictive mindset fails us by causing us to have a stressful and unhealthy relationship with food.
Reason 3: Not Prioritizing It (like, really prioritizing it)
The third and final reason that you may not be seeing progress in your bad relationship with food is that you just might not be prioritizing it.
I want you to be so honest with yourself in this moment: are you making excuses for not overcoming your unhealthy relationship with food? Are you making time for it? Are you actively seeking answers? (I'd say yes by the fact that you're reading this 😊) Are doing what you can to make change, or are you continuing to do the same stuff you've been doing for decades (dieting, trying it on your own, writing affirmations, etc)?
If you are doing the same things over and over, that's not actually prioritizing this change. Considering the following quote:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” - Albert Einstein
It is so easy to fall into the trap of doing the same thing over and over again and thinking that at some point it's going to work. But if you've been doing it over and over again and it still hasn't worked, Then sis, we gotta take a new approach. You gotta try something different.
So ask yourself, what is the first step I need to take in order to have the relationship with food I want a year from now?
How to Heal A Bad Relationship with Food
Change is hard. Nobody wants to deal with their problems. Can we be honest with ourselves that a lot of times we're scared of unearthing what ugly stuff is behind our body image and our relationship with food? Can we be honest that it's scary to press into the change, and that it's easier to come up with a million reasons not to do something about it?
Guess what? That makes you human! But can we also be real about the fact that you can't expect things to get better if you don't make this a priority?
I heard somebody say one time: "when you say 'I don't have time for this', change it to be 'I don't want to make this a priority' and see how it feels."
The reality is we all have the same 24 hours in a day. You make time for the things you want to.
I have had every kind of woman go through my signature program that you can imagine: teachers, moms, business owners, nannies, full-time students, even a neurosurgeon. The ones who were successful didn't let their life circumstances get in the way because they knew they were worth it and this was that important for them. And you know what? They're on my testimonials page now.
The biggest guarantee of a failure when it comes to healing your relationship with food is just simply not starting.
So let me ask you, what do you need to do today to start the journey of healing your relationship with food?
If you're ready and you want to learn more about what it's like to work with me, apply for a no-pressure conversation here and we'll talk about making this happen for you!