Creating a peaceful relationship with food

Guest post by Kalin Herbach, RD

We are all begin life as intuitive eaters. Babies readily communicate when they are hungry, when they’ve had enough to eat, and what is enjoyable and satisfying. However, as soon as we are old enough to understand and communicate, we begin taking in messages from diet culture. Over time, instead of turning inward to get our needs met, we begin turning outward. Diet culture teaches you that your body can’t be trusted, and that you need to rely on external factors to get your needs met – things like calorie tracking, measuring and meal plans.

What is Disordered Eating?

Most people who experience disordered eating may not realize these behaviours are concerning and have a significant impact on our well-being, as the disordered narrative is so readily available in our society and is encouraged through different forms of dieting and restriction. The disordered behaviours are reinforced by a society that worships thinness and equates it to “health” and moral virtue.

Signs of disordered eating:

  • Preoccupation with food, weight and body image 
  • Rigidity surrounding food and exercise routine
  • Restricting calories, cutting out food groups and skipping meals/snacks
  • Fear of certain foods
  • Feelings of guilt and shame surrounding eating 
  • Using compensatory behaviours (exercise, restriction, purging, fasting) to “make up” for food eaten 
  • Limited social life from needing to follow “plan” or avoid events with food

Assessing Your Relationship with Food

To get curious about your own relationship with food, you can use the questions below as prompts.

  • Do thoughts about food dominate your day? 
  • Do you experience feelings of anxiety, shame or guilt with food? 
  • Do you feel like you have to “earn” certain foods through movement/exercise? 
  • Do you ever miss out on restaurants, holidays or events due to the food? 
  • Do you make food choices based on foods you enjoy or find satisfying? 
  • Do you restrict food in fear of gaining weight? 
  • Do you feel like there are foods acceptable for other people to eat and not yourself?

If you answered “sometimes” or “yes” to any of the above questions, we invite you to continue exploring your relationship with food.  No matter where you fall along the spectrum of disordered eating and eating disorder, you are worthy of support. You deserve to live at peace with food.

Improving Your Relationship with Food 

Working on our relationship with food and our bodies can be filled with a mix of emotions, from overwhelm, fear and uncertainty to relief, freedom and liberation. It can be helpful to remember that this relationship is just like any other – it’s ongoing, and what we need may look different depending on the season we are in. 

Here are some prompts to support you in improving your relationship with food:

  • Consider what your “why” is behind the decisions that you’re make around food. Can we dig deeper and connect with what’s underneath it? Is it possible to remove food rules and work on nourishing yourself in a way that aligns with your values?

  • Observe the tools you’re engaging with surrounding your relationship with food and body – tracking apps, meal plans, scales, movement trackers etc. Are they helpful or unhelpful in improving your relationship with food? Are there steps that feel accessible to help you make space for your inner wisdom?

  • Work towards removing the moral value from food and permission to include all foods. If you find yourself labelling food as “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”, try calling the food by it’s name instead of using a label. 

  • Bring awareness to the information that you’re taking in, and the conversations you’re having with loved ones. We often say that when it comes to diet culture, once you see it, you can’t “unsee” it. You have permission to change the messages you’re taking in and the conversations you’re having to best support you in your journey.

  • Remember that it takes time to re-build trust in yourself and to make peace with food. It isn’t a linear journey, and it’s important to acknowledge every intention and action that you’re taking towards healing your relationship with food. 

  • You are worthy of support in your journey. This could include working with a weight-inclusive and trauma-informed psychologist and dietitian, to having friends and family you feel safe and supported by. 

We want to embody as much curiosity and compassion as we can when looking at our relationship with food. There’s a “why” behind every action we take, and often disordered eating can provide a temporary sense of safety, control or belonging. Be gentle with yourself as you continue to move along this path – you’ve done the best that you can in a world that normalizes disorder. 

For more information on Kalin of The Nourish Collective, visit thenourishcollective.ca

Click for more information on Monarch Psychology’s counselling services for eating disorders, disordered eating, or body image concerns



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