Unhealthy Relationship With Food: Signs, Solutions and more

Unhealthy Relationship With Food: Signs, Solutions and more

Maintaining a healthy relationship with food is essential for our overall well-being. However, it can be challenging to know when the relationship with food has turned into an unhealthy obsession.

An unhealthy relationship with food can manifest in various ways, and it's essential to recognize the signs to take the necessary steps toward a healthy relationship with food.

In this article, we will discuss some of the signs of an unhealthy relationship with food and how to deal with them.

5 Signs of an unhealthy relationship with Food

Obsessive thoughts about food and weight

One of the most common signs of an unhealthy relationship with food is having obsessive thoughts about food and weight.

This can be shown in a variety of ways, such as constantly counting calories to tell you when you’re done eating for the day, checking body measurements or weight multiple times a day, ignoring your body’s natural hunger cues, or obsessing over what you are going to eat next.

Being a woman, I've had a tough time dealing with my unhealthy relationship with food, and it's a fight that's not easy to win.
You get these crazy, obsessed thoughts about food and weight that take over your brain, making you feel like you're stuck in a cage.
You end up constantly weighing yourself, tracking calories, and ignoring your body's signals, and it's like a never-ending cycle that's tough to escape.

- Marta UF

Restrictive eating habits

Another sign of an unhealthy relationship with food is restrictive eating habits. This can include avoiding entire food groups, labeling food as “bad”, skipping meals, detoxing, or fasting for extended periods.

While some of these behaviors may be done for health reasons, they can also be indicative of an eating disorder.

On the other hand, overeating can lead to weight gain, digestive problems, and other health issues. It is crucial to maintain a balanced diet and listen to your body's hunger and fullness signals.

Negative self-talk

Negative self-talk is a sign of an unhealthy relationship with both food and sport. This can include criticizing your appearance, feeling guilty about food choices, or comparing yourself to others.

It is essential to remember that food is not good or bad, and there is no need to feel guilty about eating certain types of foods.

Negative self-talk or Guilt and shame can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, binge eating, emotional eating, and other unhealthy habits.

Social isolation

An unhealthy relationship with food can also lead to social isolation. This can include avoiding social events where food will be present or declining invitations to participate in activities that do not involve exercise.

Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and contribute to mental health problems. If you recognize any of these signs in yourself or someone you know, it may be time to seek help.

Eating disorders and other mental health problems related to food and exercise can be challenging to overcome without professional support.

Eating to Cope with Emotions

Using food to cope with emotions can also indicate an unhealthy relationship with food. Emotional eating can lead to weight gain, digestive problems, and other health issues.

It is crucial to find alternative ways to cope with emotions, such as talking to a friend, practicing relaxation techniques, or engaging in physical activity.

6 steps to break unhealthy relationship with food

How do you break an unhealthy relationship with food?

Breaking an unhealthy relationship with food can be a challenging process, but it's definitely possible with a combination of self-awareness, self-compassion, and support from others.

Be kind to yourself:

Breaking an unhealthy relationship with food is a journey, and it's important to be kind to yourself along the way.

Don't beat yourself up if you slip up or make a mistake. Instead, practice self-compassion and remind yourself that you're doing the best you can.

Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating means paying attention to the food you're eating, how it tastes, smells, and feels in your mouth, and the signals your body is sending you about hunger and fullness.

This can help you become more attuned to your body's needs and prevent overeating or undereating. Avoid distractions like TV or your phone while eating.

Eliminate Restrictive Diets

Restrictive diets can often backfire, leading to binge eating or other unhealthy behaviors.

Avoid fad diets or any extreme diet that deprives you of essential nutrients. Instead, focus on eating a balanced, varied diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.

Keep a Food Journal

Write down everything you eat and how you feel before and after each meal. This can help you identify any patterns or triggers that cause unhealthy eating habits.

Start by identifying what triggers your unhealthy relationship with food. It could be stress, boredom, social situations, or certain emotions. Once you know your triggers, you can work on finding healthier ways to cope with them.

Find Alternative Coping Mechanisms

Instead of turning to food for comfort, try engaging in other activities like meditation, exercise, or hobbies that can help you manage stress.

Get support or seek professional help

Surround yourself with people who support your healthy relationship with food. This could be friends, family, a therapist, or a support group.

Having a support system can help you stay motivated and accountable.

If you struggle with disordered eating, consider seeking the help of a therapist or registered dietitian who can provide guidance and support to help you develop a healthy relationship with food.

Having people in your corner who really understand and support you is worth its weight in gold. Whenever I find myself overthinking and stressing about the food I've eaten, I can always turn to my friend. She's been there for me, providing motivation and lifting my spirits. It's made a world of difference in helping me feel more at ease with the food that I eat.

- Marta UF

Signs of a healthy relationship with food

  • Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups.
  • Eating when hungry and stopping when full.
  • Not using food as a coping mechanism for emotions.
  • Enjoying food without guilt or shame.
  • Not obsessively counting calories or restricting food intake.
  • Not using fad diets, detox, pills, or any other quick-fix solutions to lose weight.
  • Being comfortable eating in social situations and trying new foods.
  • Listening to your body's hunger and fullness signals.
  • Not feeling the need to compensate for overeating or missing a meal by restricting or over-exercising.

Remember that everyone's journey towards a healthy relationship with food or sport is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Breaking an unhealthy relationship with food takes time and effort, but it's worth it for your physical and mental health.

Be patient with yourself, and don't hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.

Written by: Magdalena Mariola Prus (Lena)

Lena is a passionate nutritionist and soon-to-be dietician specializing in eating disorders. She takes a holistic approach to health and is dedicated to advocating for the importance of building a healthy relationship with food and exercise, free from guilt, shame, and restriction.