A healthy relationship to food
What exactly does it mean to have a healthy relationship to food?
For today’s blog post I wanted to talk a little bit about what I mean by helping people improve their relationship to food, because it’s a term that is getting used a lot more, but doesn’t necessarily have an easy to find (or completely agreed upon) definition.
I know some people who come to this blog are imagining that a healthy relationship to food is one where someone sees food only as fuel, they have complete control. I don’t see or hear this much now, but I know when I started my “healthy eating journey” some 17 years ago, this was a common way to think of a healthy relationship to food. No emotions involved, no over eating (though probably lots of under eating), no indulging, just complete and utter control of appetite and cravings.
But is that really healthy?
Is that a great way to think about food and the way we eat? I’d argue no. I also can’t help but wonder if it isn’t a myth as well, because anyone I knew who espoused to eat that way was most definitely emotionally attached to that, as in they were filled with pride and clearly felt superior: they had outsmarted our basic biology.
Ok, so what is a healthy relationship to food?
It is going to look – well, a bit messy actually.
One of my favourite definitions comes from Ellyn Satter and is her definition for normal eating.
A healthy relationship to food is flexible. It allows for “healthy” food, and prioritizes our enjoyment. We eat till we are full (comfortably, and sometimes too full, and sometimes not enough). Hunger is experienced as an important body signal telling us to eat, not the enemy of a “healthy” eating plan.
We do not pathologize cravings. Cravings are accepted as a normal part of being a human who enjoys food. When we have a health relationship with food cravings often lose their power, because we stop putting some foods off limits. On top of this the euphoria or high we associate with eating those off limits food fades too. (Though this can take a long time)
This goes ditto for enjoyment in our food, and adding flavour through methods that we usually think of unhealthy. Have dressing on your salad (without measuring it) – even gasp a creamy dressing!
Everyone’s healthy relationship to food is going to look a little different. We won’t all get to a magical place where we can eat whatever we want, when we want. Some of us will probably have some food rules hanging out in our lives on and off.
Okay, so how do I get there?
There are some amazing methods people have developed to help us get there.
Ellyn Satter’s eating competence model, is an evidence based tool to help you understand how competent you are at feeding yourself.
In my work I use pieces of both these methods, along with other tips and tools I’ve found helpful for clients over the years. So book the next available Discovery Call today.
I’m not sure what you’re describing is healthy, I have health concerns I want to manage.
I understand that this way of talking about food might be counterintuitive. But as a registered dietitian with nearly a decade of experience, what I want to ask you is this:
We can find a healthy relationship with food, and honour our health needs. I do not believe these are opposing ideas. I’m just talking about our relationship to food in a way that sounds scary, because it goes against a decades old narrative we have about how health is achieved.
Still curious? Book an appointment today.
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