10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Food

10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Food

A huge part of my nutrition coaching is helping you improve your relationship with food, exercise, and your body. It’s not just about weight loss, macros, and workouts.

When I was at my heaviest, in my early 20’s, I was not proud of my body. I took great pains to hide it, to avoid activities that I knew I couldn’t do, and to minimize my appearance.

But something that surprised me when I lost weight was that I wasn’t automatically happier with my body. I still struggled with being self-conscious, and could devolve to being highly self-critical and judgmental of my appearance.

It took me time to learn that having a good relationship with my body is not the same thing as achieving a healthy weight, or even an ideal physique. Feeling good in my body has far more to do with my ability to manage my own thinking and to practice self-care, no matter what the scale says.

Recently, a client told me during her consultation that she wanted to lose weight and feel more comfortable in her own skin. I told her that the first goal would take time, but that she could achieve the second goal right away.

It’s a process to improve your relationship with food, exercise, and your body, but it’s a journey that you can start right away. You don’t have to wait until you fit into a certain size of clothing, or until the scale says a particular number.

You can start right now.

Here are 10 things you can do right away to start improving your relationship with food, exercise, and your body.

Practice CBT skills.

Practice CBT skills like cognitive restructuring and reframing to deal with negative body image thoughts, because these thoughts do not go away even if you lose weight or achieve culturally “ideal” body standards. 

You can work on CBT skills with a therapist, or you can start by ordering a book like this on Amazon.

Change eating “right” to eating “well.”

Think in terms of nutrition and nourishment instead of following rules. When it comes down to it, healthy eating consists of eating enough protein, enough fruits and vegetables, enough fiber, and enough healthy fats. Everything else is a lifestyle choice that can be individual.

Instead of following rigid food rules, focus on nourishing yourself with food.

Support your exercise goals with food, instead of exercising to burn off food. 

This is an incredibly powerful reframe. Up-level your exercise so that you’re making progress in the gym (or on the track, or in the pool), and then use food to support those goals.

The sheer act of setting performance-based exercise goals can dramatically transform your relationship with food.

As soon as you make that mental switch, you’ve already made huge strides.

Make your lows higher and your highs lower, avoiding extremes.

Instead of wild swings between extremes, focus on making your “diets” less strict and your indulgences less out-of-control.

Sometimes people think they’re doing the right thing for themselves by getting stricter with their diet. But what they don’t realize is that these “buckling down” moments often set the pendulum swing into motion, inevitably setting up a binge.

Eat on a regular schedule, without skipping meals. 

Simply eating regularly is a big step that you can take to improve your relationship with food, exercise, and your body. Don’t skip meals, and don’t follow fad diets.

Don’t follow diets that require you to skip meals or eat at odd times – this can not only hurt your relationship with food because it can require you to manage the stress of negotiating social meals, but it also can raise your actual level of stress (cortisol) from over-fasting.

Detox your social media, not your diet.

Unfollow accounts that cause you to negatively self-compare (even if they are couched as “inspiration”). 

Release control of outcomes…

… Even when making healthy lifestyle changes to encourage weight loss. All you can do is implement best practices and create a lifestyle that is sustainable. 

Honor the fact that your body is unique.

Genetics play a huge role in appearance, even if you improve your body composition or fitness significantly. You cannot turn into someone else – only the fittest version of yourself. 

Cultivate mood-boosting habits and activities that aren’t related to food. 

Things like walking, reading a good book, or calling a friend are all things that can raise your mood without using food as a coping skill. Check out this other blog post of mine for more ideas.

Be aware of your language around weight.

Monitor what you say about yourself and others. Make efforts to replace weight- and body-related comments. What you say not only has an effect on others – it also reinforces your own beliefs and mindsets around weight.

These 10 strategies can help you start improving your relationship with food, exercise, and your body right away. But do you wonder if your relationship with your body needs more attention? Use the screening tool on the NEDA website to get clarity. Help is available when it’s needed!