Let's examine our relationships with food for a sec.
Every person has some sort of relationship with food. People relate, react and interact with food in different ways and this is what makes for a unique relationship to it.
A restaurant chef might have a fun, creative relationship to food- they’re constantly inventing new dishes, learning the science behind cooking, and experimenting with different flavor combinations.
A mom may have a practical relationship with food- perhaps she’s concerned about balancing nutrition with affordability, and taking into consideration the time it takes to get dinner on the table.
A wrestler might have a tumultuous relationship with food- constantly gaining or losing weight to compete in a certain weight class, viewing food as a “means to an end” and prioritizing the number on the scale over nutrition.
Your relationship with food might be: comforting, exciting, apathetic, volatile, practical, stressful, obsessive, mindful, enjoyable, scientific, appreciative, toxic, controlling, inconsistent, terrifying, peaceful etc.
When you think about food, how do you relate to it? Is that relationship healthy or unhealthy?
Sometimes I think about what my relationship with food might be like if it were personified. If you try this, you might learn more than you expect. When I had my eating disorder, my relationship with food (or to food, I can't decide which preposition to use) felt just as obsessive and inconsistent as my most toxic and imbalanced romantic relationship. As I write this, I realize that during the height of my food issues, my relationship to food felt similar to emotional abuse. Whoof.
If I were to personify my current relationship with food, I would say I interact with food as if I’m the cool kid in high school and food is the new kid. I’m interested to get to know this person, but I also don’t care that much. Our lockers are next to each other and sometime we chat. I have more social currency than this person, so I invite them to parties (when I remember to) but sometimes I forget. We share our notes from Algebra class to prepare for exams but we don’t study together. It’s very light, respectful and laissez-faire. Would everyone agree this is an ideal relationship? I don’t know. Is it healthy? For me it is because the obsession is gone. Could we be better friends? Probably. Do we have to be? No.
A big indicator of an unhealthy relationship with food is how emotional and consuming it is. When you constantly attach negative feelings to food- guilt, anger, obsession, sadness, pity, stress, regret- your relationship to food is no longer healthy. Just like a bad romantic relationship, if your interactions with food leave you feeling crappy, the relationship is no longer good. If you find that your relationship with food is unhealthy, how specifically would you like yours to change and what might that be like instead?
I would say a person with a healthy relationship seeks a fine balance between enjoyment, respect for their body and forgiveness with their food. They like to eat and indulge occasionally. They consider nutrition and health to be important but are not strict with it. They’re kind to themselves if they stray from their ideal plan. Keep in mind that this is just me riffing from experience- not expertise.
Of course there are different versions of what makes a healthy relationship with food. If you can describe how yours - I’d be very intrigued to hear it!