How to develop a positive relationship with food
Our relationship with food can be complex.
It can be easy to develop a negative relationship with food, especially when you’re looking to shed a few kilos. At nib, we consider ourselves your health partner, which is why we spoke with Madeleine Buckland, nib’s Clinical Adviser for tips on how to improve your relationship with food with nib.
At its most basic, food is vital to our survival. It’s also something that we can take pleasure in and often forms a centrepiece of social gatherings.
But our relationship with food can be complex. More than a million Australians are experiencing an eating disorder, including those involving extreme restrictions around food.
Many others will develop a negative food mindset or an unhealthy relationship with food, perhaps by constantly dieting or overeating, with two in three adults now overweight or obese.
Improving your relationship with food
Madeleine experienced an unhealthy relationship with food for about a decade when she restricted her eating in a quest to become smaller.
“This negative food mindset looks like calorie counting, labelling foods as either ‘really bad’ or ‘really good’, and being really strict with your intake,” Madeleine says.
“It’s when you deny yourself proper food and sustenance.”
The flip side, Madeleine notes, is eating far too much highly processed and takeaway foods.
Analysing your food habits
If overeating and unhealthy snacking are becoming a problem, Madeleine says changing up your environment can help you develop a better relationship with food.
“Instead of eating in front of the TV, sit up at the table and be more mindful about what you are eating.”
Eating in this way will also help you to better recognise when you are full, rather than snacking on autopilot or from boredom.
When it comes to restrictive eating, chronic dieting habits can put you into a negative cycle, Madeleine says. “Strict diets often see you undereat, then binge eat because you’re hungry, but then you feel like you’ve ruined your diet so you then go on another extreme diet…”
Keep an eye on your mood when choosing food – you’re more likely to make healthy food choices when your mental wellbeing is in a good place.
Shaking off the negative food mindset
For Madeleine, it was listening to a nutritionist on a podcast that gave her the “lightbulb moment” she needed to change her relationship with food. “I realised that eating is not a bad thing – it’s fuel for your body,” she says.
She recommends looking at food in terms of what it can do for you, rather than putting labels on it. “Food is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It’s more that one sort of food offers different nutrients to another kind.”
Ways to improve your relationship with food
It may sound cliched, but Madeleine says being able to love and accept yourself and your body is key to improving your relationship with food – and to get more “joy” from your life.
“Live your life without being so consumed by what you are putting into your body, but what you can get out of it.”
Taking an “everything in moderation” approach rather than completely ruling out your favourite foods will help, she adds. And if you get off track, don’t give up. “Tomorrow’s another day.”
If you are concerned about your weight or food mindset, a nutritionist, counsellor or mental health professional can also help.
Good choices to fuel your body
Madeleine shares her top food choices to fuel your body.
Lean cuts of chicken, pork and beef, and seafood. “Add in organ meats – liver, brain, heart – as they offer huge amounts of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.”
Fruits and vegetables, including cooked root vegetables that are easy to digest, provide fibre and hydration. “On a hot day, a slice of watermelon is a great thirst quencher.”
Stick to animal fats, like fish, chicken and red meats are a great source of fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E & K. "Swap processed seed oils for ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil."
Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.
Articles you might also like
In partnership with
They say food is fuel, and nib’s Madeleine Buckland lives and breathes this message. A registered nurse who now works in nib’s Travel Emergency Assistance team, Madeleine is passionate about nutrition and helping people feel their best and prevent chronic disease through healthy choices. Her role as Clinical Advisor sees her providing medical advice and travel recommendations for Aussies who have injured themselves overseas – making people feel safe during such a scary time is a pleasure, she says. Madeleine’s favourite breakfast is banana pancakes served with fruit and yoghurt and strong coffee made with collagen, milk and one sugar.