If you’re on Instagram, you know it’s filled with perfectly curated photos of someone’s salad, smoothie bowl, “cheat day” meal, or [insert trendy food here].
But what you may not realize is that each and every one of us perceives those images in a different way.
For example, a woman looking to lose weight may be thinking about the calories and macros; a chef may be pondering the dynamic flavor profiles; someone following Ultimate Portion Fix may wonder what the container count is; someone following 2B Mindset may wonder how many fiber-filled carbs they have to add to make it a meal; while a busy mom may be shaking her head wondering, “How do people have so much time on their hands?”
Whatever may be going through your head is a good indicator of your relationship with food.
Here are a few traits of people who are at peace with what’s on their plate:
1. They eat food for fuel and health, not to suppress emotions
People with a healthy relationship to food view it as a source of fuel that: provides nourishment for their body to run efficiently, helps them power through a tough workout, keeps them healthy, and keeps their brain sharp.
They’re free from emotional eating — they know that food isn’t a cure for sadness, boredom, stress, anxiousness, or loneliness.
2. They practice intuitive eating
People with a healthy relationship to food seem to have the innate skill of intuitive eating.
This means they eat when they’re hungry, stop when they feel satisfied, and don’t let outside influences dictate what time or what types of foods they should be eating.
We’re born with an innate sense of intuitive eating, and as adults, we often lose that ability.
The sweet spot is relearning that intuitive eating behavior and adapting it to fit your goals.
Methods like the Beachbody Portion-Control Containers teach what healthy, balanced eating looks like, helping people get back to that sweet spot.
There are also times when a schedule might need to be paired with intuition, such as when you’re eating for a specific goal like weight loss or athletic performance.
When you’re eating for a future event, your “in the moment” hunger state may need to be steered by a forward-looking strategy.
Again, in these moments, a little guidance can even help people with a healthy relationship to food.
Still, the ability to know your body’s signals and then respond to those inner-body cues without feelings of guilt or judgment can lead to a more positive body image, fewer disordered eating tendencies, and an increased likelihood of taking on other healthy lifestyle habits.
3. They don’t feel the need to “make up” for an imperfect eating day
People with a healthy relationship to food enjoy the occasional treat without the accompanying guilt.
For them, diet is never all-or-nothing (i.e., black/white; good/bad). They tend to follow the 80/20 rule, meaning they eat healthy 80 percent of the time and allow for indulgences 20 percent of the time.
They enjoy treats mindfully — they take the time to truly experience the taste, texture, smell, and beauty of what they’re eating.
So you have a couple slices of pizza or an ice cream cone every now and then — good for you! At the end of the day, you should enjoy living your life.
4. They don’t allow food to dictate their lives
People with a healthy relationship to food don’t obsess about food to the point where it interferes with how they go about their business.
They may meal prep on Sunday and have an Instagram feed filled with indulgent food photos.
But eating and everything about food don’t take precedence over family, friends, or personal goals.
If you find yourself skipping out on events for fear of overindulging on bar food or bottomless mimosas, it may be time to work on a more balanced mindset toward food.
5. They don’t compare their body or what they eat to others
People with a healthy relationship to food understand we are all unique in body, mind, and spirit.
Our bodies aren’t meant to look like one another and we aren’t all supposed to look like supermodels or superheroes.
They feel comfortable ordering a juicy hamburger when their friend orders a salad because they know that next time they’ll probably try the salad when their friend orders dessert.
What we can all strive for is a strong, healthy body with confidence that radiates.
So how do you know if your relationship with food may be off-balance?
Take stock and see if these behaviors sound familiar to you:
- You’re dieting more often than not.
- You get anxious when the number on the scale goes up and you shame yourself for it.
- You use exercise solely to compensate for having eaten something “bad” instead of aiming to improve your fitness or rocking a strong, fit body.
- You’re consumed by food all the time and find yourself anxious about all things related to food (planning, obtaining, preparing, consuming).
- You tend to gravitate toward “diet” foods.
- You avoid social outings for fear of having to make difficult food decisions and often eat in private (either overconsuming or under-consuming).
- You connect food with emotion (stress, boredom, entertainment, happiness, sadness, etc.) then feel guilty post-nosh.
These thought patterns, constant yo-yo dieting that can wreak havoc on your metabolism, and mentally beating yourself up over food can hinder weight-loss goals, or worse, they could lead to a more serious eating disorder and/or malnourishment.
The Bottom Line
But remember: A mental shift won’t happen overnight. So the next time you find yourself engaged in one of these negative behaviors like emotional eating, constant dieting, or shaming yourself for eating a slice of cake, focus on progress, not perfection.
Baby steps help blend the black and white or the good vs. bad and steer you in a more positive direction.
Baby steps include identifying the underlying trigger that drives your emotional eating; tossing the fad diet books and using practical, balanced nutrition as your guide; or giving yourself permission to have a “cheat day” once a week.
When you can freely skip a date with the gym for a date with your spouse or savor a square of dark chocolate without fear you might devour the whole bar, you know your relationship with food has reached a whole new level.