Appleman Nutrition

Appleman Nutrition

Embracing Food for Health

What Does it Mean to Have a Healthy Relationship with Food?

February 7, 2024

What Does it Mean to Have a Healthy Relationship with Food?

By Appleman Nutrition

As registered dietitian nutritionists (in New York, Connecticut and Florida), we know that any and all food can fit into a healthy, balanced diet. We also know that some people struggle with eating and with what they consider “healthy.” They may overthink how much the foods they eat matter, or they may spend too much time thinking about what, where, why and how to eat.

The problem that people have isn’t often with food itself, but rather with the relationship they have with food. People’s relationships with food are often complicated and have been influenced by many factors over time. This relationship affects what and how much we consume, how much we think about food on a daily basis, how we experience our bodies, and how food affects our life when we are not eating.

At Appleman Nutrition, we know that it is very important to work with clients on the way that they think about and experience food, and the role it plays in their lives. Addressing the way food affects us emotionally has an important impact on our food related behaviors.

The Psychology of Eating and Food

Dr. Sadi Fox, a Brooklyn therapist, owner of Flourish Psychology, and specialist in the mental health treatment of eating disorders, points out that a healthy relationship with food is often the most important part of eating. “While there may be many that focus on what specific foods we eat, the truth is that all foods fit. What often matters is how food is controlling our behaviors and the psychology surrounding food.”

For example, at Appleman Nutrition, we often see people that struggle with a condition known in psychology circles as “orthorexia.” Orthorexia is an informal term for a condition where a person is obsessed with the idea of “healthy eating” to such a degree that they allow it to control their behaviors. They may:

  • Refuse to eat food they deem “unclean” or “unhealthy,” even when hungry.
  • Spend considerable social or professional time worrying about their meals.
  • Overestimate the effects of consuming “unhealthy” food.Believe unfounded theories, myths, and alternative theories about eating foods they consider to be “bad” or “unhealthy.”
  • Allow their life to be consumed by and affected by the desire for healthy food.

These individuals have a relationship with food that is damaging psychologically, and that psychological relationship with food affects them socially, emotionally – even professionally.

“This form of eating also runs the risk of nutritional deficiencies, since the person may be refraining from foods that they otherwise need. Focusing on this level of control over food may also develop into other forms of disordered eating, like anorexia, if the desire for control over dietary intake becomes too strong” says Dr. Fox.

What Does it Mean to Have a Healthy Relationship with Food?

A healthy relationship with food not only includes the actual food that you eat, but also your internalized beliefs about what it is that you are eating as well as how your life is affected by eating. A healthy relationship with food is one that is:

  • Flexible and expansive
  • Enjoyable and inclusive of pleasurable foods
  • Engaging (including the ability to enjoy activities where food is present)
  • Peaceful (including the ability to live without preoccupation about what/when/how much to eat)

A healthy relationship with food means allowing yourself to see food in a way that doesn’t affect how you feel, how you act, and what you believe about your (or another’s) self worth. It means making sure that worries and concerns about food do not take you away from more important activities, such as a fun time with friends or family.

Creating a Healthy Life (Outside of Food)

Developing a healthy relationship with food is the first step in the direction of a better quality of life, and one where food plays the role it was meant to play – one of foundational nourishment. If you feel like you’re ready to enlist the help of one of our nutritionists to guide you on a path towards a better relationship with food/eating, please contact Appleman Nutrition’s founder and Executive Director, Rebecca Appleman, RD at 917.885.4624 or through our online form.

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