Wherever you go, you will see people with destructive or negative relationships with food. This could be in the form of overeating, under eating or just eating the wrong kinds of food.
If you’re serious about living a healthy lifestyle that will carry over into your kids’ lives, you will need to develop a positive relationship with food.
My relationship with food has been a bit of a roller coaster. I was never a skinny kid – neither was I fat. I always enjoyed food and especially desserts and cakes. Until a few years ago, I would often lurch from overeating to under eating and back again – gaining and then losing weight in the process.
I don’t claim to have an eating disorder (or to ever having one) but I did have a very negative and uniformed relationship with food. That’s changed over time to the point where I am now. More on that later.
What is a Positive Relationship with Food?
The best way to examine a positive relationship with food is to first examine what a negative one looks like.
I used to commute to work by train.
Every morning at 7.15 am, I’d be sat on the same train.
In the same seat.
Surrounded by the same people.
One lady used to come in, sit down and eat. Sometimes it was several pastries. Other times it was potato crisps. One time it was a whole packet of chocolate biscuits. I lost count but it was reaching double figures before she stopped.
That’s a dysfunctional relationship with food.
In case you think I’m a judgmental idiot I’ve been in a similar place. I used to eat foods exclusively for how they would make me feel.
Does taste good? Does it make me feel guilty? Do I feel comforted after eating them? These were all questions I was asking myself subconsciously.
Part of this dysfunction started when I was a student. Money was always short as was quality food. So I would eat in bulk: high calorie, high carb foods were the order of the day.
I had a weekly meal plan that looked like this:
Burgers, Sausage, Pizza. Repeat.
Overeating was common. When there was food, I ate. If I had no money, I didn’t (or I certainly ate less).
When I left university and started earning money, this relationship with food continued. I’d eat for convenience, cost and taste primarily with little or no thought to nutritional value.
About six years ago, things changed. Although the journey wasn’t as you might expect.
In a muscle magazine I came across a diet that involved going very low carb for a couple of weeks before phasing carbs back in over time. I did the diet, stuck to it and lost a lot of body fat.
It was a pretty drastic cut. My relationship with my wife certainly suffered for those few weeks.
But my relationship with food changed forever.
I stopped seeing food exclusively as sometime to derive pleasure or emotional response from. Instead I viewed it as something that my body needed to function. Protein, carbohydrate, fats – all required for the functioning of a healthy body.
This mindset shift meant that I could no longer chow down platefuls of pasta just because I liked how it made me feel.
I’d taken the nutritional red pill. There was no going back.
I started to centralise my meals around protein instead of starchy carbs. Eventually, I moved to reduce carbs in the evening which worked as I endeavoured to lose my newly acquired Dad Bod.
You’d be wrong in thinking that this means no treats. I never lost my taste for cakes, pizza and ice cream. But I don’t base my nutrition around those foods. Instead I enjoy them positively: as an occasional treat.
I also don’t obsess over my diet. Having a single figure body fat percentage is not one of my goals. I’d rather focus on living healthy and happy. Not healthy and miserable.
Why Does a Positive Relationship with Food Even Matter?
I alluded to this earlier and it’s a common theme across the entire website:
The habits we demonstrate are picked up by our kids. Positive or negative.
This applies especially to our relationship with food. If you eat food to support normal, healthy body function, your kids will grow up understanding that as normal.
If you eat primarily for emotional comfort, taste or cost – guess what they’ll learn?
There are exceptions to this rule. Kids who grow up loving healthy food and fitness in spite of their upbringing and vice versa.
But the general theme is this: The son inherits the sins of the father. If you think I’m wrong, tell me. I love a good discussion.
At the start of this article, I used the words ‘develop’. That was on purpose. My relationship with food is still developing.
It’s only been six years.
I still make errors of judgement involving the chocolate bars at the petrol station. I still eat too many crisps at a house party or indulge too much in work based birthday cakes.
Comfort eating has no place in a committed, healthy Dad’s life. Yes enjoy food and enjoy treats but eat foods that nourish and feed your body, not your emotional needs.
Emotional deficiency can’t be filled by food. Real emotional problems need to be tackled at source with the help of a professional.
You owe it to your kids, no matter how young, to be a good example when it comes to food. Let them enjoy food, but use your knowledge of food and nutrition to teach them to make good choices now and when they’re older.
Step 1: Stop seeing food as something to fulfill and emotional need. This takes time.
Step 2: Start viewing food as fuel for your body and active lifestyle. You need the best quality fuel you can afford.
Step 3: Keep developing and learning about food and nutrition and pass this information on to your children.
Step 4: Send me an email telling me how much this blog post changed your life.
P.S. Enjoyed this? Check out some other articles on nutrition: