Having a healthy approach to eating

Key points:

  • Having a healthy relationship with food is not about what you eat or how much
  • Although common in our society, disordered eating can lead to serious problems
  • Disordered eating is not the same as an eating disorder
  • When “healthy eating” develops into an obsession, it becomes a serious health concern

Do you or someone you know:

If you have ticked any of these boxes, you may have an unhealthy relationship with food.

It’s no secret that our society is obsessed with body size, weight, diet and appearance. Dieting is so normalised that we barely bat an eyelid at someone who weighs themselves daily, cuts out entire food groups, or eagerly joins the latest fad diet.

In this environment it can be easy to forget what a healthy attitude towards food and eating actually is. Having a healthy relationship with food is not about what types or amounts of food you eat.

A healthy relationship with food means that you can:

  • eat more on some days, less on others
  • eat some foods just because they taste good
  • have a positive attitude towards food
  • not label foods with judgement words such as “good”, “bad”, or “clean”
  • over-eat or under-eat occasionally
  • crave certain foods sometimes
  • treat food and eating as one small part of a balanced life

What’s an unhealthy attitude to food?

An unhealthy attitude towards food can lead to what’s known as “disordered eating”. Examples are:

  • binge eating
  • dieting regularly
  • skipping meals regularly
  • anxiety about particular foods
  • obsessive calorie counting
  • misusing laxatives or diuretics
  • fasting or severely limiting food intake

Disordered eating is not the same as an eating disorder. Although the behaviours can be the same, they are less severe and occur less frequently. Nonetheless, disordered eating is still a problem and puts you at risk of potentially developing an eating disorder, anxiety or depression in the future.

Obesity is a medical description of a body type, not an eating disorder. At the same time as Australia’s obesity rate has risen, so has the rate of eating disorders. There are shared risk factors for eating disorders and obesity: dieting, depression, anxiety.

Telling someone who is obese to “go on a diet” is extremely unhelpful. Diets very rarely work long-term. It’s best to seek professional help if you want to change your weight.

learn about orthorexia