Jul. 8. 2022
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Do you want to develop a positive relationship with food? Doing so is such an important aspect of caring for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. 

In past years, nutrition was really looked at in a black and white way, primarily in relation to physical health. We were taught to only prioritize nutrition choices that would positively contribute to our physical health. Choices made for any other reasons (such as nostalgia or enjoyment) were viewed as negative or simply unnecessary. 

To a certain degree, these are still considerations we need and want to have when thinking about nutrition. We of course want to nourish our physical bodies to promote full, wholesome, enjoyable lives. 

But as we always say here at Nutrition Stripped, food is so much more than physical nourishment. Time has shown us that the choices we make around food impact much more than just our physical health. They also impact our mental health.

When we have a positive relationship with food, physical nourishment no longer comes at the expense of mental health. 

Keep reading to discover what a positive relationship with food really looks like so you can begin taking actions that allow you to prioritize both your physical and mental health. 

What A Positive Relationship With Food Looks Like

  • You feel confident in your food and nutrition choices
  • You nourish yourself in a way that supports your long-term, physical health
  • You are present at mealtimes so you can fully experience your food
  • You enjoy food for the sake of pure enjoyment
  • You have the mental clarity to allocate energy towards other facets of your life without food interrupting
  • You eat when you’re physically hungry, listen to satiety cues, and understand your non-physical hunger cues 
  • You feel at ease with your eating habits and are consistent with the way you nourish yourself 

This all sounds pretty great, right? Who doesn’t want to be able to prioritize both physical and mental health in a way that allows you to function as your best self? 

So now that you have a few examples of what a positive relationship with food might look like, let’s talk about the traits you need need to embody. 

1. You Nourish Yourself Properly With Balanced Meals  

In order to have confidence in your food and nutrition choices, and eat in a way that allows you to feel satiated and energized, you need to know how to build nourishing, balanced meals. 

This is where our Foundational Five system comes in. If you’re not familiar with this system, you can download our free guide that covers it! 

It’s a simple, evidence-based way to build meals without having to scrutinize or hyper-fixate on your choices. 

By building meals comprised of protein, starchy & sugary carbohydrates, non-starchy carbohydrates, fat, and flavor factor, you’re able to eat with ease. No need for second-guessing or questioning.

A balanced plate promotes a balanced, positive relationship with food. 

2. You’re Able to Balance Both Eating for Nourishment and Enjoyment 

As a Registered Dietitian and Wellness Coach, I find that clients struggle with this concept the most.

The vast majority of diets and trends out there train you to believe that it’s one or the other. You either eat to nourish or eat for enjoyment. Because of this, people often find themselves in a start-and-stop cycle with an all-or-nothing mentality. 

Their either, “all-in” and only eat to physically nourish, or “all-out” and only eat for instant gratification and enjoyment. Someone eating this way might say something like, “During the week I’m really good and on the weekends I have my cheat days”.

If you’ve ever been on a diet or tried a detox, this mentality should sound familiar to you.

A positive relationship with food is one where you can honor the many roles food plays in your life, including the vital nourishment it gives your body and also the joy and pleasure it can bring. 

You’re able to eat with nourishment and enjoyment in mind with ease. No more food rules, allowances, or restrictions. 

3. You Don’t Label Foods as Either Good or Bad

We hear so often that nourishing food is good and right, while enjoyable foods are bad and wrong, that it simply sounds like a fact at this point. 

When in reality, this concept is very far from the truth. 

Assigning morality to food like this causes an imbalance. It causes a negative relationship with food. It welcomes feelings of guilt, pride, stress, anxiety, and compulsion to come into your relationship with food. 

A positive relationship with food no longer involves such feelings. It allows you to know that food is simply food. It’s either nourishment, enjoyment, or a combination of the two and empowers you to find the right balance based on your unique wants, needs, and preferences at any point in time. 

4. You Make Intentional Food Choices to Find the Right Balance 

Ever been on a diet where you had to measure all of your food? Put it on a scale? Put it into color-coded, pre-sized plastic containers? 

Or maybe you’ve been on a diet where you were only allowed to eat at certain times of the day, where you couldn’t possibly have a dessert after dinner because that would be past your eating window. 

These are examples of a negative relationship with food. 

A positive relationship with food is one where we eat mindfully with intention rather than rigidity and rules. 

It means we check in with ourselves physically to tune into the body’s hunger and satiety cues to determine portion sizes. Where we eat when we physically feel the need to, rather than when we’re told to. When we sometimes have dessert after dinner because it’s a mindful, enjoyable experience. 

Practicing mindful eating allows for a balanced, positive relationship with food. 

5. Diets, Trends, and Detoxes Don’t Entice You

When you build meals using the Foundational Five, eat mindfully, prioritize nourishment alongside enjoyment, and know that food doesn’t have morality associated with it, you’re confident in the way you nourish yourself. 

The next biggest fad doesn’t have the ability to suck you in, make you believe that you must eat in this new way, otherwise you’re doing it all wrong. 

A positive relationship with food is a confident relationship with food — you know inherently that you’re doing what’s best for your body.  

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now