When do you know you have healed your relationship with food?

When do you know you have healed your relationship with food?

This is a question that came up in a recent conversation with a colleague. And if you are someone who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or feel like your relationship with food and your body is not in a great place, you might be thinking the same.

How do you know that you are in eating disorder recovery or how do you know that your relationship with food has improved?

This is one of those questions that don’t really have a definitive answer. Because unlike dieting and intentional weight loss pursuits where the scales clearly defines success or failure, our relationship with food, eating and our bodies are not as clear cut as that.

Alongside this, when we’re in the throes of feeling obsessed and out of control around food, reimagining something else, is unthinkable.

This journey and the outcomes in not about a specific number at all. It is about a reduction in certain behaviours, yes, and it is about the spaciousness that comes with you and your body being on the same team. Respectfully caring for one another.

When I think about my own journey, I notice how many shifts have occurred over time, sometimes a very long time. Often it wasn’t until a big new life stressor hit that I realised that stuffing my feelings down with food was no longer my main coping tool.

Or like when I discovered that I still body check from time to time (because it is such an unconscious ingrained habit) but that the harsh inner critical voice has soften significantly. The old familiar feeling of dread, panic and self-loathing towards my body when noticing some recent weight gain, was not there. Instead, an open and kind newfound acceptance is there, in its place.

Our journey towards peace and freedom around food and eating looks different for everyone one. Your journey might not look like mine, and that is ok. I see this with my clients all the time, each person’s journey is unique to them, and there are many elements and steps on the way that overlap and are same or similar.

The Journey towards healing our relationship with food might include any and all of these:

  • Letting go of dieting
  • Eating regular and adequate meals
  • Letting go of food rules
  • Giving oneself unconditional permission to eat all foods
  • Wearing clothes that fit and are comfortable for the hear and now body
  • Learning about Diet Culture / weight stigma / anti-fat bias both culturally and internalised ones
  • Practicing body acceptance
  • Practicing self-compassion (over and over and over)

are just some of the parts that make up disordered eating recovery.

These are not just ideas but practices and explorations that often requires time, curiosity, patience and self-kindness.

Getting curious about what got us into a disordered relationship with food, eating and our body and connecting some of the dots often provides not just a deeper understanding of it all, but often we can hold our past self with greater kindness and compassion, knowing that we did the best we could with what we had. From here it becomes easier to explore what a different less chaotic or rigid (or both) relationship with food can be like.

What do you expect a more peaceful relationship with food will look and feel like?

Often the goal or intention is something like, stop bingeing / purging or restricting. But the benefits of recovery extend far beyond that.

It is important to mention here too, that perfectionism is NOT a goal of disordered eating recovery. It is unlikely that you will never ever binge or purge or restrict ever again. But instead of this being one of your major coping skills you will have built a full toolbox of skills to choose from, many that offer relief in the moment but also beyond.

One of the things you will find is that you have more tools, practice and skills for dealing with life.

Another one is that you have more capacity and resourcing to deal with life in general. I hear this again and again from my clients when their bodies and brains are better nourished. A fully nourished body and brain simply have more capacity to deal with everyday living, than one that is continuously underfed or starved. (Looking at you 800-1200kcal diets!)


You will find that you are not thinking about food all the time. This is also a physiological consequence from eating regularly and adequate meals. When your body is getting enough, typically the only times we think about food is when we are getting hungry and when we need to shop / plan / prepare meals.

Typically, improved sleep, more energy and a reduction of headaches (if that is something that you suffer with) is other things I hear my clients often talk about when their bodies are feeling fully nourished again.

Having more energy and more executive functioning means that the gap that the preoccupation with food and weight has left can be filled with things you really enjoy that feels nourishing beyond the physical. Like friendships, hobbies, creativity, fun!

I have often witnessed that the further people get in their recovery journey, the less food and weight takes up space in their lives. Even when the desire to lose weight was there (and sometimes dominant) in beginning of the journey, the further you get in recovery the less this feels like a meaningful goal to pursue, because the cost of it has become too high.

That’s not to say that we will never desire a smaller body again (and this might even be truer if you are at the receiving end of weight stigma and anti-fat bias), and that’s ok. As long as the world around us is fixated on thinness as the most important thing to be, do, have, it is likely that this thought and desire will pop up at times. Thinking something is not the same as acting on that thought. And remember recovery is not about perfection!

All of these things are great and important but I think the most powerful shifts that come from working through any disordered eating behaviours and healing your relationship with food, eating and your body is the peace that comes with acceptance and the nourishment that comes from the practice of self compassion.

Being able to hold space for the challenges that comes with being human in a body, with acceptance and kindness changes things at the root. Any sharp self-critical edges can soften and we can meet ourselves where we are at, at any time, with gentleness and care.

This is what having a peaceful, supportive and caring relationship with food and with yourself.

It is possible for you too and you are so worthy of having it.

And it is not a linear journey at all.

If you are looking for support in your own journey towards having a more peaceful relationship with food check out my 1:1 services here

You might also like these further resources to support you if you are just starting out:

My 5 Favourite Non-Diet Books

How do I stop bingeing on food?

Understanding the Diet-Deprivation-Binge Cycle

Explaining the Diet-Deprivation-Binge Cycle – How restriction drives binge eating

Explaining the Diet-Deprivation-Binge Cycle – How restriction drives binge eating

When someone comes to me to work on their relationship with food, and in this case binge eating and emotional eating I often find myself starting by showing them a visual of the Diet – Restrict – Binge Cycle.

I do this for two reasons.

  1. To show my client that they, nor their body is broken
  2. To show my client that the binge or emotional eating is s symptom, and not the root cause of what’s typically going on.


When you find yourself in a binge episode, it feels so out of control. It is so uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. It really *feels* like the food and the lack of control is the problem that we have to fix.

And if you’re gaining weight as a result of the binge or emotional eating then you might panic even more and this thing with food and eating *really* have to get under control. I know for sure that this is how I felt, when I was smack bang in the middle of it.

Also read: When do you know you have healed your relationship with food?

Years later, I learned about the Diet – Restrict- Binge Cycle and I felt such a relief. No wonder I had spent years going around this cycle. Any and all of the diets that I tried was never going to work to get my binge eating under control.

Why? Because they all implied some kind of restrictive eating. It was either restricting calories or sugar or gluten or fat or some other kind of food group. The restriction kept fuelling my binge eating.

And I had no idea (at the time) that these two were connected and that it in order to stop bingeing I would have to stop restricting.

How does restriction drive binge eating?

The cycle will always start from some kind of restriction. It might be a diet, a need to cut out some specific foods for medical reasons or it might be as a result of not having enough food available for awhile due to lack of financial means. It doesn’t really matter why you are restricting as the body will experience the lack of food the same, as a state of famine.

(Step 1 – Restriction) For this example let us imagine that you are starting a new diet. One that is going to support your “health”. (I have health in quotation marks here because diets are rarely about actual health but about thinness.)

(Step 2 – Feeling hungry / starvation) The diet is going well… until you find yourself hungry, and perhaps also tired and stressed out. It is hard to have the bandwidth to deal with life on an empty stomach and undernourished brain.

(Step 3 – Breaking the Diet ) Maybe someone has brought in a cake or donuts to work and even though you say no to when offered, you still find yourself eating a large slice in secret afterwards.

Once you’ve stepped outside the confines of the diet a few things tend to happen:

You find yourself thinking “Well I have already blown my diet so I might as well keep going now”. And then proceed to binge on all or the foods you don’t normally give yourself permission to eat. Or you might polish off the rest of the cake / packet of biscuits, even though you don’t really feel like eating them but you want them gone now, so that they won’t be there tempting you in the future.

(Step 4 – Shame / Guilt / Frustration / Anger) Another thing that can happen is that the shame and guilt over eating in secret and eating more than / something that wasn’t on your diet plan sends you into a spiral and because food is the main coping tool you have, you find yourself planning a binge later. Or maybe you just keep eating because why the H*ll not?!

This backlash binge eating often comes from hurt, pain and wanting to punishing ourselves for the initial “transgression”. And the initial “transgression” happens as a result of undereating, leading to feeling overly hungry and food being present.

It is natural to eat when we are physically hungry! And when we are overly hungry, it is even harder to make executive function decisions, so grabbing what is available makes total sense.

(Step 5 – Fear of weight gain / desire to get back in control) This is where you’ll find yourself in the aftermath of the binge episode. Often sitting a pool of shame, self-blame and self-loathing, it makes sense to reach back out for another diet or to “get back on the diet-wagon” again. Something that will simply put you back in the place of restriction, and so the cycle continues.


This is why we have to address the restriction in order to heal the binge eating.


This cycle can happen is a day or it can happen after days or weeks or even months of restricting. If the restriction has been going on for weeks or months, then it is not unlikely that the binge eating will happen over several days or weeks too.


With the Diet – Deprivation – Binge Cycle we are trying to fight physiology, and that is not supposed to work. If you are finding yourself binge eating after restricting food (or food groups) for a while, there is nothing wrong with you. In fact I would argue that your body is working quiet well.

Our bodies don’t want to be in a state of famine, that is not helpful to survival so when food becomes available we will naturally eat more than we need, because we are trying to make up for the restriction and as well as that we might also eat more because who knows when food will become available again??

It is important that this is often happen subconsciously. This is your body doing its best to keep you alive.


How do you step out of the Diet – Deprivation – Binge Cycle?


In my 3 part mini course I will take you through three practices that can help you get out of this diet – restrict binge cycle. You will get access to the course when you join my weekly newsletter (which is full of supportive things, I promise!)

Sign up in the box below.

Or if you are looking for some 1:1 support, feel free to book in for a free initial 30 min consultation here .

And exploring what giving yourself full permission to eat ALL foods can look and feel like, of course.