Your Relationship With Food

Breaking Up Your Relationship With Food

December 4, 2015

It is not easy to break your relationship with food. When you think about relationships, what feelings come to mind? Love, safety, contentment, happiness, sadness, disappointment? These are the common feelings we experience during the relationships in our lives.

Making changes in our lives and relationships are seldom easy. They require time, self-awareness and commitment to change.

You need to become aware of how the relationship you’ve had with food has served you.

How did turning to food benefit you?  You then must honestly assess, and accept, that food no longer serves you as it has in the past. Once this awareness and acceptance have been made, you can stop relying on self-defeating eating habits and take the necessary steps to break free.

Think about a difficult situation or relationship. It could have been with your mother, father, boyfriend, girlfriend or any other significant person in your life.  What happened? How did you deal with it? Did you run away? Did you avoid confrontation? Did you turn to food? You may have turned to food because it can be a powerful substitute. It can provide immediate comfort or distraction. Seldom does it enable you to manage or resolve uncomfortable situations or feelings.

First, you would need to go back to how you developed your relationship with food before we can discuss the final breakup. By the way, it may take a few attempts at the break up before you do, just like the process it can take with other difficult breakups in your past.

Questions for Insights Into Your Relationship With Food

  • How did you end up with the relationship you have with food?
  • How do you use food?
  • Did your parents, grandparents or someone in your life give you food to comfort you, like when you scraped your knee and came home crying?
  • Was food given in a very measured way?
  • Were you in a competition to get the food because you came from a large family?
  • Were you rewarded with food like the lollipop after the doctor appointment?
  • Were you punished and/or deprived of food when you refused to eat the meal served?
  • Were your household dynamics so chaotic that you coped by eating food?
  • Did you begin to hoard or secretly eat in your room?
  • Was there a trauma that caused you to find safety and security with food?

Our relationship with food can be very complex. Rather than it being used for fuel and nourishment, we can sometimes unconsciously develop eating behaviors that become shameful and self-destructive.

After surgery, the cravings and our desire for food often diminish as we begin the weight loss journey. Initially, physical hunger is no longer an issue driving us to eat. But at some point, our hunger is going to return. Is this emotional or physical hunger? Unfortunately, our previous relationship with food can cause us to return to harmful eating patterns and behaviors. Once again, changing our habits and relationship with food as a post-op can be quite difficult and complex.

Strategies to Change Your Old Relationship With Food

So how do you change your old relationship with food? Here are some strategiesI believe can help you. Yes, there is some work involved. Good things don’t come easy but they are worth it!

Keep a Journal

Ask yourself the following questions as you journal:

  • What happened right before the craving?
  • What were you doing?
  • Where were you?
  • What was your mood?
  • What food or type of food were you craving?
  • What triggers took place that week, or even during the last 24 hours?
  • What was the feeling driving the craving, and what time of day was it?
  • Will eating this food really resolve the issue?

Most importantly, refocus and remember why you had the surgery. What were your hopes, and goals? Will this craving get you any closer to your post-op achievements? Think about how good you have felt after having weight loss surgery. Remember how you felt prior to the surgery, struggling with health issues, physical limitations, inability to carry out activities of daily living as well as a poor self-image.

Create a Vision Board

This will allow you to visually collage your goals, dreams, and desires. Cut out pictures, words, use photos and/or any other medium that will affirm how you visualize your life post surgery. Do you want a relationship, a new job, or to travel with the goal of being on a plane without an extension? Do you want to be able to go on the rides at an amusement park, and not be just the observer? Do you want to have a family, a new career, and/or more financial security? Create this board as a reminder of what you want in your life in a year, 5, 10, 15 years down the road.

Tips To Handle Cravings

  • Listening to calming music.
  • Meditation.
  • Calling a friend.
  • Surfing the web.
  • Coloring.
  • Crossword puzzles.
  • Crocheting.
  • Knitting.
  • Taking a drive or a walk to change your environment.
  • Get a good book you can lose yourself in, and read it.
  • Check out other things you can do to avoid emotional eating.

Tame Your Cravings

Set the timer when the urge begins. Set it for the longest period you think you can go before you may give in to the craving. It may be 5 minutes at first. Work your way up to 30 minutes and beyond. During this time you can use as many of the strategies listed as possible. There is the likelihood the craving and urges will pass, and/or you may give in to the craving.

If you give into cravings, it will be with an awareness of how this behavior does not resolve the emotions and or situations that may be troubling you.

How do you change your relationship with food? As we have established, changing your relationship with food can be challenging and oftentimes daunting. It is a decision that has to be made consciously and with conviction because you have come to the realization that this relationship has often depleted you of all the happiness you deserve. When you begin to change and modify your ineffective food habit, you will become confident knowing that food is a positive and healthy part of your life, and not a liability.

Breaking up your relationship with food is attainable, and will be another positive decision you have made in your life after having weight loss surgery!

Your Relationship With Food


Jean Marie Rafferty is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a trained ObesityHelp Support Group Leader, and a member of ObesityHelp’s Professional Network. She has completed training as a Bariatric Support Centers International Life Coach, Back on Track facilitator and WLS Success Habits facilitator.

Read more articles by Jean!
daria dodds


Daria Dodds is a clinical social worker who has worked in the field of psychiatry over 25 years. During the last 14 years she has specialized in eating disorders and is presently employed at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s Eating Disorder Partial Hospital Program in Port Jefferson, NY.