Your Relationship With Food — 7 Things to Consider

written by paul dermody

If you are happy with your outlook on food, I wouldn’t bother reading. From the heart, the last thing you need is more confusion. However if you’re a yo-yo dieter, I would consider reading. I can’t fix your problems. Things take time, but you never know. I may say something that totally changes the way you’ve been trying to diet, and that in my experience has been priceless.

This article is simply one man’s point of view, from years of Personal Training. They are the basis of how I build my coaching service — assuming you’re not in a good place with food and/or dieting.If you continue to do the same things over and over again you will have the exact same results. That shouldn’t shock you.

However with food and with dieting or whatever word you want to put on it you are never going to be where you want with it if you panic and stress every time things don’t go according to plan.A very healthy relationship with food is a pre-requisite to a healthy mind, a better body and an all-round better life. Food is one of the few things we need until the day we die. In fact, aside from oxygen and water I can’t really think of too many other things we need. Luckily our body involuntarily takes care of that process for us.

Now, I have no opinion on dieting

I think a “diet” can be the worst thing you take on if you’re not in a good place — with food or in life.Yet, I do think periods of dietary restriction are a very good idea. Why wouldn’t it be necessary to put a healthy restriction on anything easily accessible and easily abused as food? The difference is you must want to do so happily. There is no point doing it if it just sends you into over-drive thinking about all the things you can’t have for the moment — waiting for the moment you can go back eating everything you want in excess, and then some.

You must decide to do so because you see something worth having on the other end. A period of reduction can be beneficial. It can teach you appreciation, offer you a little focus and actually connect you to your hunger signals. That said, nothing is black and white.

Everything comes down to the individual.

The truth is we don’t see the world as it is. We see it as we ourselves our and if our lives are run by a dominating feeling of food-guilt and food-phobia than there is little chance any body composition changes arising from that circumstance will yield positive results or benefit us in any real way. We won’t be present to appreciate them. So as a coach, although things like calories matter, so too do habits, behaviours, your perception, your outlook and your overall relationship with food and the why you do everything.

Below are some things I would really like you to consider
1. Food isn’t good or bad. YOU’VE created the attachment
2. What will the next one satisfy that the previous couldn’t?
3. Understand that food will always be there
4. You have control
5. People will always have an opinion
6. It’s unspectacular. It’s a lot more mundane than you realise
7. Choose habits and behaviours to compliment knowledge

Food isn’t good or bad. YOU’VE created the attachment

Food is neither good nor bad. It’s food. Now I know you may be thinking “pizza vs a piece of broccoli” but when have you over-ate broccoli because “Fuck it”, or ordered one online in response to a stressful day?With “junk” foods, they are generally very high calorie and low nutrient which makes them easy to over-eat. More important very often we are fighting a feeling afterwards. We feel guilty, fat and like our progress is ruined. This leads to more over-eating. (This is why you need to consider the points in point 2)

Food is never good and bad. If your diet is made up of pizza every day then you have a bad diet that needs to be adjusted. If a pizza makes up one of your 28 meals per week then there is nothing wrong with that. Take a knife for example. Is that good or bad? Well it depends on whether or not you’re buttering your toast or stabbing another human to death. The details matter. They really, really matter. Like, really, really, really.

This may take some time to get your head around but if you’re ready to challenge your own beliefs about food, I think this is a great place to start.

What will the next one satisfy that the previous couldn’t?
So, if you’ve made it this far, there’s a chance you’re entertaining me on the fact I may be correct about part 1. Here’s the spoiler.Some foods are stupidly easy to over-eat. Some foods we eat on auto-pilot. Some are heavily calorific. Life would be dull without them.You really need to consider just how unsuccessful (uneducated) extreme dieting is when you consider how many events will be there in life (I’ll get to this in point 3.

This is where I need your attention.

Instead of thinking you messed up, why not ask yourself
“How much do I really want?”
“What will the next one do that the previous couldn’t satisfy?
Now that’s a genuine question. Indulgence may indeed be thy name on a given evening, but stopping to ask yourself what the second chocolate bar will satisfy that the first one didn’t.

Or what pizza slice number 4 is doing for you that the first 3 couldn’t do is a very empowering mindset around food, because you are aware in in control. You are actively improving your relationship with food and I just cannot think of any foundation more successful on which to build a diet upon. So try it, rather than eliminate food you want, next time have a smaller amount and ask yourself how much you really need and just what the next one will do that the last couldn’t satisfy

Everything is centred around food. The world really doesn’t care that you’ve decided to diet and it will not step aside. You will be at parties, events and weddings for the rest of your life and food will be the central theme — not to mention going to your parent’s house for Sunday lunch.

Understand that food will always be there.

You don’t need to eat like it’s your last day.
You don’t need to “give up” as if eating foods in excess is the default state.
You already have a diet. It may just need to be adjusted, not over-hauled. Factor in the fact food will always be there, and lace up your dietary marathon shoes and not your sprint shoes

You can say yes and you can say no and you get to do so happily despite any pressure that you feel is put on you.You get to nourish yourself and what’s good for you. You get to sit and taste food, chew it. Chew it a lot. Savour it. Enjoy it.

And you also get to say no when you don’t want to indulge.
There are times when a yes and a no will respectively enhance the mood and mindset you’re in and you are in the driving seat, even if it makes people feel a little uncomfortable.

People will always have an opinion. You’ll get advice — some well-meaning, some projection, some blatantly incorrect, some out of context. The onus is on you to entertain the advice without necessarily accepting it. Consider the following.

“Don’t eat X because it’s fattening”. It’s incorrect, incomplete and out-of-context, yet I know it’s tempting to listen to it, especially when you’re fighting years of conditioning around food.There is no individual statement that is true. You cannot look at heath, fitness and fat-loss through one variable. It’s wrong at best and dangerous at worse. Instead understanding how eating anything in excess can be fattening by the laws of calorie balance, but that must take into account other factors — lifestyle, exercise, movement, other food choices. I suggest to always seek a reason before applying advice and generally those worth listening to will argue the pros and the cons and let you make the decision that benefits you the most. That’s a mark of a mind worth listening to.

Don’t just hang your hat on an opinion. It is important to know that everyone will give you the answers to questions regardless of their knowledge — some of whom may not even have asked said question.

It’s unspectacular. It’s a lot more mundane than you realise.
Real results are more often than not unspectacular. That is, while the changes after months may be dramatic. I promise you, the day to day is not. So many people push the “Fuck it” button just because they perceive things to not be happening quickly enough. Our diets should not be something we dread. Eating for fat-loss should never be miserable, so if that’s your only association, you have to question it.

For example, if you set a time frame for a result, the goal is minimal effective dose. That is, adjust food just enough to illicit a response but not enough that it overly effects your day-to-day. It’s perfectly fine to not diet for fat-loss at any point, but please, please, PLEASE understand there is somewhere between 0 and 10. It doesn’t always have to be one extreme or the other. Real, healthy, habit-based results are often day-to-day unspectacular in that most days are mundane. When you want a new I-phone, you save more money with your current wage. You don’t just work 150 hours a week until burn-out and hope for the phone. It’s the same old process with a little more strategic spending and saving. In versus out.

Same concept, in my opinion!

Choose habits and behaviours to compliment knowledge
How many people do you know have gone to Slimming clubs and not eaten the day of the weigh-in so that they won’t be embarrassed just so they can go right back to the same behaviours that night? Understanding calorie balance will help get you into shape, but your behaviours and habits will keep you there. This is how people who track calories stop doing so and stay in the same improved shape. They kept the habits that the tracking encouraged.

I would argue learning to moderate and appreciate food is a learned skill and can absolutely become a habit that replaces fear — so much so that when you do have the inevitable bad day or two, you understand that the majority and indeed average of all your behaviours is what will really shape you and not one day in either extreme. One day of salads didn’t get you lean, and one take-away or even two won’t pile the pounds on either. So many things in life will happen between this moment and when we die and so many things will happen beyond our control. We will suffer loss, both short-term, long-term and sometimes deeply personal and our routine will go out the window in accordance with how we perceive the loss.

I do believe a decent plan executed now works a hell of a lot better than a meticulous plan executed never. I’d forgive you for thinking these questions are a little heavy or over-the-top but the gaps between someone in the fitness industry trying to maximise their physique versus someone at home struggling with weight-management are worlds apart — so much so that people find themselves so lost mistaking themselves as undisciplined, or unable when in reality the information that they apply may be not even close to applicable to them.

Don’t get me wrong. Nobody plays outside of the laws of calorie balance.
No one!

It is, however your relationship with yourself and your relationship with food that will always be the foundation of your entire existence and every project you undertake, every chapter of your life and every moment until your time here on earth ends. You need to look after it more than anything else. It will set the foundation for achieving whatever you want in life.

Life rarely happens in the black and white and any project worth being a part of can rarely be done in extremes. Your outlook on food will set the tone for whatever health goals you decide to achieve. It’s when you set goals in life from a place of abundance, that’s when they become all the more fulfilling — because achievement from love will always beat self-hate.

I hope you get something from this article. Bonne appetite!


Written by Paul

I want you to reconnect with the joy in food through appreciation, choice and autonomy.

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The Paul Dermody Podcast

Check out my weekly podcast. Through the podcast I want to share with you first the fundamentals of nutrition, no fads. On top of that I want you to reconnect with the joy in food through appreciation, choice and autonomy. I will share ideas from expert guests as well as poignant stories from clients of mine from those seeking weight nuetral outcomes all the way to those who have lost over 150 lbs.