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How To Change Your Mindset About Food, According to a Dietitian

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How To Change Your Mindset About Food, According to a Dietitian

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • If you have a history of dieting, your mindset about food may be influenced by diet culture and food rules. 
  • A negative mindset may include labeling foods as good or bad, feeling guilty if you don’t follow your eating plan, and avoiding some foods entirely. 
  • Changing your mindset about food can help you develop sustainable eating behaviors to achieve your health goals.  

You probably already know that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is healthy.

But why is it hard to stick to these food choices, and why do you feel guilty if you eat something else?

A closer look at your mindset about food could unlock helpful information on your relationship with eating. 

In this article, we’ll review how you can change your mindset about food by embracing all foods in moderation. 

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Changing Your Mindset About Food

Food is necessary for energy and essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

However, the diet industry, which is filled with unsustainable fad diets, gives the illusion that food choices can be easily manipulated to help you lose weight overnight (or “fix” other areas of your health, like high blood sugar levels).

We know this isn’t possible because sustainable changes take time

The diet and weight loss industry has a history of labeling foods as good or bad, and you may feel guilty if you eat something from the “restricted” list.

This approach to nutrition is limiting and impossible to maintain in the long term.

These thoughts can make you feel stuck in your health goals and strain your relationship with food. 

Instead, remember that food is not good or bad, and you should never feel guilty for nourishing your body.

Identifying Negative Thoughts About Food

If you have a history of dieting or following rigid meal plans, you may have been exposed to negative thoughts about food.

Over time, you may have embraced these thoughts as your own.

Still, you can challenge them by digging deeper into your values around nutrition and questioning if your beliefs about food are harmful or helpful.  

Here are questions you can ask yourself to assess your thoughts on food.

If you answer yes to any of these, you may want to meet with a dietitian to discuss your results: 

  • Do you follow fad diets? (Keto diet, paleo diet, intermittent fasting, Atkins diet, South Beach diet, etc.)  
  • Are you preoccupied with food, including planning every meal? 
  • Do you criticize yourself if you eat more than you planned? 
  • Do you judge yourself for eating something that wasn’t “permitted?”
  • Do you label foods as good or bad, healthy or junky?

If you constantly feel like you’re playing a game of tug-of-war with your food choices, you may benefit from changing your mindset about food. 

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Shifting Your Perspective on Food and Eating

If you want to shift your perspective on food and eating, it can be helpful to remember why various foods are essential to your health.  

Carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel source and are naturally found in fruits, some starchy vegetables, grains, and animal-based dairy products.

Many of these foods also contain vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants—which help reduce your risk of chronic diseases and cancer. 

Protein is the building block for all cells and tissues and helps you feel full after eating.

Current nutrition guidelines recommend including a variety of plant-based protein sources in your diet in addition to lean animal meats (unless you follow a vegetarian or vegan eating pattern).

Plant-based protein sources include beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds. 

Fat is essential for absorbing vitamins D, E, A, and K; it also helps you feel full after eating and makes food taste great.

Most often, you’ll want to pick health-promoting sources of fat rich in unsaturated fatty acids, which include nuts and seeds, nut butter, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon.

Of course, you can enjoy other options, like a cookie or sweet treat in moderation. 

Knowing that all these foods contribute to your health, satiety, and enjoyment of meals can help shift your perspective about food and eating.

Remember, food fuels your body, celebrates your culture, and satisfies feelings of nostalgia. 

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Practical Tips for Developing a Positive Food Mindset

There are different modalities to help you develop a positive food mindset.

An evidence-based approach is intuitive eating, which includes mindfulness practices and encourages you to reject diet culture. 

Embracing intuitive eating can be a game-changer for people with a history of following fad diets.

They can achieve food freedom by nourishing themselves without feeling guilty afterward.

You can apply intuitive eating principles by making these changes today: 

  • Honor your hunger by eating when you’re hungry (instead of muting your appetite).
  • Make peace with food by permitting yourself to enjoy anything you like.  
  • Challenge the food police by saying no to unreasonable food rules. 
  • Slow down and savor food instead of rushing through meals. 
  • Learn to recognize your body’s fullness signals after eating. 
  • Respect your body instead of criticizing it. 
  • Ditch the idea of a perfect diet. All foods can fit into a balanced eating plan. 

A positive mindset about food is inclusive and flexible.

Every day, choose foods that make you feel excited to eat and taste delicious.

If you’re unsure how to prepare food, consider taking a cooking class to expand your knowledge and skills in the kitchen. 

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Navigating Challenges and Setbacks

It takes time to change your mindset, and setbacks can occur.

If you repeat negative messages to yourself, remember to respond with kindness and self-compassion. Y

ou can make narratives positive by highlighting a win.

For example, you could say, “My food mindset has expanded so much since I started challenging food rules,” instead of “I’m never going to hit my health goal.” 

Developing self-awareness of negative thoughts is a significant accomplishment; over time, embracing a positive mindset toward food will be easier. 

Here are simple tips for navigating challenges and setbacks: 

  • Make small, realistic goals. 
  • Attend regular dietitian appointments to build accountability. 
  • Continue learning between appointments by reading relevant books or listening to podcasts. 
  • Only follow social media accounts that share positive messaging around food. 

Track your progress through journaling without judgment or criticism.

Write down challenging moments, and include positive experiences you’re proud of.

You can reflect on this information whenever you need a boost of assurance. 

Takeaway

Sticking to an eating pattern because you’re told it's healthy might not be enough buy-in to make it last.

Changing your mindset about food can be the next layer to helping you build a sustainable nutrition plan that makes you feel satisfied and happy. 

Start by reflecting on your thoughts about specific foods or eating in general.

You can address these with a dietitian during your nutrition appointment. 

Your dietitian may recommend intuitive eating to help you improve your relationship with food.

This modality encourages you to ditch food rules for good and instead focus on nourishing your body without feeling guilty. 

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How a Dietitian Can Help

A registered dietitian is a nutrition expert and health care professional.

Through individual counseling, a dietitian can teach you why a healthy mindset towards food is beneficial and help you take actionable steps to heal your relationship with food.

You may not know what to expect if you’ve never met with a dietitian. Here are questions to ask during your appointment: 

  • Why am I scared to eat certain foods
  • Are there any foods I need to avoid? 
  • How can I eat healthy while dining out? 
  • I’m tired of dieting—can you help me build a sustainable eating plan? 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I reset my mind about food?

Working with a registered dietitian is a great way to reset your mindset toward food.

Through individual counseling, you can explore beliefs regarding nutrition and address any negative thoughts about food.

How can I rewire my brain to eat less?

There’s nothing wrong with eating food to nourish your body, but some days, you may have more than you need, making you feel physically uncomfortable. 

Instead of trying to rewire your brain to eat less, focus on tuning into your hunger and fullness cues—this is your body’s way of telling you it’s had enough food.

After eating, most people will be comfortable and no longer feel hungry.

What triggers the brain to tell you to stop eating?

When you’re full, a hormone called leptin signals to your hypothalamus that you’ve had enough to eat.

It can take time for this signal to make itself known after eating, and waiting fifteen minutes after a meal is recommended to give your body a chance to assess hunger levels.

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