The Client’s Relationship With Food

Food can be used for many purposes, aside from fulfilling physical hunger. Sometimes our past can have quite a significant influence on how we eat now- this is why addressing the psychology of eating and the client’s relationship with food is such a key part of effective weight management.


If an individual experienced a parent always being on a diet, or the parent worried about the child being overweight, they might have restricted the child’s food in some way, such as by exercising rigid portion control. This might have resulted in the child overeating as an adult, in order to defy that parent, or rebel against them- perhaps without being aware of it. Experiencing food restriction as a child might have then led to a fear of deprivation or a fear of hunger, possibly leading to a need for fullness, and therefore a person’s relationship with food might be unhealthy, dominated by overeating.

The Client's Relationship With FoodNot Learning To Express Your Feelings

If it wasn’t the ‘done thing’ to get upset or express negative feelings, you might have learned as a child that it was necessary to pretend everything was ok, even when it wasn’t. If a child doesn’t learn to express certain feelings, they might eat instead of expressing how they feel. In this way, food might then be used, in adulthood, to self-soothe or to obliterate a particular emotion, with that person turning to food whenever they feel upset.

To Fill A Void

If a person received little love, encouragement and nurturing as a child, or spent much time alone, that child might have grown up emotionally unfulfilled, and with a poor sense of self. As an adult they might even find it difficult to enter intimate relationships, leading to isolation. There is quite a strong link between being emotionally ‘full’ or ‘empty’ and being physically full or empty, and the person may find it hard to distinguish between the two- they might turn to food in an attempt to fill an emotional void, and feel the need to eat the moment they feel hungry. An unhealthy relationship with food may develop, whereby there is an unhelpful preoccupation with food. This preoccupation with food can lead to a fear of hunger, and it might also lead to eating until excessively full. For some individuals, bingeing rather than talking becomes an unhealthy habit, as food is turned to instead of people in time of need. If a person has little experience of loving, fulfilling relationships, they might not have the resources to nurture and care for themselves- this might lead to a harsh inner critic, low self-esteem, a lack of self-respect, and possibly self-neglect, leading to poor food choices and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Fear of DietingCarrots

A person’s relationship with food and how they approach dieting as an adult might be influenced by how they approached dieting as a young adult or teenager. If, as a teenager, they went on very strict diets to lose weight, they might have learned to associate dieting with hunger and discomfort, and have the false belief that in order to lose weight, or to be in control of food, you have to be hungry. The belief that losing weight involves hunger and restriction can result in procrastinating- putting off the diet until next week, because you can’t face the idea of dieting, and might even lead to overeating.

Not Knowing What You’re Craving

Food cravings or a strong desire to eat could be a manifestation of craving something else, be it companionship, love, affection, encouragement or even fun. If a person experienced being often let down by others in childhood, this could lead to an inability to trust or rely on other people in adulthood. In such cases, food can become a best-friend, as it can provide temporary relief from a craving or need. When food becomes a person’s main source of pleasure, this can lead to an unhealthily strong attachment to food.

Family’s Reaction To A Child’s Size And Shape

If you were overweight as a child, any ongoing critical comments might have led you to falsely believe that you were destined to be fat, leading to a sense of hopelessness and perhaps overeating as a result.

Thinking about how you might be using food and identifying possible triggers can be valuable in terms of helping you to understand your relationship with food. However, it’s not about blaming others, it’s about creating awareness. Some ways in which you can explore your own relationship with food might include:-

  • Learning how to make the link between what is going on and what you are doing with food
  • Finding other ways of coping besides food
  • Developing a positive sense of self
  • Learning to become more associated with your feelings and learning how to deal with them
  • Finding ways to be good to yourself, more attentive to your own needs
  • Seeking the support of others in times of need, and learning to rely on others
  • Recognising that food only provides temporary relief.

If you think you might be using food in an unhealthy way, it’s important that you learn to invest in yourself. Recognise that investing in yourself, learning to understand yourself and learning to love yourself is the first step to breaking habits and behaviours that don’t serve you. In addition, recognising the importance of exploring the psychology of eating and your relationship with food in order to help yourself is key.

If you would like help in addressing your relationship with food, give me a call for an initial chat on 07961 423120 or email me at

I am based in Camberley, Surrey, but I also offer Skype sessions for clients living in other parts of the UK and elsewhere.