Shifting Your Relationship with Food & Exercise

Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC

"Mirror mirror on the wall; you do not get to make the call. Of whom I am or how I see, the beauty inside and out of me." (Author unknown)

We only have one life to live. Body is a crucial way to enhance our life. Ensuring your relationship with food and exercise is as healthy as the other relationships are imperative. Being healthy is an everyday choice. Truly accepting yourself for who you are is allowing your body to be in its skin, not comparing yourself to others, or worrying about how the media considers today's beauty standard to be acceptable can assist you in increasing your self-esteem. Size and the scale do not determine your overall health. It is how you feel, see yourself, and are active. However, in saying that, discussing your weight with your healthcare provider for additional assistance on maintaining, losing, or increasing weight is essential.

How we view our bodies is more than what we see when we look in the mirror, but it can be challenging for some people to look past physical appearances (Walters, 2020). A positive body image can be challenging, but having a negative outlook is harmful and could put someone at risk of an eating disorder (Walters, 2020).

What is Your Relationship with Food?

When you think about your relationship with food, ask yourself why I am eating right now. Is it because I am hungry, bored, sad, or under much pressure? Another question to ask yourself is, why am I not eating? Why may I have negative thoughts about my food, and how can I change those thoughts into new beliefs and eventually positive ones? Suppose you are not hungry, and other emotions are popping up for you. In that case, it is vital to recognize those emotions, identify your triggers, and overcome the temptations by finding other things to keep you occupied. However, if you are hungry, then eat. Changing your mindset on your actions is critical and thinking of food as fuel. However, we all have slip-ups, and it is okay. If you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle and have had a slip, then allow yourself permission to make a mistake, but it does not mean that you must throw your intent to have a healthier life out the window.

You do not have to clean your plate. It is okay to listen to your body. If you are full, then stop eating. A healthy lifestyle allows you to think of your body as a foundation. Allow yourself to look at your body instead of physical traits. If you can look at all the good qualities that you see in yourself within your body and physical characteristics, it will increase your self-esteem. Thinking of how your body will enable you to get through a long day, fight off a virus, and get you from here to there will allow you to look at your body differently. Once you can change your mindset and stop comparing yourself to other people or media, you will appreciate your body for what it is and change your relationship with food.

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Movement is Important to Feeling Healthy

Get out there and move, make the changes you need to be healthy and start each day with gratitude. It may be easier some days than others to start positively but remember, and each day is a new day to start living with a healthy relationship with food. Movement makes you feel better. When you exercise, it brings out endorphins in your body, which are feel-good chemicals. Sometimes it is not easy to be motivated to move; maybe that tv show is calling your name and use that as a reward after some activity. Find the exercises that are right for you. What do you enjoy doing? Weights and core exercises are essential in your exercise regimen. Cardio and cardio intervals can allow less time spent on the treadmill or elliptical. If you dread exercise, find something you enjoy, like pickleball, walking, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, or anything that gets you up off the couch and allows your body to move.


Loving Yourself For Who You Are

Remember, you are unique. The way you view your body is connected to your self-esteem. Environment, social media, memories, and societal messages are connected to how people perceive themselves (Walters, 2020). Personal experiences, family, and friends contribute to how people may feel about themselves, as do inner thoughts. There are no two bodies precisely the same. The less you worry about what someone else looks like and the more you can say positive things to yourself, the better you will feel about who you are. Finding positive things may not always be easy but look for one physical trait and two characteristics you like about yourself. Tell yourself, "I am fine as I am, I am doing the best I can, and I am capable of working towards my body image goals." The word capable is helpful when it is hard to find something kind to say to yourself because we are all capable. The better you feel about yourself, the easier to have a healthier relationship with food and exercise.

How do you start to love who you are?

  • There is power in positivity. Look in the mirror and say at least positive things about yourself—two about your character and one about your physical appearance. Tell yourself why these things are important in feeling better about yourself. Jot your positive affirmations around the mirror or in visible spaces to remind yourself.
  • The clothing you choose can influence how you feel about yourself. If you feel good in an outfit you will feel better about your self-esteem and body image.
  • Make sure the social media that you engage in does not give you negative feelings about your body, food intake, or exercise. Delete people or platforms that do not lift your spirits. Follow social media accounts that make you feel good or more positive. Limit the amount of time spent on social media.
  • Move your body; if you hate exercise, find things you enjoy doing. You need to move. It will make you feel better about your overall health. Talk to a personal trainer for ideas to enhance your movement.
  • Forgive yourself and give yourself permission to have that cookie, piece of cake, or hotdog. It is about moderation, does not deprive yourself of things you want, and could make it more challenging to sustain.
  • Accept your body for what it is, appreciate that your body can help you get through a long day, get you from here to there, and fight off disease. Value yourself!

Valuable Information from Two Local Personal Trainers

Michael Collier suggests that body image is endorsed by society. He continues to share that marketing and advertisers promote weight loss programs and products that prey on human longing for love, acceptance, and recognition (Michael Collier, personal communication, July 2023, 2023). Michael also discusses that social media can provide images with photoshopping, make people not look realistic, or the images of what people to be considered the "perfect body" are undernourished, dehydrated, and suffering from hormonal imbalances to name a few (Collier, 2023). Michael, 2023 believes that when people focus on improving their health by listening to how the body feels, moves, and functions, not focusing on the scale or what society suggests you should look like, they will better appreciate their own bodies. Additionally, he suggests not to look at what your body was 10, 20, or 30 years ago or compare yourself to the younger you as it can become discouraging; the goal is to be a better version of yourself each day. He provides personal training and nutrition services in Southwest Michigan; for more information, he can be reached at


Jess, another local personal trainer, provided insight into body image and was eager to share her thoughts. She believes women are often negative regarding their bodies. It is easy to find something we do not like about ourselves or want to change (Jess Polnasek, personal communication, July 2023). Switching your mindset to love yourself can be challenging but not impossible, according to Jess, 2023. Loving the body, we have is done by taking care of it. She believes you do not need to spend hours in the gym or deprive yourself of eating foods you enjoy (Polnasek, 2023). Jess, 2023 recommends balancing, being consistent, and planning. She promotes giving yourself grace if you slip up and further shares that no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes, which is okay (Polnasek, 2023). It is important not to compare yourself to others as everyone has a different journey or path and understand that change takes time and is not immediate (Polnasek, 2023). Jess Polnasek, 2023 finalizes her insight by reminding people to trust the process. That actual change occurs when you can look at your body physically and recognize the mental aspects related to your body image. If you would like more information about Jess, she can be reached at



Collier, M, 2023. Personal Communication, July 2023

Polnasex, J, 2023. Personal Communication, July 2023

Larosa-Waters, 2020 5 Secrets to Cultivating Positive Body Image. Reasons Eating Disorder Center.  National Alliance for Eating Disorders

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