8 Ways To Change Your Relationship To Food

Mindset // Lisa Donaldson // 8 February 2016

For many people, the relationship with food is a tricky one to say the least. 12WBT Dietitian Lisa Donaldson shares her top tips on how to work towards changing your relationship to food, for good. Start by incorporating one or two of her tips today, and build from there!

1. Avoid labelling foods good and bad

When we say we are good when we eat a salad and bad when we eat a chocolate bar, is it any wonder guilt creeps in and leaves us feeling as though we have failed? Food is there to be savoured and enjoyed, and if our language leads us to feeling desperately unhappy, we need to change that language. Next time you have a chocolate bar, instead of saying how ‘naughty’ you’ve been, just say, ‘this is delicious’ and move on.

2. Listen to your feelings, but don’t respond with food

Erica from the Support Crew says, “One of the best things you can do is work out what feelings your reward food/drink gives you. For example, joy, comfort, love, freedom, rebellion, relaxation, de-stress, etc. Then look for other ways to feel this (e.g. buy some new clothes, have a hot bath, book yourself a massage, go rock climbing, call a friend, enjoy a hot cup of tea and perhaps a couple of squares of Lindt 70% dark chocolate, read a good book, etc.). Find other ways to feel what you are searching for, so that food doesn’t have to do it for you.”

Also read: 10 Reasons You Can’t Stop Eating

3. Avoid banning foods

Banning foods inevitably leads to an internal battle, whereby that ‘banned food’ starts to dominate your thoughts. If you want a packet of salt and vinegar crisps so desperately that it’s all you can think about, have a few crisps, eat them slowly and savour them. There’s no point banning something to only face a desperate binge at a later date.

4. Eat for health

As soon as someone explains that they are on a ‘diet’ they start to feel deprived and restricted. A ‘diet’ or a change in eating habits does not need to mean that you should be feeling starved and hangry. Think about all the foods you can eat regularly as part of a balanced diet and enjoy them – plant foods, lean protein, smart carbs and plentiful wholefoods – and eat for health.

Also read: 10 Foods for a Natural Boost

5. Eat to feel satisfied, not stuffed

The Japanese have this wonderful saying ‘hara hachi bu’, which simply means eating to 80% full. If you eat to the point that your clothes feel tight and you need to undo a belt, slow down! Find that point where you feel happily satisfied before you feel horribly stuffed. Don’t forget it takes up to 20 mins to truly register fullness.

6. Avoid obsessing over food or the scales

Erica from the Support Crew states, “Don’t stress about what you’re eating every day and put away the scales for a while. Sometimes it is more important to focus on giving yourself some extra love, enjoying nutritious meals and a little of those foods you love and listening to your body. Take the pressure off – it’s amazing what a difference this can make. Trust that you know what foods will nourish your body, how much you need to eat, which types of exercise will challenge your body and relax your mind.As Mish says, “Aim for progress, not perfection”. Do the best you can, forget about the scales and worrying about your next meal. Focus on you instead.

If you’re looking to shift the weight but have it STAY off, you’ll need to change your mindset. Find out how you can do it in our upcoming 12WBT round.

7. Give yourself permission to eat

When you give yourself permission to enjoy a piece of salted caramel, or to have a choc top at the movies, you are releasing a whole lot of stress that can come with eating indulgent foods. It’s OK to have any food, just watch your portions and eat slowly and mindfully. If you scoff something down, the delicious experience vanishes very quickly. Instead, take your time and really enjoy that moment.

8. Have fun with food!

Pull out a recipe book, invite some friends over, host a party or create something you never thought possible. Get in the kitchen and reconnect with the YOU who loves playing in the kitchen. Create foods that impress your friends, but more importantly impress YOU!  


Boost your confidence



  1. Maria Reply

    Dear 12wbt staff.
    Just wondering if your program has an option for vegetarian recipes.
    Thank you. Maria

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Maria – Absolutely! When the Meal Plans become available you will be able to access a separate vegetarian Meal Plan with delicious, well balanced meals. There is also a separate vegetarian Shopping List and a ‘Vegetarian Diet’ Fact Sheet. Our definition of ‘vegetarian’ is no meat – but there will be some dairy, and eggs in the plan. If there is a recipe in the Meal Plan you don’t like, you can always substitute it with another from the 12WBT Recipe Index so long as you are sticking to your daily calorie allowance!

      Hope this helps 🙂

      12WBT Support Crew

  2. Linda Howard Reply

    Hi, I’m not sure how to get pre program instructions, eg meals & exercise?

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Linda – While Pre-Season has been underway for the past 4 weeks, you still have time to catch up on and complete your Pre-Season Tasks over the next 1.5 weeks in order to be ready for the start of the round on the 13th June. Many members join close to the start of a round so you definitely won’t be on your own.

      Once you have joined head to your home page by clicking on the 12WBT logo in the navigation bar at the top of your screen and locate the Pre-Season Tasks, start from Week 1 and work your way through until you catch up.

      Once you are up to speed then you can spend some time exploring the Recipe and Exercise Index which you have access to during Pre-Season, this is a great resource and means that you can make a start straight away by trying out our recipes and exercises to see what works for you.

      Michelle recommends that members refer to their Pre-Season Tasks regularly throughout the 12 weeks of the program, to help them stay on track and achieve success.

      The Express Workouts and Online Workout Videos are also available as soon as Pre-Season begins, so you can make a start on your exercise.

      Our Meal Plans and Exercise Plans go live on the Thursday of the last week of Pre-Season. Each upcoming week’s Meal and Exercise Plans continue to be released each Thursday thereafter, for the duration of the twelve weeks of the round.

      At the end of Week 12, the 12WBT Meal and Exercise Plans will no longer be accessible. Check out this FAQ for more info: https://go.12wbt.com/help/486-what-happens-when-the-12wbt-program-finishes-and-what-content-can-i-access

      All the very best for a fantastic round!
      12WBT Support Crew

Contact Us directly if you have a specific question.

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