3 Tips to Making Peace with Food 

tips for making peace with food

For someone in recovery from an eating disorder, the concept of a peaceful relationship with food may seem confusing. Part of many eating disorder treatment programs involves learning to see food as a healthy, necessary part of one’s physical, emotional, and overall health. Learning how to eat mindfully and to view food as neither good nor bad can help your teen to make peace with food as part of their eating disorder recovery.  

Understanding Mindful Eating 

When someone eats mindfully, they use their senses (both physical and emotional) to connect to the eating experience. Mindful, or intuitive, eating is based on mindfulness practices that encourage focusing your thoughts, emotions, and sensations on the present. When this practice is applied to eating, one focuses on what they eat, how they eat, and the eating experience. Mindful eating practices encourage you to make nourishing and satisfying food choices for your mind and body.  

At the same time, mindful eating discourages judgment or judging your eating behaviors because everyone’s eating experiences differ. Mindful eating aims to encourage and promote an enjoyable food and eating experience. Although mindful eating is not a substitute for comprehensive treatment if your teen has an eating disorder or you are concerned about eating disorder behaviors, applying mindful eating habits after treatment may help your teen to heal and be more food neutral. 

Eating Disorders vs. Disordered Eating 

Sometimes the phrases eating disorders and disordered eating are used interchangeably. While both concepts share some common features, it is vital to recognize that they are not the same. An eating disorder is a clinically diagnosed condition such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder. When your teen has an eating disorder, they experience certain symptoms related to food and diet that meet specific diagnostic criteria.  

On the other hand, disordered eating is a term used to describe abnormal or unhealthy eating patterns that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for a clinical eating disorder diagnosis. Although someone with an eating disorder may exhibit some disordered eating behaviors, not all teens (or adults) with disordered eating will have or meet the criteria for an eating disorder. This does not suggest that frequent disordered eating is not a cause for concern. Because these behaviors can sometimes be subtle and more difficult to recognize, they can be challenging to treat. Left unresolved or unaddressed, disordered eating behaviors can lead to the development of an eating disorder.  

Tips for Making Peace with Food  

A challenge many teens (and adults) face after eating disorder treatment is making peace with food. Although this may seem difficult at first, doing so allows you to develop a healthier, safer pattern of eating that helps you stick to the dietary recommendations of your treatment providers and not feel guilty or ashamed of eating. Below are three for your teen. 

Acknowledge when you are hungry 

When the body is hungry, it will send cues to the brain and stomach. Understanding when you are hungry is more than merely knowing if you are full or famished. The first step in making peace with food through mindful eating is to define your relationship with food. Consider the following: 

  1. Does your teen label food as good or bad? 
  1. Do they only eat from certain food groups? 
  1. Do they restrict food? 
  1. Do they only eat during certain times of the day?  
    Yes? The next question is why? Understanding why they follow specific eating patterns, such as those above or others, will help them define and improve their relationship with food. 
    Acknowledging hunger cues and eating mindfully requires acknowledging and then getting rid of food rules and restrictions. Many of these habits are created as part of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. When they are broken, it leads to feelings of shame and guilt often associated with various eating disorders. When someone is restricting their food, how they eat, or what they eat, they cannot eat mindfully. It is also vital to remember that ignoring hunger cues from your body is dangerous and can lead to the development of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. 

Trust what your body says 

A healthy relationship with food or “making peace with food” requires your teen to trust and take care of their body. When provided with the proper nutrients through food and an adequate diet, the body will continue functioning as necessary and work adequately to sustain life. However, it requires proper nourishment to do so. By following food rules and restricting dieting, you are not giving the body the right nutrients it needs to run like the finely tuned machine that it is.  

Part of mindful eating is remembering that it is OK to eat foods for both pleasure and for hunger. It is possible to eat foods that are less nutrient dense on occasion and still benefit from them. As mentioned in the above section, paying attention to hunger cues and eating because you are hungry ensures that vital body systems are adequately nourished and functioning properly. On the other hand, eating for pleasure is crucial because it leads to satisfaction and a comfortable relationship with food. 

Show yourself compassion and support 

Like recovery from an eating disorder, developing a pattern of mindful eating is not a simple or straightforward process. It is crucial to be flexible, patient, and understanding. There may be times when it is important to ignore or override hunger cues to provide your body with the nourishment it needs for activity. For example, your teen may not be hungry; however, if they are about to participate in a sporting event or another activity requiring energy, food is necessary for energy creation. Remember that choosing to eat food for nourishment or pleasure should not be a source of guilt or shame. Instead, look at the progress made in your recovery and be proud of that progress. Providing emotional support and encouragement for yourself throughout the healing process is vital to developing a peaceful and healthy relationship with food.  

Suppose your teen finds that they are experiencing challenges avoiding or breaking potentially harmful cycles such as adhering to diet culture, setting food rules and restrictions, or other patterns and beliefs that are opposite the tools and coping skills learned in therapy. In that case, it is important to reach out to a member of their treatment team here at Beachside Teen Treatment Center.  

help for teen disordered eating

Teen Eating Disorder Treatment at Beachside Teen Treatment Center  

The most effective eating disorder treatment programs depend on your teen’s treatment needs and symptoms as they enter treatment. It generally involves a combination of therapy (psychotherapy), nutritional education, medical monitoring, and in some cases, medications. For some who seek eating disorder treatment, the first step must be time spent healing their physical health before effective mental health treatment can begin. Without medical intervention, some of the physical complications caused by long-term eating disorders can lead to dangerous and potentially fatal medical complications.  

At Beachside Teen, we will work with your teen and family to develop a care plan based on your child’s specific needs and goals. These plans include therapy to address their eating disorder and other underlying medical and mental health complications that may cause or worsen their symptoms.  


Psychological therapies (talk therapies or psychotherapy) are perhaps the most vital component of teen eating disorder treatment. Psychotherapy involves working with a trained mental health practitioner to address the root causes of eating disorder symptoms. Depending on your teen’s treatment need, therapy may last for weeks, months, or sometimes years. Regardless of the duration of treatment, therapy models designed to address eating disorders can help your teen in a variety of ways. Treatment at an eating disorder therapy program may involve one or a combination of several different therapy models, including cognitive behavioral therapy, family-based therapies, and group treatment sessions. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for eating disorders focuses on the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that lie at the root of eating disorders. A goal of CBT is to encourage your teen to examine the beliefs that may have led to an unhealthy relationship with food before encouraging them to recognize and change those thoughts for healthier ones. Family-based therapies are designed to teach family members more about healthy eating patterns and eating disorder symptoms. Because the first few weeks of recovery post-treatment are often some of the most challenging, it is crucial for parents to participate in therapy so they can help their teens achieve and maintain a healthy weight until they can do it on their own. 

Nutrition education 

Another component of evidence-based, comprehensive eating disorder treatment is nutrition education. At Beachside Teen we work with your teen and family members to better understand eating disorder symptoms and to develop a healthy food plan to achieve and maintain healthy eating habits in the future. Nutrition education has several goals, including: 

  1. Understanding the keyways that nutrition affects the body, such as learning about how eating disorder behaviors lead to nutritional problems and medical concerns 
  1. Working towards establishing and maintaining a healthy weight 
  1. Practicing meal planning 
  1. Taking steps to learn about and avoid dieting or binge eating behaviors 
  1. Establishing regular daily eating patterns 
  1. Using nutrition to correct health problems resulting from harmful eating behaviors such as obesity or malnutrition. 


Some treatment plans involve the use of medications. It is crucial to mention that medications do not cure any diagnosed eating disorder. Additionally, medication use is most effective when combined with psychotherapy and nutritional therapies. Some providers may recommend antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications as part of an eating disorder treatment program. When used to treat eating disorders that involve binge eating behaviors, antidepressants may help to reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety that frequently co-occur. 

The safest and most effective way to overcome an eating disorder is to seek professional help at a teen-focused treatment program like ours in Malibu, CA. To learn more about how Beachside Teen Treatment Center can help your teen and family take the first steps toward eating disorder recovery, contact a member of our admissions team today to learn more about our programs.