It is easy to want a healthier relationship with food. With a busy schedule, however, this becomes more complicated. In fact, a major reason why fad diets continue to be popular, despite evidence of their danger to our health and relationship with food, is because of their promise of a quick fix. This appeals to the majority of adults who hope to achieve weight loss without excessive diet or exercise because of the time and effort these require.

Unfortunately, fad diets don’t just affect our physical health by exposing us to nutrition deficits. The Director of the Health Sciences Center at Rutgers, Charlotte Markey, explains how the marketing campaigns of fad diets lead people to prioritise weight loss above other factors because losing weight is how our entire lives will supposedly improve.

This is a very damaging view of food that veers towards the opposite direction of what a healthy relationship with food looks like — which is to view food as sustenance that makes you feel good physically and mentally. Thankfully, it is possible to fit a healthier relationship with food into your life despite a busy schedule. Keep reading for a closer look.

Busy schedules and eating habits

While fad diets have risen in popularity thanks to dubious marketing schemes, research tells us that people often do not create unhealthy eating habits by choice. A link between busy lives and convenience food has been established around the world. Experts from PFNDAI note how ready-to-cook (RTC) convenience foods were introduced to the market nearly a decade ago, to cater to working moms who had to handle both home and work. As dual-income families rise alongside numerous food delivery apps, while culinary skills continue to diminish, a transition from RTC to convenient ready-to-eat (RTE) products has been triggered.

A link between stress and unhealthy eating habits has been established as well. Psychologist Melissa McCreery explained in her book ‘The Emotional Eating Rescue Plan’ for Smart, Busy Women how being too busy is actually a hidden hunger that can contribute to overeating. Registered clinical counselor Jennifer Hollinshead agrees and states that emotional eating can become a habit that leads to weight gain, alongside feelings of being out of control around food. This cycle can develop into an unhealthy relationship with food.

McCreery then notes that it’s easy for busy people to believe that they don’t have time to tackle any changes in their eating habits. It becomes tempting to put these on hold and wait for a “better” time to address these goals, which is when the idea of a fad diet as a quick solution becomes very attractive.

A healthier relationship with food

There is no better time than today to address an unhealthy relationship with food because this can be done simultaneously with your everyday life. First, however, it is important to understand that major sacrifices or swearing off entire food groups to lose weight — in order to achieve a healthier body — isn’t necessary or even effective.

Markey explains that any time you’re being told something is fast and easy is probably a lie. Effective weight loss requires lifelong habits to be sustainable and healthy over a period of time. This can be built naturally without any need for dubious trends or supplements. In fact, natural weight loss can be achieved by simply tracking your food, alongside planning and prepping meals. The latter ensures that you eat more whole foods and cook more of your own meals instead of relying on restaurant drive-throughs or RTC and RTE options.

Our previous article expounds on the magic of meal planning as a solution for busy people. Planning ahead allows you to incorporate a range of foods and flavours into your diet, and when paired with modern delivery services, you can create a monthly meal plan with a food delivery every week. What’s key, however, is to remember that your meal plans aren’t a strict regimen. They are a means for you to exercise flexibility in the food you consume, while sticking to a healthy and balanced diet, so don’t be afraid to get creative and include dishes that you know you love and enjoy.

Flexibility is essential for a healthy relationship with food. Research from Eating Disorders concluded that lower flexibility was a strong independent predictor of more severe ED-related cognitions. Flexibility allows you to accept the natural changes to your normal daily routine. Your role is to give yourself these options, like expanding the variety of dishes in your plan or stocking the pantry with healthier snacks from nuts to fruits so that you turn to these options when overwhelmed. Meanwhile, you can work towards addressing stress through other coping mechanisms outside of food, such as five-minute meditation exercises or morning jogs.

Creating a healthier relationship with food takes effort because of the external and societal factors that make it less accessible. With patience, we can empower ourselves to overcome our busy lifestyles, so that we enjoy a healthier relationship with food for the years to come.