A group of friends sharing food together at a food market

How to have a healthy relationship with your body

Published on
29 February 2024

For many children and young people, the pressure to have the ‘perfect body’ can feel overwhelming. We know this can damage your sense of self-worth and your mental health and, sometimes, it can cause you to develop an unhealthy relationship with your body. 

During Eating Disorders Awareness Week, our mental health expert Lydia Davies has some helpful advice if you or someone you know is struggling with eating because of a negative body image. 

What to do if you or a friend is struggling with eating and body image 

Sometimes, it’s difficult to have a positive relationship with our bodies, especially when that comes to food, diet and appearance. It’s easy to feel under pressure from school, friends and social media to look a certain way. When we have an unhealthy relationship with food and our bodies, we might start to think a lot about the food we are eating, exercise too much, and start to change our habits and routines. That can have a hugely negative impact on our physical and mental health. 

Having an unhealthy relationship with food and our bodies can lead to disordered eating and, if not identified and treated early enough can, in some cases, lead to an eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia.

Lydia Davies

Mental health expert

Although it’s often a long and challenging process, it is possible to overcome disordered eating or an eating disorder and have a healthy relationship with food and body image again. Having the right support in place is essential to help you on the road to recovery so you can get back to enjoying eating and feeling good about your food choices. Here’s how: 

Talk to someone you trust 

They say a problem shared is a problem halved. Talking to a trusted person, such as a friend, family member, carer, or schoolteacher can help you to think about what you can do and what support you can get to start feeling better. 

Practice positive affirmations  

Positive affirmations are statements we repeat to ourselves to help challenge negative thoughts and feelings we may be experiencing. When you believe the words you’re saying or even act upon them – that can help you to create change or reach a goal.   

You can use positive affirmations at any time of the day and on a regular basis. You can write them in a journal or say them to yourself when you’re getting ready to go to school or out with friends, looking in the mirror or at mealtimes. An example of a positive affirmation is ‘I am good enough and complete just the way I am’. Saying this to yourself – and meaning it – can help to retrain your brain to feel more positive about what’s concerning you.  

Have a digital detox 

Social media can be a triggering place if you’re feeling insecure about your body and appearance. But there’s a lot of positive content online too. Search out people who support body confidence and individuality, and don’t feel like you have to conform to any kind of beauty standard. This should be a friendly and empowering way of reminding you to feel positive about your own body and happy in your own skin.  

These Instagram accounts are a good place to start: 






Talk to a healthcare professional 

If you think you would benefit from some additional support, then it’s always a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional, like your GP. They can provide you with help and guidance, and they can connect you to other helpful healthcare experts like a counsellor or nutrition specialist, if needed.   

Depending on your age, where you live, and the severity and impact of your disordered eating or eating disorder, they may refer you to your local NHS mental health eating disorder service or an NHS specialist eating disorder unit.  

How to help your child or young person with disordered eating or an eating disorder 

If you’re a parent, carer, or someone who’s concerned about a child who might be struggling with an eating disorder, it can feel difficult to know how to help. Here are some important tips to help you to offer support when it’s needed: 

Aim to have an open and honest conversation  

If you have noticed that your child’s relationship with food and their body has changed, this could be worrying for you. Being able to talk openly with them about it is an important step on the way to recovery as it shows a recognition of the possible need for support.  

Be patient and calm as this should help your child to feel comfortable to talk about how they have been feeling. Allow them to open up in their own time which will help to build a trusting relationship. Starting a conversation with ‘I am worried about you’ or ‘I feel that...’, can also help with this.  

Try to encourage a mealtime routine 

The regular routine of mealtime can be difficult to keep up with if your child is struggling with food. Try and gently bring it back by taking the focus off the food and onto spending time together as a family with general positive conversation. This can help to divert attention away from food, which can be triggering and establish a routine again, which is an important step forward.  

Get support for yourself  

Supporting your child with disordered eating or an eating disorder can be difficult and impact on your mental health and wellbeing too.  

Make sure you schedule some time in for yourself, whether that is going for a walk in the fresh air, practicing mindfulness or reading a book. If you need additional support, your GP, local community organisations and specialist charities may also be able to help too.  

For more information, we’ve partnered with the East London NHS Foundation Trust for Be Body Positive, an online resource for children, young people, parents, carers and healthcare professionals to offer help, advice and support with disordered eating.  

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