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Building a healthy relationship with food in India

Updated: 5 days ago

What is eating disorders ?

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can happen to anyone. That's not about wanting to be thin or being picky eaters, but rather a mix of mental health struggles and unhealthy eating habits. These illnesses can make people sick, both physically and emotionally.

In India, studies show that around 2-3% of people might have an eating disorder. One research project, a survey done by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in 2015, found that about 2% of people in India struggled with an eating disorder.

Another study even found that this number might be higher (up to 6.5%) for teenage girls. It's important to remember that these numbers might be even bigger because some people with eating disorders don't feel comfortable talking about it or don't get diagnosed by a doctor and Building a Healthy Relationship with Food in India is very important.

Building a healthy relationship with food in India

Recognizing the signs of an eating disorder and building a healthy relationship with food in India

Obsessive focus on food, weight, and body image: This might involve constant calorie counting, worry about weight fluctuations, or excessive body checking.

  • Unhealthy eating patterns: This could include severe limitations on food intake, purging behaviors like vomiting after eating, or frequent episodes of uncontrollable eating.

  • Hunger or weight loss: Even when someone is underweight, they may downplay the seriousness of their condition.

  • Social withdrawal: Avoiding social situations, especially those involving food, can become a pattern.

  • Mood swings and behavioral changes: Irritability, anxiety, and depression are often present.

Common Types of Eating Disorders:

Several types of eating disorders exist, each with its specific characteristics (not limited to below):

  • Anorexia Nervosa: This involves intense fear of weight gain, leading to extreme calorie restriction and significant weight loss.

  • Bulimia Nervosa: Characterized by cycles of binge eating followed by purging behaviors to compensate for the consumed calories.

  • Binge Eating Disorder: Repeated episodes of uncontrolled eating occur, often accompanied by feelings of shame and distress.

Understanding the Causes and Risk Factors:

The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown, but several factors can contribute:

  • Genetics: A family history of eating disorders increases susceptibility.

  • Mental Health Conditions: Anxiety, depression, and OCD can co-occur with eating disorders.

  • Social and Cultural Pressures: Our culture's emphasis on thinness can contribute to body image dissatisfaction.

Developing a Balanced Relationship with Food:

Recovery from an eating disorder is a commendable effort, and fostering a healthy connection with food is a crucial foundation. Here are some key ways to achieve this:

  • Practice Mindful Eating: Mindful eating encourages paying close attention to the act of eating without judgment. It involves slowing down to savor your food and appreciate its nourishing qualities. To cultivate this practice, kindly consider the following:

  • Minimize distractions: Kindly excuse yourself from phones or televisions, and find a peaceful environment to dine in. Focus on the visual appeal, aromas, textures, and flavors of your meal.

  • Chew properly: Chew your food thoroughly, taking manageable portions and allowing yourself ample time to register feelings of satiety.

  • Recognize emotional cues: Notice if you seek food due to boredom, stress, or anxiety. Consider healthier coping mechanisms such as exercise, journaling, or relaxation techniques.

  • Be grateful: Take a moment to acknowledge the journey your food has taken to arrive on your plate. Be grateful for the farmers, producers, and everyone involved.

Respecting Your Body's Signals:

Our bodies communicate with us constantly through hunger and fullness cues. Recognizing these signals is essential for intuitive eating. Here's how to become more attuned to your body's wisdom:

  • Hunger cues: Be mindful of the early signs of hunger, such as stomach growling, feeling lightheaded, or reduced energy levels. Avoid waiting until you're ravenous to eat.

  • Fullness cues: Notice the sensation of satisfaction after eating. It's not about feeling overly full, but comfortably satiated. Kindly stop eating before reaching that point.

  • Body neutrality: Strive to move away from judging your body based on size or weight. Instead, focus on how your body feels when you consume certain foods.

How to make balanced diet plan ?

A balanced eating plan incorporates a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all food groups. This provides your body with the essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) it needs to function optimally. Here are some tips for creating a balanced plan:

  • Prioritize whole foods: Focus on unprocessed or minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

  • Embrace variety: Include a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for a wide range of vitamins and antioxidants. Choose different protein sources throughout the week.

  • Plan your meals and snacks: This helps you avoid unhealthy choices made out of convenience or hunger. Consider meal prepping to save time and ensure healthy options are readily available.

  • Include healthy fats: Emphasize healthy fats from familiar sources like ghee (clarified butter) for tempering, nuts and seeds enriching curries or chutneys. These fats promote satiety, brain function, and nutrient absorption.

Indian rich food

Simple steps for big benefits:


  • Instead of sugary cereals: Try masala oats – oats cooked with milk, vegetables, and spices like turmeric and cumin. You can also top them with chopped nuts and fruits for added flavour and nutrition.

  • Another option is sprouted moong dal cheela – a savory pancake made with sprouted green lentils, onions, and spices.


  • Avoid sugary drinks: Drink fresh lassi, a yogurt-based drink that can be flavoured with fruits like mango or simply made with salt and cumin.

  • Alternatively, buttermilk (chaas) is a refreshing drink made by churning curd (yogurt) with water. It's a great source of probiotics and aids digestion.


  • Instead of fried foods: Tandoori chicken or fish – is marinated in yogurt and spices and then cooked in a tandoor oven. This method is flavorful and avoids the added fat of deep-frying.

  • Another healthy option is baked samosas. These pastries are traditionally deep-fried, but baking achieves a similar crispy exterior with less oil.

Building Healthy Habits:

Small, sustainable changes can significantly impact your mental health. Here are some tips:

  • Plan and prepare meals in advance to avoid unhealthy choices on busy days.

  • Involve loved ones in healthy meal preparation, making it a social and enjoyable activity.

  • Practice mindful eating – pay attention to hunger cues, savor your food, and avoid distractions while eating.

By prioritizing a balanced and nutritious diet, you're not just nourishing your body; you're fueling your brain for optimal mental well-being. Remember, small changes over time can lead to significant improvements in your overall health and happiness.

Common FAQs

Q: Who is most at risk for developing an eating disorder?

A: While anyone can develop an eating disorder, some groups are at higher risk, including adolescents, young adults, athletes, dancers, and people with a history of mental health issues.

Q: Can eating disorders be cured?

A: Yes with proper treatment and care , people can recover and develop a healthy relationship with food.

Q: How are eating disorders diagnosed?

A: Diagnosis typically involves a physical exam, psychological evaluation, and a review of eating habits and symptoms.

Q: What types of treatment are available for eating disorders?

A: Treatment for eating disorders typically includes a combination of individual therapy, family therapy, and nutritional counseling. In some cases, medication may also be helpful.

Q: How can I maintain a healthy relationship with food after recovering from an eating disorder?

A: There are many things you can do to maintain a healthy relationship with food after recovery, such as continuing therapy, practicing mindful eating, and focusing on body neutrality.



Talk to Us: Don't wait to seek help:

Schedule a Free 15-minute Mental Health Consultation: Understanding your situation is key. Speak with one of our specialists for free and get personalized guidance on your mental health journey.

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