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An unhealthy relationship with food: Drew Barrymore ‘cried and dreamt of pizza’

Do you suffer from an unhealthy relationship with food and your body?

Are you one of the millions of people that are perpetually engaged in a yo yo diet cycle? I stumbled across two articles this morning which articulate what is an incredibly common struggle for people – having an unhealthy relationship with food.

In the first, Drew Barrymore revealed that she shed tears losing 20lbs for her latest role, she told Us Weekly: ‘I’ve been very disciplined and all I did was cry and dream about pizza. I still am dreaming and crying about pizza.’

unhealthy relationship with food by Artful Eating
Then there’s the actress Alice Eve who shared this insight about her relationship with food:
“I thought that I had a really healthy relationship with food, and I went home to my parents’ house for a week because I cut my foot, and was recovering. I just ate loads, ate family meals, went along with group activities and I realised how unhealthy my relationship actually is with food. Where I’m like, ‘No, I won’t have that piece of bread, I’ll have the veg.’ There’s a different approach mentally that you have when you’re in a safe space.”

Both these women are describing what in psychology is known as a ‘controlled’ approach to eating. This is an unhealthy relationship to have with your diet. While film stars are surrounded by all sorts of supports and leverage to maintain their size, (often it’s written into their contract!), us mere mortals don’t have the same urgency and enforced motivation to stick to a diet. We are reliant on willpower and self enforced motivation which leads to a very controlled approach to food. This is unsustainable and most importantly, unpleasant!

What many ‘thin’ people understand intuitively is that you actually can eat for pleasure, enjoy every bite, feel satiated and let excess weight fall away so you can sustain life at a healthy weight.

How can you have a healthier relationship with food?

The key that has been holding you back from living comfortably at a healthy weight for you is the fact that weight loss is not about what you eat, but why you eat.

About 80% of women are on a diet or think they should be, while the majority of diets fail and lead to more weight gain. So it’s time to change the way you think about your body and feel about food, this is the key to achieving your body goal.

We think we know how to lose weight: to eat less and move more. But ultimately we know that this doesn’t work as so many of us are perpetually dieting.

Diets fundamentally don’t work because the problem is so much deeper.

The reason over one third of people are overweight and struggle to lose it, is because they are doing battle with themselves. There is a part of you that is sabotaging your good efforts again and again. Looking to a healthy eating plan or a get fit regime cannot address the CAUSE of your weight gain. It’s time to begin to question WHY you are overweight.  It’s time to address the cause not the symptom.

This is the key to lasting change as it is our mind that fuels every single decision we make about what we eat and why we eat.  

By changing how we think and feel about our body and the food we eat, we can learn to enjoy food in a whole new way. The consequence is that you will lose weight effortlessly and easily and keep it off for life.

While you may have committed to losing weight, your subconscious brain has its own ideas!

The hypothalamus, that part of the brain that regulates body weight, has more than a dozen chemical signals which tell your body to gain or lose weight.  Your body acts like a thermostat, responding to these signals adjusting hunger, metabolism, and activity to keep your weight stable as conditions change.  Just like a thermostat responds to changes in temperature outside to keep your house at a consistent temperature.

So if you lose weight, your brain reacts as if it were starving, it responds by adjusting the conditions to maintain your original weight. This is an evolutionary mechanism that developed to resist weight loss, because starvation has generally been a much bigger problem than over eating.  

But we now live in a time of abundance. So we need to completely change our approach to weight loss.  A temporary diet regime will NOT solve the issue as our body will fight back and respond by slowing down the metabolism.  

We need to re-learn HOW to eat and change our eating habits for life. This is the only way to combat our body’s hard wiring.

Psychologists classify eaters into 2 groups:

  1. Intuitive eaters- people who rely on hunger to determine when they should eat. 
  2. Controlled eaters- people who try to control their eating through will power (like most dieters).

Controlled eaters tend to be overweight and struggle with their relationship to food.  

So how can you shift from being a controlled eater to being an intuitive eater? How do you stop such an unhealthy relationship with food?

Body awareness.

 You need to listen to your body and understand the signals so that you eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full. Because weight gain boils down to eating when you’re not hungry or eating more than your body needs.

Start to listen to your body, ask yourself, are you eating this because it’s there, or because it’s meal time? Or are you eating it because your body needs fuel and it’s hungry?

I want to share with you a really effective tool which will help you start to tune into your body and train you mind to shift towards eating intuitively.

The Hunger Scale:

  1. Physically faint
  2. Ravenous
  3. Hungry
  4. Slightly Hungry
  5. Neutral
  6. Pleasantly Satisfied
  7. Full
  8. Stuffed
  9. Nauseous

An unhealthy relationship with food by Karina MelvinThe scale can help you decide if you need to eat or not. It will help you question why you are eating- is it because you’re actually hungry? Or is it because you’re bored/stressed/emotional/tired….

Looking to the hunger scale, you should never go below 3 hungry, or above 7 full.

Eat ONLY when you are hungry, and STOP when you’re full.

Shifting to a position of intuitive eating will immediately help to realign your appetite and it will make you question WHY you are eating something.

Start to apply the hunger scale today and you will be amazed by the effect it will have. It is the first step towards intuitive eating and away for controlled eating. Combine the hunger scale with ONLY eating the best quality food you can afford and only eating food you enjoy, and you will find that you eat less as you taste more.

Enjoy your food.

You now know why diets don’t work, so no more limiting or cutting out foods you love. Only eat when you want and make sure it is something you will enjoy eating. You want some chocolate? Go ahead! Or some bread? Have it! No more limiting yourself to diet foods which taste like cardboard and are not nutritious. But likewise no more, ‘I have to eat because it’s meal time’. 

Eat what you want, but you must feel hungry when you decide to eat (remember the hunger scale). 

Food is delicious fuel, so wait until you hear that message from your stomach saying: “food please” before you start eating. Focus on the amazing flavours and chew each mouthful slowly and consciously, taking time to enjoy the nourishment you are experiencing. If you slow right down you will find that you have time to listen to your body and you will eat less, as you don’t need as much food to feel satisfied. Also if you eat slowly and enjoy each mouthful your body will have time to send a message to the brain to tell yourself you have had enough and you are full.

We generally eat far too much, make the commitment today to shift towards eating intuitively. 

This is a wonderful and liberating mind shift that will allow you to enjoy a happy and healthy relationship with food. Weight loss will be a joyous consequence.


  1. Start to use the hunger scale every time you go to eat something this will help you to shift from being a controlled eater to being an intuitive eater. 

Remember you should aim to eat when you feel hungry and if you eat slowly, you will have time to acknowledge when you are full.

  1. Eat the best quality food you can afford and ENJOY IT.

Are you beginning to get the idea that the key to achieving the body you desire is not about what you eat but about why you eat? 

Now I understand that this strategy isn’t actually addressing the underlying cause of why you are eating, it is simply encouraging body awareness and understanding the importance of shifting away from a ‘controlled’ approach to eating to a more ‘intuitive’ one.

I talk a lot about our WHY and for more information on how to understand this, check out my free video series here where I go into much more detail about the underlying cause of our unhealthy relationship with food and our body.

Secondly I understand that one of the biggest struggles we encounter when it comes to food is managing not to eat when we’re not  actually hungry. To help combat this, check out my free training on strategies to overcome emotional eating and have a look at my recent article on how to combat binge eating.

Stop to think about your relationship with diets

An unhealthy relationship with food: Drew Barrymore ‘cried and dreamt of pizza’

Karina Melvin, MSc, MA

Karina Melvin provides online psychoanalysis and counselling services from her South Dublin office with her team of high-level psychoanalysts. You can learn more about online counselling, psychoanalysis by clicking the link below.

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APA Reference
Melvin, K. (2019). An unhealthy relationship with food: Drew Barrymore ‘cried and dreamt of pizza’. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Mar 2019
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