Have you ever been in a “bad relationship” with someone? How about a “bad relationship” with junk food, salad, chips and salsa or just plain food in general? It is estimated that ten million women in the United States have an eating disorder, but I dare say that a high majority of women in the United States have “disordered eating” or, another term might be, a negative relationship with food.
During the course of my profession as a Registered Dietitian, many women have expressed their unhealthy relationship with food. People can use food for various reasons: comfort, stress relief, control, boredom, recreation, culinary art, and satiety. Although food can be delicious, fun and creative, our relationship with food should be for two purposes only: nutrition and energy.
When we start crossing the line of trying to give food an “emotion,” we create a relationship. The problem with this relationship, is that it is very one-sided. We get virtually no emotional support from food. It can’t talk back, hug us, offer advice etc.; it simply fills our stomach, transfers nutrients, and provides fuel… not exactly what we are looking for if we want a so-called “relationship.”
If you feel like you have an unhealthy relationship with food, it’s time to BREAK UP! Food is not going to comfort you long term, it’s a short-term fix and often comes with a big slice of guilt. If you feel like you have created this one-sided relationship, it’s important to cut it off now so that you can focus on “real” relationships and allow yourself to enjoy a healthy perspective of what food does for us. Some suggestions…
- Do not label food as “good” or “bad.” There is no “bad” food, just healthier food choices. When we eat a food we see as “bad”, we feel bad, promoting our unhealthy relationship.
- We should enjoy food, but once we have eaten our meal, it’s OVER. Obsessing about what is next, that we possibly ate too much, or consumed too many calories, can antagonize our thoughts which then leads to an obsession.
- Focus on the real purpose of food, which is to nourish our bodies and provide energy. Period. It is a basic, essential part of survival. While providing nutrients, it can also provide enjoyment and arouse our taste buds but the primary purpose, is to be a healthy fuel.
- Get in touch with your intuitive eating skills. Think of a child and how when they are hungry, they eat and forget about food until their body tells them they are hungry again. Practice this approach.
- Focus on the amazing things about your body. Your body is made to be strong, run, play, laugh and enjoy life. Getting caught up in how food can emotionally serve us can dismiss the important principle of loving our body for the amazing abilities we have.