Do you feel like you have a love-hate relationship with food? You’re not alone. Millions of people struggle with their relationship with food. Some people view food as the enemy, while others can’t get enough of it. If you’re working on your relationship with food, there is hope. Whatever the reason, it’s time to end the cycle of emotional eating and create a healthy, balanced relationship with food. Here’s how:
Understand your triggers
The first step to breaking any cycle is to understand what triggers it. What situations, emotions, or thoughts lead you to emotional eating? Once you know your triggers, you can work on finding other coping mechanisms for dealing with them.
Some common triggers are:
Although it can be difficult to identify your triggers, it’s important to do so. Once you know what they are, you can start finding other ways to handle them.
Be mindful of your eating habits
By being more mindful of your eating habits, you can be more in tune with your body and its natural hunger cues. This means paying attention when you’re actually hungry and not just eating because it’s mealtime or because you’re bored. It also means being aware of what you’re eating and how it makes you feel both physically and emotionally.
If you’re not used to being mindful of your eating habits, that’s OK! Start small by focusing on one meal or snack per day. As you get more comfortable with the process, you can start increasing the number of meals or snacks you pay attention to.
Set realistic goals for yourself
When it comes to changing your relationship with food, setting goals is key—but those goals need to be realistic for you to stick with them. That means ditching the all-or-nothing mindset and being gentle with yourself as you make changes.
Instead of vowing to never eat junk food again, try something like cutting back on processed foods or only eating dessert on weekends. For example, if you typically eat out for lunch every day, your goal could be to pack your lunch four days a week. Small changes like these are more sustainable in the long run and will help you develop a healthier relationship with food.
Get help from a professional
Sometimes, a poor relationship with food can lead to eating disorders. An eating disorder is a serious, life-threatening illness that requires professional treatment. If you think you may have an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help from a doctor or other mental health professional as soon as possible.
Here are some kinds of eating disorders:
Anorexia is a disorder that causes people to obsess over their weight, leading them to starve themselves and lose excessive amounts of weight. People with anorexia often have a distorted view of their bodies and see themselves as overweight even when they are dangerously underweight. Without treatment, anorexia can be fatal. If you or someone you know is showing signs of anorexia, get help right away. There are anorexia rehab centers that can provide the treatment you or your loved one needs to recover.
Bulimia is a condition that causes people to eat large amounts of food in a short time (bingeing) and then purge by vomiting or using a laxative. People with bulimia often have a distorted view of their bodies and see themselves as overweight even when they are at a healthy weight or below. Bulimia can be just as dangerous as anorexia, and treatment is important for recovery. You can consider inpatient bulimia treatment or outpatient treatment, depending on your needs.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of overeating or bingeing followed by feelings of shame, guilt, and/or distress. People with BED often have a distorted view of their bodies and see themselves as overweight even when they are at a healthy weight or below. BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States, and it can be just as dangerous as other types of eating disorders. Treatment for binge eating disorder can include therapy, medication, and/or support groups.
Purging syndrome is an eating disorder characterized by self-induced vomiting, laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise in order to lose weight. Individuals with a purging disorder are likely to have a negative body image and consider themselves overweight even when they are at a healthy weight or underweight. Purging disorders can also cause obesity and other serious health issues if left unchecked.
If you have a love-hate relationship with food, chances are there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed. Through therapy, working with a registered dietitian, and/or changing your mindset, you can begin to heal your relationship with food. It won’t happen overnight, but slow and steady progress is still progress, nonetheless!