There are many ways people use food to cope with stress or difficult emotions. Some may eat as a way of dealing with sadness, while others might do it to manage their anger or anxiety. To redefine your relationship with food, it is important to identify why you use food in such a way and what triggers these urges.
Eating disorders are complex and sometimes difficult to overcome. They can stem from a variety of factors, from genetics to trauma. While challenging, it’s possible to break free from the cycle of emotional eating and unhealthy weight management. Read on for strategies that’ll help you redefine your relationship with food.
1. Acknowledge that your body feels its nutritional needs
Your body has its own rhythm, and it works sort of like a clock. Internally driven cycles called circadian rhythms affect your sleep cycles, hormonal activity, and your digestive pathologies. This means that your body internally knows when, what, and how much to eat. A first step to redefining your relationship with food is to try to follow your body’s natural hunger cues, and not restrict your eating to extrinsic cues like social acceptance.
2. Stop counting calories
Caloric counting can be misleading. A 2018 study assessed the effects of calorie counting versus intuitive eating on eating disorder symptomatology. Results were not surprising. People who were self-weighing and calorie counting had increased severity of eating disorder symptoms.
Calories are not a determinant of whether one food is healthy or not. Foods are such complex packages that even one apple has thousands of molecules beneficial to health besides its vitamins and minerals. Thus, it’s best to think of food as whole nourishment instead of indicator low and high numbers that will only bring you stress.
3. Dieting is not the answer
Restrictive diets can cause severe damage to one’s health. According to the CDC, among adults, the second most common way to lose weight (by 62.9%) is eating less.
Finding sustainable approaches to dieting, such as intuitive eating or health at every size, can benefit your health a lot more.
4. Focus less on scale numbers
Scale numbers don’t represent nutritional sufficiency or dictate the state of your physical health. As scientifically proven, the difference between the bodyweight you want, and your actual weight is a determinant of your physical and mental health.
Statistics from this study showed that men who wanted to lose weight by 1%, 10%, and 20% had 0.1, 0.9, and 2.7 more unhealthy days monthly compared to men who were happy with their weight. Always remember that scale numbers are just that: numbers.
You need to look at your health from a holistic view to more accurately determine how healthy you are, from your body composition and health history to your lifestyle habits.
5. Refrain from setting unrealistic expectations for yourself.
Why should you feel guilty about eating ice cream? Even authorities on nutrition acknowledge that we can eat a certain amount of sugar daily. It is acceptable to indulge in sweets, savories, and comfort foods every now and then. What’s not healthy is restricting yourself from certain foods out of guilt and shame, which often leads to an unhealthy habit called binge eating.
A large cohort study published in 2020 stated that people who practice intuitive eating are less likely to have depressive symptoms or suffer from low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction. They were also less likely to fast, skip meals, and take diet pills, which are all unhealthy behaviors to manage weight.
Remind yourself daily that foods are not bad, nor forbidden. Focus on the experience of eating this food instead of quickly labeling it. Put more thought into portion control rather than what’s on your plate
6. Eliminate distractions while eating
You won’t truly understand and appreciate the food you’re eating if you multitask in-between meals. For instance, eating with the television distracts the mind’s ability to connect with the body’s signal of “I am full.” Eating speed is often also increased when distracted leading to eating past fullness. When eating, focus more on your food and feel appreciation for it.
7. Have patience with the results
If the whole “start a healthy relationship with food” is overwhelming to you, start with incremental changes and make room for mistakes. The journey to redefining your
relationship with food often starts on a bumpy note. Balance and moderation are key when meeting your nutrition needs. If you crave chocolate and love eating it, just eat a little less. Change your motto from “all or nothing” to “practice makes perfect.”
8. Seek professional guidance
Progressive eating disorders can lead to fatal outcomes if the conditions are not handled with care. You have greater chances of overcoming your disorder by seeking help from a professional. Eating disorder treatments are a crucial first step to rebuilding a healthier relationship with food. Every eating disorder treatment facility places emphasis on this at the beginning of their journey with a patient.
Clinicians have a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved with nutrition and eating disorders before a patient turns to their treatment facility for guidance. If you’re looking for help, Magnolia Creek is available to help. Our treatment teams serve adolescent and adult women with disordered eating behaviors, starting at the age of 12 and up.
Magnolia Creek takes a hybrid approach, that infuses holistic and evidence-based practices, to walk women through the healing and recovery processes of an eating disorder. We’re equipped to meet your treatment needs with the residential and outpatient programs we have available. To ensure optimal results, our treatment team actively monitors your progress during participation in our eating disorder program.
We welcome all first-time patients to reach out to us preceding a visit to Magnolia Creek. If you’d like more information on our treatment programs, give us a call today or fill out this contact form.