How to Fix Your Relationship with Food
Food. I have had my ups and downs. I think the problem with food is that it can have an addictive layer to it. Some people are easily addicted to eating and some people are just as easily addicted to trying not to. I’ve experienced both. I struggled with anorexia for years of my life. I tried very, VERY hard to eat as little as possible. I saw it as a success; a sort of sick game in my own mind; to prove to myself how little I could survive off of. Then, when I went through recovery, I experienced the opposite. I was ravenous all the time. I would eat, and eat, and eat! I could not get full until my stomach was literally bursting from my jeans. A lot of people who have struggled with an eating disorder experience both ends of the spectrum. You restrict and restrict until you are starving then you binge and binge until you feel so guilty that you repeat the cycle all over again.
I remember many times of feeling lost and hopeless. How was I ever supposed to trust myself around food anymore? If I wasn’t restricting, I was gorging and vice versa. I had completely lost touch of balance, hunger, nutritional understanding, etc.
I’ve learned a lot in my 8+ years of disorderly eating and recovery and I hope some of these tips help you also recover your own food relationship because the thing with food is (different than most other addictions) you cannot ignore it. You cannot simply cut it out of your life. You have to eat. You have to eat enough. And you have to eat well (most of the time;).
So, where does the healthy balance come in and how can you mend the relationship between you and your plate?
1.Nourish to Flourish
I’ve learned that there is a reason for everything. If you’re seriously craving chocolate then your body and mind (and even soul:P) may just need chocolate! However, all jokes aside, your body is going to let you know what it needs even if you don’t know the why at the time! For example, when I was really struggling with my eating, I used to CRAVE anything salty and fatty for two main reasons.
One, I was extremely dehydrated and my body was super low on electrolytes. I wasn’t eating hardly any salt. I wasn’t drinking enough water, so my body was begging for some salt and water! I ignored it. I ignored it and ignored it because I thought salt made you gain water weight and I was not about to gain weight from water. How ridiculous! The same thing with the fatty foods. I would crave and think about and dream about fatty foods. Why? Because I was eating NO fat! And you need fat! My brain, my body, especially my hormones were crying out for help and I was refusing to send the molecules that my own cells desperately needed.
Cravings are not bad! True cravings could mean one of two things. One, you’re depriving your body of a vital nutrient or food group that it desperately needs! Two, you are restricting yourself so intensely that your body’s going to burst if you continue to deprive it of foods that you could easily enjoy in moderation and still live a healthy life and these two reasons go hand in hand! If you refuse to eat a single thing with fat, your body is going to crave fatty foods AND your mind is going to want to rebel and have that food that it “ can never ever have again.”
Cravings carry meaning. Listen to them. And this is absolutely easier said than done. It takes a long, long time to mend the relationship between you and yourself (weird right?) But, it’s so true! It took me a long, long time to really get back in tune with my body and it’s cravings and hunger cues because I had ignored them all for years! I think a lot of people when faced with recovery expect it to be fixed in months, but they forget how long their battle has been. If you struggled for seven years, you cannot expect to recover in six months. And that is completely alright! That should bring you some peace of mind. You will mess up. You can take your time. You should lean on others. And you should listen to your cravings.
For me, if I desperately crave salt nowadays I evaluate what I ate that day. Did I have salty foods? Did I eat lower carbs than usual? Maybe I am just super thirsty! Start practicing self-evaluation when it comes to you and your diet and do not fear eating foods you crave. Cravings are a survival signal from your own glorious body, so lend yourself that helping hand!
2. I prefer to say “Out of mind, out of sight.”
The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” carries some seriously good advice for people trying to mend their relationship with food... when flipped:) Stop thinking about food constantly. Stop stressing about food constantly. Stop planning your day around food. Once again, easier said than done! But, do try to rewire your brain slowly and with compassion. If you catch yourself waking up and instantly thinking about how much food you will or will not be eating that day, try to change your thoughts. Think about your plans. Maybe make plans! Clean your room. Distraction is huge when it comes to food addiction! For me, I would catch myself especially after meals, thinking immediately about when/where/and what I would be eating next. I was obsessed with trying to eat less or trying to only eat clean, so my identity within my own mind became solely based around food. Try to erase that identity. If you catch your mind drifting and stressing about your next meal, push it out your ears! Adult coloring books helped me a ton! I was prone to thinking and stressing when I was bored, so I worked to make myself not bored.
Whatever your triggers are or whenever you really focus on food, try to change those habits in your daily life. If you lie in bed at night and think about your food the next day, lie in bed and listen to an audio-book to fall asleep or if you cannot get food out of your mind one afternoon, call a friend and just catch up. Every single time you are able to change your brain waves is one step closer to rewiring your thought patterns regarding food. This will also make food have way less power in your life, which is exactly what you want.
Food has no power over you, which means you have all the power over it.
3. Get Up and Get Out
This step plays into tip #2, once you eat a meal, get up and move on with your day! I physically make myself get out of my chair, find something else to focus on, and allow my mind to move on from my last plate.
I do this for a few reasons. First, it helps with the guilt factor. If you’re someone that beats yourself for eating like I used to, then during recovery it’s SUPER important to not allow that guilt to set in. I used to eat a meal and then I would instantly regret it. I would analyze what I had, if I had too much, how many calories it totaled to, etc. I would worry and stress. Then, I would try to workout what my next meal had to consist of and how far away it was going to be.
It was a terrible cycle of constantly beating myself and wracking my brain over one meal I just enjoyed. It also left no time for me to appreciate my food, enjoy the company I may have been sharing a meal with. I was just solely focused on feeling bad, feeling full, and worrying I had messed up.
That was a huge step for me during my recovery. I hated feeling full. So, after I would eat a meal, I would go for a walk or I would move around my room, hang out with friends, etc. It helped me not feel guilty and it helped me not analyze for hours what I had just eaten.
If you struggle with food addiction, get up and get out. Even in the middle of the day! If you struggle with binge eating, for example, get out of your house, workout, move, dance, walk, make plans, do anything and everything once again to distract yourself and allow your food relationship to mend without the guilt clouding your mind.
Because you should feel no guilt for eating food, my lovelies.
4. There is no “Can’t” only “Rather”
This is a brain-rewiring tip again! You CAN eat anything you want and you need to tell yourself that! Restriction is the beginning, middle, and end of having a terrible relationship with food! You can eat absolutely anything and any amount of food you desire. Tell yourself that. What you would ‘rather’ eat or how much you would ‘rather’ eat is up to you! For example, even now being fully recovered, I genuinely LIKE eating healthy. I like eating veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, etc. I feel good. I like how it helps my skin. It makes me sleep better. It helps my digestion and my period. I would rather (most of the time:P) eat healthy. And that’s completely okay! Because what that does to me mentally is it puts me in full control. I like eating healthy, but that doesn’t mean I “CAN’T” eat some candy or chocolate now and then. It doesn’t mean I am “NEVER ALLOWED” pizza again for as long as I live. It takes the weight of the world off your shoulders. When you change your own internal language regarding food, it changes your perspective of it! I love avocados!! Like love them! So why would I stop myself from eating them? I also love LOVE pretzels, so I am not going to say I can never have pretzels again.
Stop telling yourself you can and cannot have certain foods. You CAN have whatever you desire and whenever you desire it! You may prefer certain foods or rather have choice A than B and that will help you heal your perception of food and the power it has over you and your life.
“Eat to live do not live to eat.”
5. Stop comparing plates
I eat a lot
I move a lot
Therefore, how much my friends, family members, roommates, or significant other does or does not eat does not concern me or my tummy
Your plate is your plate. Your diet is your diet. Your palette is your palette, so stop seeing your skinny friend eat one piece of bread in a 24-hour period and think that is normal or stop envying your teenage brother as he eat two large pizzas in one sitting and feel sad that you can’t also do that. We all have different bodies. We all have different metabolisms. We all need different things. That’s the amazing part of humanity, we are all different.
I eat a lot of food. I really do. However, I mainly eat a plant-based, nutritious diet. I move a lot. I workout every day. I run. I stand all day at work and am moving around throughout my 9-5 job. I have a very hyper personality. I drink tons of water. I also come from a family with a more adaptive metabolism. I can eat a good amount.
So, it does not matter to me if my girlfriend only eats a half sandwich at lunch. If I’m really hungry, then I’m ordering a full sandwich and salad. And I’m not going to feel guilty. Her caloric needs have nothing to do with me. Or if we are at the movies and she only gets a Diet Coke, but I really want chocolate. Then, I’m going to get chocolate and I’m not going to compare my plate to hers.
You are your own guardian. You are your own healer and provider. You are your own worst enemy and best supporter. Do what you need. Do what your body needs. Heal your mind to heal your relationship with food. Your plate is not the enemy; your perception of it is.