How’s Your Relationship with Food?
Really, how is your relationship with food? Have you ever thought about it?
Anytime a new client walks through our doors this is a question I ask. Why? Because it helps the client and I learn where exactly they are emotionally when it comes to food. Believe it or not, eating is highly emotionally driven and can be a touchy subject. Just ask your friend what they ate for their last meal and they will likely preface it with something like “don’t judge me but…” or “well it wasn’t that great but I ate…”
My Personal Struggle With Food…
For years I struggled with having a terrible relationship with food. It started off when I was a child. I played a number of sports and was very active so I ate to match it. I was frequently called “bottomless pit” and “cholesterol queen” (because I would eat straight butter and melt cheese on a plate to eat). I had a great physique (despite feeling otherwise) and ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full but ate anything and everything. That wasn’t so much the problem.
The problem really started when my mom and sister started trying every diet possible, would lose the weight, regain it and then on to the next fad diet. I thought this was normal, so when I stopped swimming my junior year of high school (think going from 2 hours/night practice to no activity and still eating the same), I started gaining weight. Then came culinary school and THAT was no help either!
I had gained a lot of weight during that time…probably somewhere in the 25-30 lb range. It’s sad but funny looking back now because at that time, I had no idea how to lose weight. So, I did what I did know…fad diets and diet pills! That just led to my weight problem becoming worse and a terrible relationship with food. I will save all the details for the sake of not writing a novel but that led to a 5-year struggle with an eating disorder. Of course this was not a fun time in my life but I’m also glad it happened because I learned a lot. I learned that having a poor relationship with food could send you down the yo-yo dieting and potentially the eating disorder path.
How Do You Know if You Have a Good/Bad Relationship With Food?
Answer yes/no to the following statements:
- You don’t know when you’re truly hungry or just have a craving.
- You don’t know when you are truly satisfied/full and should stop eating.
- You constantly think about food and these thoughts interfere with your day to day life.
- You don’t like eating in front of others and try to avoid it.
- You restrict certain food groups because you’ve heard they will make you fat, even if it means you have no energy.
- You would rather be hungry than feel full from eating.
- You won’t eat past a certain time, even if you’re starving.
- If you see food, you just can’t resist and have to eat even if you are not hungry.
- You feel out of control when it comes to food.
- You hate eating and food in general.
If you answered yes to more than 3 of these questions, you may have a poor relationship with food.
If you answered yes to 5 or more, you have a poor relationship with food and you definitely need to work with a professional on this.
If you answered yes to all of these questions, you may be on the downward path to an eating disorder and need to work with a team of professionals – at least Registered Dietitian and a therapist who works with eating disorders/disordered eating. You may also want to schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine if you have become deficient in any nutrients through blood work.
What Do You Do if You Have A Poor Relationship With Food?
- Knowing is half the battle…really! So determine what your status is and own up to it.
- Seek professional help: a Registered Dietitian (RD) that works in this area is a must (such as myself!). An RD can help educate you on creating a balanced meal plan that fits your likes/dislikes, day-to-day life and fill in the nutritional gaps. Most of time the top two problems I see with clients struggling with this are that they 1) don’t eat enough over the course of the day= binges and 2) don’t eat enough earlier in the day and overeat at night. If this is you, fix it. You can track what you eat in My Fitness Pal and you should be eating roughly the same amount of calories at each meal throughout the day- not 100 calories at breakfast and 1,000 calories at dinner. A therapist may also be helpful here to help you process through all the thoughts.
- Tell someone you trust that will hold you accountable. This may be a friend, family member or a spouse. It should never be your child! And if you have children, never complain about your body or food in front of them. This will only teach them to do what you do. Same with haphazard eating- they want to be like mom and dad so they will do what you do. Perhaps motivation to get the ball rolling towards recovery?!
Struggling with a poor relationship with food may have started years ago for you but the good news is that with consistent effort and help, you can overcome it like I did! There’s no need to feel ashamed with this because I can tell you from my “unscientific” observations that probably about 90% of the populations has had/currently has/will have some struggle with food. Afraid I’m going to judge you? Not a chance since I probably have done what you’ve done or worse!
Check out this client testimonial with Ashley, as she shares her own journey of how she overcame her challenges with her relationship with food.