Do you have a toxic relationship with food?

Author: Nina Kajee

The Atkins, Keto, South Beach, Paleo and Subway. The Popcorn, Blood Type, and Alkaline. Juice fasting, low-carb/high-fat, raw food, wholefood, soft food, liquid … if you have tried several of these diets, chances are you might need to consider your relationship with food. 


Looking for the next big thing in eating plans can be part of the problem; there’s always a solution on the horizon and food is a necessary ‘frenemy’ that we often feel needs to be reeled in. Subdued. Conquered.


The writing is on the wall


The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action published that every 52 minutes, someone dies as a direct result of an eating disorder in the USA. This statistic is not surprising in a society that glorifies the “perfect body” and provides an avalanche of baseless advice on how to achieve it.

But it all starts with your relationship with what you eat. There are signs that you’re fighting with your food, according to registered dietitian, Andrea D’Ambrosio:


  • Food is your worst enemy and best friend. You see-saw between agonising over every morsel you put in your mouth, and bingeing.

  • You have food rules. You obsess over them and beat yourself up when you break them.

  • You see nutrition as good or bad and there is no in-between.

  • Climbing on the scale can make or break your day. 

  • You don’t trust yourself around food. Classic manifestations include forcing a partner to ration you in some way, or spoiling food that’s tempting you with liquid soap or the like. 

  • You’re convinced that your life would be so much better if you could only reach your goal weight or clothing size. 


What does a healthy relationship with food even look like?

If you’ve been stuck in the fight with your food for a while it might be difficult to imagine a different life for yourself. Susan Albers, psychologist and author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food says, "When you break a rule, that can spiral into 'I'm a bad person.’” Don’t let your food rules take over your life. If you find it very difficult to let go of your rules she suggests that you start small with the likes of pasta once a week or one cookie with your coffee to prove to yourself that nothing bad is going to happen if you break your food rules every now and then.


"Food has become our focus instead of being the fuel for a full life.", says Michelle May, MD and author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. She advises that we start seeing food as fuel, not an enemy or a saviour. Just fuel. "Before eating, pause to ask yourself, ‘Does my body need fuel? Why am I thinking about food if my body doesn't need it?’" If you’re ‘jonesing’ for something when you’re not really hungry, identify what it is that’s really triggering you to reach for that piece of cake. 


Once you’ve identified the trigger, maybe you still can have your cake, and eat it - occasionally.




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