We’re all born with a natural, positive inclination toward food.
If you hand a hungry toddler a donut, they aren’t going to worry about calories, gaining weight or how they’re going to look in their clothes — they’re going to eat it and they’re going to love it.
It isn’t until we grow older ( “older” is often as young as middle school and high school age) that our relationship with food begins to mutate into an unhealthy one. These unhealthy relationships don’t always develop into an eating disorder, but they do increase the likelihood of the development of an eating disorder.
The good news is, you can absolutely heal your relationship with food and rediscover true joy and freedom around eating no matter what stage of life you’re in, and we’re here to help.
In this article, we’re going to identify what an unhealthy relationship with food is, the importance of a healthy relationship with food, and give you a brief overview of how you can begin improving that relationship today.
Why your relationship with food matters
It might sound a little weird to suggest that we each have a relationship with food, but it’s true.
Food is necessary for survival and it’s a basic human need that we have to fulfill at least a couple of times a day in order to keep our minds, organs and overall bodies functioning. When we don’t eat, eat with a toxic mentality, or frequently consume toxic foods, we prevent ourselves from experiencing life to the fullest because we prevent our bodies from functioning at their best.
Food isn’t just fueling for bodies, it’s an integral part of the community aspect of our society. We express our creativity through food, we show how much we love each other through food, we share our lives with others through food and so much more.
Food is foundational in many of our relationships, whether it’s through a first date at a nice restaurant, celebrating a big event, mourning a loss, or supporting a friend — food is an essential component of our lives, and not just because of the indispensable role it plays in our survival.
What is an unhealthy relationship with food?
An unhealthy relationship with food is a complex issue that manifests in more ways than just one, but it’s generally characterized by a negative pattern of thinking around food, or negative behaviors surrounding food and eating habits.
The most common signs of an unhealthy relationship with food include:
- Obsessive thoughts around calories and weight
- Practicing diets that are overly restrictive and unsustainable
- Fasting as a means of extreme weight control
- Binge-eating, compulsive eating or purging (vomiting, laxatives)
- Feelings of guilt, shame or anxiety around certain foods
- Feelings of powerlessness or hopelessness around food
- Constantly comparing your eating habits to others
Some people dismiss the unhealthy relationship they’ve developed with food as simply “the way it is,” but doing so takes a toll on not only your mental health as you deal with chronic guilt or negative feelings around food, but it also can seriously impact your physical health.
How to change your relationship with food
There is no shortcut to improving your relationship with food, but it is something that anyone can do with the right mentality, commitment, perseverance and unconditional support from not only others but yourself as well.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is throw out the scale and ditch diet culture. This doesn’t mean you neglect to track your progress or ignore healthy options, it means you give yourself your best chance to successfully recover by eliminating negative reinforcements.
Similarly, many people find it beneficial to reframe their language around food. For example, dessert might not be the healthiest food out there, but in moderation, it’s totally okay. Rather than calling dessert a “cheat food,” which implies you’re doing something wrong, you can call it a “treat food,” which is more likely to promote a positive mentality around the foods you eat.
Knowing where to begin with nutrition can sometimes feel overwhelming to tackle on your own, but it’s not something you have to do alone; we’re here to help you every step of the way.
Take the first step today
If you or someone you love is struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with food or has an unhealthy relationship with food that’s clearly taking a toll on their health, reach out to us.
Seeds of Hope is a premier recovery center that specializes in helping both teenagers and adults heal their harmful mentalities and behaviors around food. We’re passionate about helping individuals just like you heal their relationship with food so you can experience lifelong, sustainable, positive freedom around food and eating.
Call us today at 610-644-6464 to speak with one of our compassionate advisors and learn more about which of our programs is the right fit for your needs and recovery goals.