An unhealthy relationship with food can impact so many areas of your life including mood, productivity, self-esteem, and relationships. You may have been told that your views of food or your body are uncommon or distorted, but you may not realize how truly unhealthy your relationship with food has become.
Here are 5 ways recognize if you have an unhealthy relationship with food:
1. You don’t trust yourself around food
Is your house a “no chocolate, no snacks, no carbohydrate zone” because you know that if any of those things are in your house, then they will most likely end up in your stomach? You may have even convinced yourself that you are addicted to certain foods and therefore cannot buy them or have them around. You may have a fear of eating out at restaurants or going to social events because you worry that you will not be able to control yourself at the buffet or the dessert table.
2. You have a lot of rules
You tell yourself things like, “no food after 6pm”, or “I can only eat when no one else is around,” or “I cannot eat something if I don’t know how many calories are in it.” These types of rules feed your need for rigidity and your fear of losing control. You force yourself to look at food in terms of black-and-white or right versus wrong rather than viewing food as something that is needed to sustain life and give you energy.
3. Food is your best friend and your worst enemy
One day you love food because it tastes good, it fuels your body, it comforts you, and it numbs your pain after a tough day. But the very next day your perspective shifts and you hate food because it makes you feel full, awful, guilty, and shameful. You struggle to find balance between strict dieting (low carb, low fat, sugar free, dairy free, etc.) and viewing food as fuel for your body.
4. You see food as good or bad
You have a list in the back of your mind of all the “good” foods that you are allowed to eat and the “bad” foods that you will feel guilt and shame for eating. The habit of labeling “good food” vs. “bad food” probably started from a young age when you were taught by a caregiver or friend that junk food is bad or that you must eat only protein and vegetables in order to be healthy.
5. Your life is consumed by reaching your “goal weight”
You have a goal weight in your mind and if you could just see that number on the scale then your belief is that you will be happy, you will start to love yourself, and your life will fall into place. This number is often at the forefront of your mind and you find that you are unable to be happy with who you are until you reach that magical goal weight.
Recognizing your unhealthy relationship with food can be very difficult because these limitations have probably become normal and comforting to you. If you can relate to any of the signs listed above, I want you to know that you are not alone. Approximately 30 million people in the US struggle with eating disorders. Your relationship with food may be unhealthy for many different reasons but the most important thing is that you recognize that you are worthy of loving yourself and your body. Your self-worth should never be defined by a number on a scale, or the types of foods that you eat.