Disclaimer: This post will be talking about the good, bad and ugly about building a relationship with food. I am not a nutritionist, personal trainer or any other licensed healthcare professional. This blog post was made from my personal experience and I share it to show that you aren’t alone and you can conquer it. If your unhealthy attachment with food has been consuming your life for some time now, it would be best to seek professional help as soon as possible and not prolong it so you can get back to growing to your full potential. I wish you the best on your journey.
If you follow my personal Instagram, you would see that I’m always posting my meals on my story and you probably assume that my relationship with food is admirable. I love sharing them as much I love making and of course, eating them. However, I didn’t always have a healthy relationship with food and honestly, I still struggle with it til this day.
Being a woman, I know how food, your appearance and mental health work hand in hand. You grow up comparing yourself to girls from school, tv, magazines and movies. Before you know it, you’re comparing your own body from how it looked in the past to how it looks now! You try your best to be skinny to appease society because it makes you feel attractive and accepted by others but to what lengths? For most, this mentality becomes a part of their life and instead of looking at food as fuel for your body, you start to look at it an enemy.
Or maybe you had a lightbulb moment. You know what I mean. It’s that significant moment in time that made your world stop and shifted your mindset about that topic. Then it stayed with you forever molding how you think and interact with the world. When it comes to my relationship with food, it was when I was either 10 or 11 years old that my lightbulb moment happened. I went to my doctor for a regular checkup. As routine, she took my vitals and weighed me. Then she told me that I was overweight and borderline obese.
That moment shook me to my core because up until that moment, my weight never crossed my mind. I was a child. The only thing I cared about was going to school, going to church, being with my family, playing with my friends and eating. My childlike innocence was gone in an instant. No longer did I eat whatever I wanted when I wanted even though I was physically active like most kids my age. I started to get very self conscious about my body. The struggle was real. I started to pay more attention to have big my arms and belly was and I refused to wear anything that showed my legs.
One day, I was speaking to my friend about my struggle and I was so surprised when she told me that she was going through the same thing because she was much smaller than me. In my opinion she was tall, skinny, and beautiful but at least I wasn’t alone. Then we decided to go on a “diet” and be accountability partners for each other. When it came to food, I would write down every nutritional fact and manually add them up to make I wasn’t eating too much. I would also weigh myself constantly praying that the number on the scale would change.
My relationship with food had officially gotten personal and not in a good way. When I felt like I ate too much, I would feel sick to my stomach and could barely look myself in the mirror. Then depression came and I hit an all time low. I tried forcing myself to throw up. Then I tried cutting to relieve myself of the pain but couldn’t find the guts to do it. I would eat baby food because it had less calories. Or I wouldn’t eat until I felt like I was going to pass out. It wasn’t until I started to take control of my relationship with food that I began to heal and love myself.
Types of Eating
This is a list that I made up myself about the different types of eating. It is based on my personal experience and experiences shared with me by other people. If you believe that I missed a big one, feel free to comment below.
Trigger warning: The list does include eating disorders. If you have been struggling with an eating disorder, please tell someone you trust and/or a healthcare professional so you can get the help that you need to build a healthier relationship with food.
- Eating overly processed foods- I’m not gonna lie, eating this can feel so good because it tastes so good. However, it’s only temporary. Because of the processing of these foods, all of their nutrients are depleted so they don’t benefit your body in any way.
- Stress eating- Especially now during this COVID-19 pandemic when we’re all social distancing and in quarantine, it’s harder to make healthier choices when it comes to eating. According to this New York Times article, more people are eating overly processed food now more than ever either because they’re stressed out about the future and need some comfort.
- Eating only when you’re hungry- Have you ever put off eating because you weren’t hungry yet? I’m definitely guilty of this. Then out of nowhere, hunger fits you hard and fast and you end up scrambling trying to figure out what to eat. In your panic, you may not make the best decisions. Plus, since you have starved your body, as soon as you put some food into it, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin, that encourages cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage. Hence why a lot of people gain weight and/or get diabetes which then furthers strains their relationship with food.
- Eating when you’re bored- I’m guilty of this too but I didn’t know how guilty until quarantine. There was one day when I was in bed deciding what to do next when the thought of eating crossed my mind. Mind you, I ate a full meal maybe an hour or two before that so I knew I wasn’t hungry but despite that, I still wanted to eat. It took a lot of mental strength and discipline to stop myself from going back to the kitchen.
- Eating three balanced meals a day- This is ideal but what does it mean? According to Harvard School of Public Health, a balanced meal consist of mostly vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, healthy fats, and healthy proteins. You can either eat three balanced meals a day or six smaller ones. This is the proper way to eat because it fuels your body because it’s consistent and nutritious.
- Calorie counting obsessed- Counting your calories can be a great tool when you want to create healthier eating habits. However, even when it comes to this, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. You can do the basics like tracking your macros(protein, fats and carbs) and weighing your food. Or you can be very anal about every single calorie which can be counterproductive. It messes up your mental as well as your physical. I went through this when I was in middle school and I remember never feeling satisfied with my calorie count for the day. It was never low enough. Little did I know that the best way to burn fat wasn’t to starve myself but to find a balance between working out and eating regularly.
- Intermittent Fasting- If you’ve never heard this term before, it’s not as bad as you think it is. I am such a fan of intermittent fasting. So much that I wrote an entire blog post about it. The benefits of it can’t be overlooked! Read it if you want to know more.
- Binge Eating- This is similar to eating when you’re bored but on the extreme side of that spectrum. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, binge eating disorder (BED) is when there are reoccuring episodes when an individual eats a drastically bigger serving of food “often very quickly and to the point of discomfort.”* Think about Thanksgiving Day being everyday. It isn’t something to take lightly because like any other relationship with food, it affects how you think and feel about yourself (think about how stuffed you feel after eating on Thanksgiving). Most feel a huge burden of regret and disgust afterwards but they don’t use an unhealthy quick fix to “not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.”* I definitely have experienced binge eating myself. I still do to this day and I’m working on it.
- Anorexia- Is another eating disorder where an individual intentionally limits their calorie intake in hopes to lose weight. However, it does more harm than good because it results in distorted body image. In some cases, it also coupled with excessive exercise, purging, and/or binge eating.
- Bulimia– Like binge eating, an individual eats a large serving of food at one sitting with the remoorse following soon after. Where they differ is that with bulimia, an individual will take unhealthy measures like vomiting to compensate or undo it.
How To Build A Happier and Healthier Relationship With Food
No matter where you are right now, it’s never too late to change the way you deal with food in your life. These tips will help you start this change and make you happier about your relationship.
- Be kind to yourself. If you have a moment of weakness, forgive yourself. I know you may feel like it’s the end of the world and you won’t be able to recover but just take it one day at a time. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s in the past. Today is today. Right now, you have another chance to make better choices.
- When shopping for groceries, only buy food that is healthy for you. This leaves you with no other choice but to eat nutritious food that fuel your body and not to indulge in.
- Meal prep. After you go to the grocery store or the day after, you should meal prep. What is meal prepping exactly? It’s when you prep or make your meals ahead of time. It can save you so much time and energy throughout the week and enables you to make better choices when it comes to eating because you don’t have to wait until you’re hungry or short on time to make food. It’s already in the fridge or freezer waiting for you. It’s such a relief and takes the guesswork out of what you’re going to eat everyday.
- Don’t keep any food in your room. I know it’s convenient. Conveniently a trap you mean. Remember when I was talking about my boredom eating and how easy it was to convince myself to eat when I wasn’t hungry? Imagine how much quicker it would be if I already had food in my room. It wouldn’t take any time at all and before you know it, you’re in bed overindulging. If you have food in your room right now and you’re home, stop reading this post and go take it out! I’ll wait. You may not like me now but you’ll thank me later.
- Keep yourself busy but not too busy that you forget to eat. Food can be a distraction but working so hard that you forget to eat is worse. I know that’s happened to you before. You snooze your alarm in the morning so you don’t have time to eat a real breakfast (the most important meal of the day!) before work/school. Then you have a busy day so you ay skip lunch too so your only real first meal of the day is also your last one- dinner. I know I don’t have to tell you how bad that is.
- Create a schedule for eating and track your food. You can either do this with intermittent fasting or customize one that best fits your lifestyle. Write it out, meal prep and you can even put alarms on your phone to remind you. Or you can use apps like myfitnesspal or MyPlate to do it for you. If you really want to kick things up a notch, you can also write how you feel at the end of each day to help with self-reflection and seeing what works best for you.
- Know that it’s okay to have a cheat meal but it’s not okay to make it every meal, everyday. Repeat this after me- “cheat meals are not the enemy. It’s how you go about it that matters.” Good. Plus if you are eating right the majority of the time, you don’t want to be counterproductive by making it a habit to having a cheat day. A cheat meal is the best way in my opinion to satisfy your cravings in a responsible way.
- Bored of eating the same thing over and over? Challenge yourself to make one new recipe a week. If meal prepping is boring you because you aren’t the type to eat the same thing over and over, this is a great way to switch things up while still being healthy. I don’t know about you but I love trying new recipes. I am the only vegetarian in my household so I had no other choice but to learn how to cook what I wanted to eat. It was intimidating as first but also exciting! My key to finding a recipe I like is Pinterest and YouTube since I’m a visual person.
- Eat vegetarian/vegan/plant-based. I’m not going to get too deep into this topic but eating vegetarian, vegan or plant-based is a win-win for everyone involved. It helps the environment, animals and your personal health and wellness. And no, you don’t have to eat grass or kale. And yes, it can taste just as good as eating meat. There’s so many different ways to make the same thing but in a more healthier way. Click here for my Pinterest board for some inspo.
- Exercise. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention this one. It’s well known that exercising regularly is the key to living a long, healthy life. If you struggle with starting, you aren’t alone. Click here to read this post where I talk about how I overcame the fear of working out and how I keep consistent. Plus, that endorphin rush you get after working out will definitely boost your mood.
Please don’t underestimate your relationship with food. It will always be linked to your happiness because it shapes how you view yourself and how you view yourself in society. If you aren’t making healthy eating habits, it will show and you don’t look or feel your best. However, I know that the journey of building a healthy relationship with food is a long one. Honestly, I don’t think it’s ever over no matter how healthy you are but it’s definitely worth going on.
If you feel overwhelmed about how to start building a relationship with food, I would say to figure out what types of eating you do and then pick one tip to focus on for a month. That way you have something you’re actively working on instead of being stuck and not making any progress at all. I bet a month or two or three or six or twelve from now, you would have wish you did it sooner. Empower yourself girl. Make your happiness and wellness a priority. You won’t regret it.