Facing your fears – Our Relationship with Food

Food. We love it, hate it, stuff our faces with it, go without it but whether we like it or not, we all have a relationship with food. Generally people have a fairly healthy relationship with their food but sometimes we can develop a harmful relationship to it. Food is fuel. Food is energy for our bodies and according to Hippocrates food is medicine for when we are sick.

How have we ended up with eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia in our modern generation? Can we put it down to the stressful lives that we all lead plus ongoing peer pressure or is that really what is driving our obsession with food? We are encouraged to ‘eat less and eat better’ by the experts (plus exercise of course) but how does that work when you get temporary emotional relief from food. It’s very difficult to approach food in a healthy way when our negative emotions of stress, anger, unhappiness or loneliness drive us to food for comfort. Emotional eating affects your entire life . . . from hating how you look in the mirror, feeling fat in your clothes, feeling unattractive to a partner, feeling overweight and out of breath to the feelings of guilt from binge eating and then using vomiting or laxatives to relieve it. Maybe you punish yourself through denial of food.

  • Do you tend to reach for the biscuit tin/bar of chocolate when you are upset or have been hurt?
  • Do you lack self confidence or have low self esteem?
  • Do you find yourself constantly thinking about what you are going to eat next?
  • Does your snacking match your unhappy moods?
  • If you’ve had an argument with your partner, do you reach for the chocolate or a glass of wine?
  • Do you have a secret stash of chocolate for ‘those’ times?
  • What are YOUR comfort foods?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then you may have some level of difficulty with emotional eating. Here are a few ideas to help you identify some of your mind/mouth misconnections.

1. Keep a food and feelings diary which will show you how much emotional eating you are doing
2. Identify the triggers that cause those feelings
3. Ask yourself why those triggers cause the feelings. Is it a time management issue, a self confidence issue or maybe not feeling liked by colleagues?
4. Challenge those feelings and learn to say no to the triggers through meditation or counting to 20 before acting on them
5. Forgive quickly. Do not let the sun go down on your anger . . . get it sorted before bedtime

Here is an example of my own food and feelings diary:

Sunday 3pm

Trigger: Dad kept shouting and shouting for me when I was trying to update my CV and email a client.

Thoughts: I felt irritated and angry with him for interrupting me again . . . he always asks the same things . . . I get so frustrated with him.

Prevention: I didn’t take any preventative measures. I reached for the bar of chocolate in the cupboard and ate most of it.

Negative feelings: I feel guilty and stupid for falling for that same old excuse again . . . Why do I have no control over my actions when it comes to chocolate? I should know better. After all I’m a nutritional therapist! Dad has dementia so he WILL ask the same question every 10 minutes. Get over yourself.

Positive feelings: There are none!

How do we move forward if we have identified that we eat for emotional reasons in some way? One step at a time. Firstly we need to stop denying that we have a problem or justifying why we need that biscuit etc. Then we need to forgive ourselves and stop trying to meet impossible expectations regarding our weight or shape. Food is not our enemy and as we begin to understand why we eat for comfort, we can begin to change those mind/mouth misconnections. This is where those mini habits come in. (See my article in the January 2018 issue). Start small but make a start. Before long you will feel more aware and more in control of your eating. At that point you will be able to make healthier choices with food which will have a positive impact on your weight, shape and how you feel in yourself.

This healthy connection is where you enjoy nourishing food that you have control over. Emotions make wonderful servants but terrible masters. And finally, remember that we are all on a journey. I am here to help you be the best version of yourself!

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