*** Trigger Warning For Discussions Around Eating Disorders***
As much as we are moving forward and progressing in terms of normalising body standards, and calling out diet culture, it very much seems to be a two steps forward, one step back kind of movement.
Just when things seem to be getting better and the representation of food and body image on social media seems to be leaning on the side of normal, we are hit with a curveball of influencers and TikTokers promoting insane calorie deficits and a very distasteful mindset surrounding food.
We are flooded with this kind of content on our social media pages on a daily basis. So much so that our own judgement of our own relationship with food becomes very clouded. It is so hard to know what’s normal and how it is we should be viewing food and exercise when we have so many different opinions about food and exercise thrown our way.
Often times these unhealthy habits in regards food and exercise are disguised as “healthy lifestyles.” A lifestyle we don’t realise the toxic nature of and damaging effects of until it is far too late.
If a “healthy lifestyle” is making you obsessed, anxious and a little miserable, can we really call it healthy?
Here are 5 signs you may have an unhealthy relationship with food as well as advice on how to counteract them.
1. You make food choices based off calories
Calories and obsession with them is usually the first sign that your relationship with food could be improved. If you often find yourself standing in a shop wanting one thing but going for another because it is lower in calories, it is a sign that you might need to check your relationship with food.
Calorie obsession creates a guilt surrounding food and this is a pretty miserable way to go about feeding yourself. Food should be enjoyed and you should choose food because you like how it tastes and will satisfy you when you are hungry. Not because you think it will have an impact on your weight or how other people will view you.
2. Social events panic you
If an invitation to a restaurant with friends or a party now makes you more nervous than excited then there is definitely something up with your relationship with food.
Life is short and needs to be lived. When you are 80 and look back on your life do you think you will be happier you didn’t eat that pizza with your friend or do you think you will remember the good memories and the good food? Probably the latter.
3. You stress out when you eat food not planned for
While apps like myfitness pal can help someone looking to improve their health, more times than not they lead to a very unhealthy relationship with food. They provide a very narrow focus on food, and people fast start to view food as calories and nothing else.
A clear sign that you are developing a bad relationship with food is your reaction to eating something not documented in your calorie tracking app. Intense feelings of guilt surrounding an unexpected food choice is not normal or healthy, but unfortunately becoming more common.
If you relate to this, the best advice would be to just delete the app and focus on eating healthy for the most part and allow yourself treats when the opportunity arises.
4. You see food as good and bad
If you view food as good and bad subconsciously then you probably need to take a look at your overall relationship with food. Sure, some foods are more nutritious than others but at the end of the day food is food and balance is key.
This mindset can lead to restriction and binge cycles which is very unhealthy. Do your best to eat healthy but if you are craving a certain food, eat it, satisfy the craving and move on.
It can be a hard cycle to break but with a bit of determination and patience you can reap the benefits of food freedom and develop a much healthier relationship with food!
5. You have designated cheat days
Eat clean all week and binge out on Friday, sound familiar?
While the motivation behind this may be to get “healthier” it actually creates an incredibly unhealthy mindset around food. You can fast become obsessed with the foods you are going to eat on your designated cheat day and this can make you miserable pretty fast.
A good way of breaking this and developing a healthier relationship with food is too try the method mentioned above about eating what you are craving and not overthinking it. While it might be hard to give in to this, it will make you a lot more relaxed around food and you will enjoy food, just as you should.
What does a healthy relationship with food look like?
Unfortunately, we live in a very food obsessed society and social media making us feel guilty about the food we eat certainly does not help.
If you think you have an unhealthy relationship with food, don’t feel bad it is a very common issue these days. The best thing you can do for yourself is block out the noise of social media and eat in a way that is healthy but that you yourself, enjoy.
A healthy relationship with food is once that is balanced. Intuitive eating is a great way to eat, it allows you to follow your natural body hunger cues and give your body what it is asking for.
Remember food is both nutritious and emotional and both are as important as each other!. A lot of people think, sure if I just ate what I was craving all the time would I not just be eating cake and donuts all the time? That thinking comes from this ingrained belief of food being good and bad and restrictive practices.
When you start to eat intuitively and avoid restriction, you will be surprised to discover that you won’t be craving junk all the time and won’t eat uncontrollably because there is no restriction there. Your body will crave food of all types based on what it needs and what it is feeling like in that moment.
Life is too short to be stressing about what you are eating and the effect it is having on your appearance!
If you find your relationship with food is unhealthy and feel as though you can’t fix it, reach out to someone you trust, there is always help available and there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Further help and support is available from Bodywhys.