6 Signs You Have an Unhealthy Relationship With Food

Whether you’ve been noticing it for a while, or it seems to be just creeping into your life now, showing up with some of these signs below may indicate you need to spend some time evaluating your relationship with food.

Take a look at each sign below and how to go about fixing it:

1. You meticulously plan your meals in advance and are always thinking about foo

You know what you are having for breakfast before you wake up, have lunch planned by the time breakfast is done, and may even have your dinner plans sorted out before lunch time rolls around. As a result of this obsession and need for planning, you are constantly thinking about food and your mind is consumed with what you are allowed to eat next, or when you get to eat next.  Embedded in all of this is a deep sense of need for control, whereby you don’t like to have anything spontaneous or unplanned.  Instead of focusing on the need to plan, try to focus on listening to your body and allowing yourself to eat what you want when you feel like you want it.

2. You have anxiety around eating out, eating at someone else’s house or eating in unplanned social settings

Related to the need for control as mentioned above, eating in social settings or at someone else’s house reduces the amount of control you are able to have over the food that you consume. As a result, this can be extremely anxiety provoking to individuals who have an unhealthy relationship with food and can make them shy away from eating out or eating in public, as well as result in declining dinner invitations from friends and family. Instead of thinking of eating out in a negative way, try to frame it as valuable time you get to spend with friends or family, and embrace it as a chance to strengthen relationships with important people in your life. 

3. You’re always starving, or never hungry 

A long period of unhealthy food restriction or overconsumption wrecks havoc on your body’s natural hunger and satiation cues. When you never eat when you are hungry (i.e. restrict your food), your body may start to suppress your hunger cues and no longer let you know when you are hungry.  Or, alternatively, you may feel hungry all the time, because you are constantly under nourishing yourself and not giving your body enough calories.  Likewise, overconsumption of food can turn off your hunger cues as well, because your blood sugar always remains high, and it is a drop in blood sugar that typically signals hormone secretion which signals hunger and satiety.   Focus on listening to your hunger cues and eating mindfully.  Eat when you are hungry and allow your body to tell you when it is full.  This will help your body re-establish natural cues of hunger and fullness.

4. You place food in certain categories: good, bad, off-limits

In your head, every food you eat falls into a certain category, which determines if you are or aren’t allowed to eat it and more than that, when or how much of it you can eat. This may also involve a list of “must eat” foods, for example certain vegetables, or superfoods every day, or a certain selection of foods that is allowed for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Instead of having categories, have a mindful eating mindset, where you focus on eating the healthiest foods 80% of the time and the other 20% of the foods you consume are less healthy or meant to be consumed less often.

5. You only allow yourself certain foods if you “deserve” it

Maybe it is only if you have exercised enough that day, or if you have exercised first.  Maybe it is only if you have had a “good” day, not eating foods that are forbidden, or not overeating on any one food.  Or maybe you only deserve to eat a certain food if you had a good day the day before and now today you deserve a treat.  These “deserving” foods are typically things like dessert or foods that are higher in calories, fat or carbohydrates.  Instead of adopting the mindset that you only deserve certain foods, adopt the mindset that you can have any food, just focusing on consuming them in moderation and within healthy limits.

By: Bethany Barich

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