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Health and Fitness News

Food: Friend or Foe?

What’s your relationship with food?

Your body was created to need a constant supply of food and water. Without it, you won’t survive for long. As with all good things, food can be misused and abused. Many people develop an unhealthy relationship with foods they can’t live without. This may contribute to eating disorders and troubles with weight management.

You may not spend much time thinking about your relationship with food. Or maybe you think about it all the time. Either way, it’s vital that you learn to recognize negative eating patterns. When they crop up, take steps to foster a healthier view of food. Doing this may be your key to successful weight loss.

A Healthy Relationship

Foods aren’t just meant to keep you alive. They’re to be valued for the nourishment, energy, and enjoyment they provide. In a healthy relationship with food, there’s a sense of freedom. There are no strict restrictions. You give yourself permission to eat whatever food you want, as long as it’s good for your physical and mental health.

Instead of obsessing about the number of calories you eat or the number on the scale, you eat when you’re hungry. You stop when your body says you’re full. You don’t worry about what others think of your food choices. Because you know your identity isn’t defined by what you eat.

There are no categories of “good” or “bad” food. Rather, all foods can be eaten in moderation. This means you don’t feel guilty or ashamed after eating. After all, food is meant to be enjoyed. Overeating on a holiday or indulging in a chocolate cake every once in a while isn't a reason to beat yourself up.

An Unhealthy Relationship

An unhealthy relationship with a person creates stress and anxiety. So does an unhealthy relationship with food. There’s no sense of freedom in what, when, and how you eat. Anytime you eat, you feel guilty or ashamed. You’re always worrying about what foods you should avoid and what foods you should eat. You’ve got a long list of rules concerning what foods are good and bad.

A sign of an unhealthy relationship to food is a history of yo-yo dieting. Maybe you’ve been on multiple fad diets over the course of your life. You’re always obsessing about calorie counts. Instead of listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues, you stop eating when you’ve reached a daily allotted calorie limit.

Eating around other people makes you feel anxious because you worry about what they’re thinking about your food choices. This may lead to binge eating when you’re alone. You struggle with emotional eating. When you’re stressed, angry, nervous, lonely, bored, or sad, you’re more likely to overeat.

Repairing the Relationship

You may not have every sign of an unhealthy food relationship, but you may have one or two areas that need improvement. With a little work, you can improve your relationship with food.

First, get rid of the rules. Give yourself permission to enjoy food. Stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad.”

Second, listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. A big part of doing this is staying in the moment. Be mindful when you eat. Limit distractions, eat slowly, recognize why you’re eating, and enjoy each bite.
It’s taken a lifetime to develop your relationship to food. Sometimes negative habits need extra help to break. If your relationship with food seems too broken for you to fix on your own, seek professional help.