Friday, February 7, 2014

How is your relationship with food?

Food is a big part of our lives.  We need to eat to keep living, it’s pleasurable, it’s social, it’s spiritual.  Needless to say, food is very important.

As with all good things in this world, the enemy has found a way to twist the good of eating food into something disordered.  Because we encounter food on a daily basis, a disproportionate view or an improper relationship with eating can affect you every day.

We live in a fallen world, and because of this reality I think everyone has some degree of disordered eating.  No one is perfect, right?  We are human and we have many flaws.

The difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder is the extent that it disrupts your life.  If your relationship with food is so bad that you can no longer function, take care of yourself, or continue living the way you are, then you most likely have an eating disorder.

However, in between a good relationship with food and an eating disorder is what I call disordered eating or an unbalanced relationship with food.

You have a poor relationship with food if:

You are controlling of what you eat and what others eat (your husband, children, etc).  You influence other’s food choices by your comments.  You might have bizarre eating habits and rally others to join you.  You may be considered picky, restrictive of your choices, and only eating certain things certain ways.  You could be a chronic dieter.
You talk about food a lot.  You talk about how eating affects you personally, how it makes you feel, how it tastes, and digests.  You talk about what it is and why you are eating.  You feel the need to explain yourself every time you put something in your mouth.  You might need other’s validation or encouragement in order to eat something.  You also might ask about what others are eating to compare yourself to them.
You do not, or rarely, share your food.  You might horde food, hide it, or eat in secret so as not to explain yourself or to share.
You are afraid of food, eating makes you nervous.  Being around food, at meal times, or at parties gives you anxiety because of the food that is present.  It is difficult for you to make eating decisions, for example: choosing a restaurant, making dinner on the fly, or choosing snacks at a get together.
You find yourself constantly thinking about food, eating, or not eating.  Your thoughts about food take up a lot of space in your head, often leaving you disengaged from the moment.
Click here to take a short quiz to see if you have disordered eating tendencies.

While you may not have a full blown eating disorder, you’re relationship with food is still not healthy for you or those around you.  Whether or not you also have concerns about appearance, weight, or weight loss, if you could see yourself in any of the above descriptions, then you have an unbalanced view of food.

You may not be unhappy or even know that your relationship with eating is distorted.  Like I say earlier, I think many people experience disordered eating.  But, like all shortcomings, we are called to self-awareness in order to become the best version of our selves.  Just because it’s normal doesn’t make it right.

It is really important, especially in this day in age, to work toward having a proper relationship with food.  Eating disorders are more prevalent now than ever.  The way you approach food and eating can have a huge impact on those around who might be susceptible to, or currently struggling with, an eating disorder.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever talk about food.  It’s fine to comment on how something tastes good, and if you like this or that.  Everyone has their own unique, subjective tastes.  It’s fun to share recipes and trials and errors when it comes to cooking.  I think it’s OK to talk about food – what I think is harmful is when it goes beyond this.  I’m talking about keeping food in its proper place.

Yes, food is a big part of life, but it is not all there is to life either.

It’s really challenging for me to be around people who have a distorted view of eating, especially those who are very controlling and vocal about it.  I’ve made a lot of habit changes that have helped me overcome my eating disorder tendencies, and I can stand it when someone questions my choices.  It’s also difficult to be around people who constantly talk about why they are eating.  “I worked out today so I earned this piece of chocolate”, or “I can’t eat any of that bad food because it makes me sick”, you know, comments like that.  Its fine if you choose not to eat certain things because they make you feel bad, just don’t broadcast it or brag about it like you are superior.  It makes people with eating disorders feel like never eating again.  I have a brother who is lactose intolerant, but you’d never know because he never complains and never makes you feel bad for eating dairy yourself.

Whether you like it or not, people are affected by what you say and do, especially those younger than you.  How we approach eating can either help put an end to or encourage eating disorder tendencies in those around us.

Want to overcome disordered eating?

Stop controlling what you eat.  Give yourself permission to eat without punishment.  Let your hunger be your guide.  Don’t talk about “why” you are eating, you don’t need a “why” to eat.  Un-moralize food, eating is a subjective experience.  Let others make their own food choices – they must learn for themselves what their likes and dislikes are, and what hungry and full mean to them.  Cook homemade meals and share them with family and friends.
Eventually, your mind will put food back in it’s appropriate place and you can use the extra space in your brain to think about other important things.

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