Eating is one of the physical pleasures (among the more naughty ones) that is universally appreciated. But our relationship with eating has become quite warped with the onslaught of media, and the pervasive “diet trend”. On one hand, we are constantly bombarded with images of unattainable body ideals and on the other hand, we are also told that we are punishing our taste buds by cutting down on all that sugar and fat.
Because we are constantly bombarded with these two conflicting ideas, it causes many of us to develop a very twisted relationship with food and eating. And this gives rise to the issue of disordered eating.
But before we can begin to mend our relationship with food, we have to explain what disordered eating is, so that that you can correctly identify and gauge your relationship with food.
What Is Disordered Eating?
The term “disordered eating” covers a wide range of eating disorders such as bulimia, binge eating, etc. But it’s quite possible that you might not exhibit the entire spectrum of symptoms to qualify as a doctor-certified bulimic or anorexic and yet, you share tendencies that lead you to have a much more conflicted relationship with food.
For example, you might purge the food that you eat sometimes, especially when you feel you have overindulged, but this might not be a routine. Or maybe you indulge in binge eating when you feel emotional or stressed out, every now and then, but again, this is not your usual routine. These situations might not qualify as full-fledged eating disorders, but they do impact your health significantly.
In fact, about 5–20 percent of people have to live with these below-threshold conditions, because they do not meet the full criteria of these eating disorders (1). There is a common misconception that only those who have a low BMI or are underweight have an eating disorder, which is entirely untrue. So how can one identify if they suffer from disordered eating?
Physical And Emotional Signs Of Disordered Eating
If you doubt that you or some of your near and dear ones suffer from disordered eating, you should look out for the following signs:
- Severe weight fluctuations
- Changes in the texture of hair and skin
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Fainting or frequent dizzy spells
- Stomach pain, or irregular bowel movements
- Dental problems such as the decay of enamel and cavities arising due to acid reflux
- Concern with food, calorie intake, and carbohydrate consumption bordering on obsessive control. This concern dominates all other interests and activities.
- Withdrawal from social events that involve eating
- Obsession with a particular body part or the number on the scale
- Significantly limiting food intake, by banning certain food categories
- Performing very specific food rituals
Steps You Can Take To Facilitate A Healthy Relationship With Food
Now that we have addressed the problem correctly, we need to find a way to deal with it. This list of small tips will help you develop a healthy relationship with food. So whether you are an avid yo-yo dieter or an emotional foodie, following these tips will help you mend your relationship with food.
- Eat Everything, But In Moderation
Don’t put value judgments on food. For example, don’t think chocolate or ice cream is bad. It is just a food item; it has no moral component. The more you vilify or idealize food items as “good” or “bad”, the harder you are on yourself for consuming them.
- Don’t Give In To Your Emotions
First, identify what triggers those irrational cravings of yours. If it’s your emotions, put them aside. Don’t eat because you’re feeling bored or sad, eat because you’re hungry. Find a healthy way of processing your feelings instead of blocking it with food.
- Pay Attention To The Needs Of Your Body
Monitor your portions. You don’t have to take a large helping of a particular food item just because you love relishing an item. If you do, you will end up eating more than you require. Similarly, don’t set random limits on yourself, so as to restrict your calorific intake. Listen to what your body is telling you and eat to nourish it.
- Avoid Making Food The Main Component Of Your Conversations
This tip works both ways. Avoid fixating on food, pictures of food, and avoid bringing it up in conversations. Also, if you have the habit of constantly commenting on how many calories are there in a food item or how it leads to weight loss or weight gain, try to dial it down.
Everyone’s nutritional needs and body types are different. And the way our bodies react to particular kinds of food is also different, so avoid comparing your body and food habits with others. Eat what works for you. Try to provide nutrition to your body in the best way possible, by eating in a balanced way that works for you.
At the end of the day, your body is the vehicle that allows you to steer your life in the direction you want it to go. So nourish it from within by developing a healthy relationship with food. Always remember that eating is not a sin, just a function of providing fuel to your body.
If you know of any other tips that can help one with disordered eating, share them with us in the comments.