"Losing weight is not your life's work, and counting calories is not the call of your soul. You surely are destined for something much greater."
There is a lot of relationship advice out there. “How to tell whether he/she is the one for you.” “How to spot the warning signs of a dysfunctional relationship”. “When to let your friendship go”… and yet one relationship that we very rarely examine, is the relationship that we have with food. The stuff that sustains us and enables us to live our lives - also seems to often come with feelings of guilt, or shame. The stuff that gives us pleasure and that we often socialise over – can also become something that we worry about or obsess over. There is a lot of advice out there on how to spot the warning signs that a romantic relationship or friendship may not be right for you – but how can you tell when your relationship with food has taken a bad turn?
Here are 10 signs that your relationship with food could perhaps do with some work:
1. You are scared of going out to eat or socialising around food
Many of the clients that I work with express fear around going out to eat. They worry that if they fall off their “diet plan” and go out to eat – that they will completely “fall off the wagon”. Many of my clients will have regularly avoided social gatherings altogether just so that they can “stay on plan”. Your relationship with food should not compromise your emotional and mental well-being – it should allow you to go out and live your life, meet your friends, enjoy your holidays – because after all, that is what life is for!
2. You feel guilty when you eat certain foods
Many of my clients feel a lot of guilt when they eat certain “bad” foods. Not only does this guilt mean that they don’t enjoy the food very much, it also often means that they then spend several hours beating themselves up over having made a “bad” food choice. This attitude to food can also often lead them to think “what is the point, I might as well just eat lots of unhealthy food today then” – causing them to abandon any goal of eating nourishing meals. A healthy relationship with food should not cause you to feel guilty for eating anything – all foods are okay to eat sometimes – it is the attitude that you have when eating that food that is key.
3. You spend a lot of your time thinking about food
Almost all of the people that I have worked with have told me that a lot of their energy and mental space is consumed with thoughts around food. They dream of foods they would like to eat, worry about these foods making them put on weight, wonder how many calories they have consumed – and obsess over food in different ways throughout the day. Yet as you can imagine, having such regular thoughts about food can have a significant effect on other areas of that individual’s life. It can cause them to be less focused at work and enjoy their personal life less too. A healthy relationship with food is one in which you feel comfortable and free around food and therefore are not thinking about it regularly – this in turn can have a very positive knock-on effect in other areas of your life too.
4. You very carefully count the calories/points in everything you eat and are worried when you exceed a certain limit
Obsessively counting the calories or points in food can also indicate a dysfunctional relationship with food and a preoccupation with weight and body image. I have had many clients tell me that they turn down a nutritious and healthy avocado in place for a low-fat skinny chocolate dessert – just because of the calorie content. This obsession with calories can also cause an individual to have obsessive thoughts around food. A healthy relationship with food is one in which you do not have to obsessively count points or calories.
5. You feel that you do not know how to eat “normally”
So many individuals have communicated to me that they don’t even know what eating “normally” means. They have spent so long following diet plans and controlling their food intake – that they don’t know how they are supposed to eat day-to-day. They do not trust their body for fear that it will just make them over-eat on lots of unhealthy foods. If you wish you could just eat “normally” it could be a sign that you have been on the diet-rollercoaster for too long – and that your relationship with food could do with some work.
6. You do not trust your body to eat whatever it wants – because you are afraid that you will naturally just want to over-indulge
Often individuals fear that if they are not on a diet, they will just over-eat lots of unhealthy foods. They have very little trust of their body and they are fearful of what would happen if they moved away from counting calories and points all of the time. If you have become overly dependant on something external e.g. a calorie tracker/a diet plan etc. to control your food intake, this could be a sign that your relationship with food could do with a little help.
7. You find that once you start eating, that you just can’t seem to stop
Binge-eating is much more common that many people realise. It is also often the result of a period of extreme food restriction or dieting. Over-eating as a result of “falling off the wagon” is also often the result of feeling deprived or of not being “allowed” certain foods. It you feel completely out of control around food this is a very strong sign that you need to start thinking about food in a different way.
8. You eat even though you know that you are not hungry or you have only just had a meal
Everyone eats for comfort or due to emotional reasons sometimes – and that is completely okay. However, if you are regularly eating despite not being physically hungry, this could be a sign that eating has now become your main coping mechanism. This can of course be very harmful for you if it negatively affects your mental and physical health.
9. You regularly deny yourself food, despite feeling physically hungry
If you regularly starve yourself or deprive yourself of food despite feeling hungry, this is also a sign that your relationship with food has become dysfunctional. Many people assume that starving themselves will just automatically lead to quick weight loss. In my experience, many individuals that restrict their food intake in this way, quickly fall into a pattern of binge-eating or over-eating, to compensate for the starvation. So if you are regularly denying yourself food when you are hungry, this is a sign that your relationship with food may need a re-vamp.
10. You fear certain foods or food groups because they can make you put on weight
Many of my clients fear foods or food groups because they are calorific or may lead to weight gain. If you have noticed that you have a fear of foods – this again could indicate that your relationship with food has morphed into something that is not so good for your mental, physical and emotional health long term.
In the coming weeks, I will be launching a really exciting 12-week online course, which will help you to completely re-build your relationship with food. You will be sent weekly videos, hypnotherapy recordings, reading materials, exercises and inspiration. In the 12-weeks we will completely transform your relationship with food but also your life in every way – we will be helping you to manage emotional eating, boost your confidence and self-esteem, develop new healthy coping mechanisms, push past any barriers in your professional and personal life, start to see food differently, improve the quality of your sleep… and a whole lot more. If you would like to receive a notification when the course is released or get any more information about the course, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come and join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” – Ruth Reichl