For many people, healing their relationship with food is an ongoing journey filled with challenges, self-discovery, and ultimately, self-acceptance. As slow and frustrating as this journey can feel sometimes, it does gradually fall into place and I recently experienced that “a-ha” moment when I realized just how far I had come with healing my relationship with food.
After a week of poor food choices, I woke up on Monday feeling exhausted and gross. But instead of beating myself, forcing myself to restrict, or push myself to do intense exercise, I had a moment of curiosity and compassion that allowed me to accept my decisions from the week prior.
This kind of self-compassion enables us to embrace our humanity, acknowledge our imperfections, and learn from our experiences. Instead of falling into the cycle of shame and self-punishment, we can choose to treat ourselves with kindness and understanding. The journey toward healing your relationship with food requires introspection and commitment, as it encompasses multiple facets of your life. So today, I want to dig into the four key steps I’ve identified on the path to healing your relationship with food.
- Restoring Your Biology:
The first step is to ensure your body receives the nourishment it needs. If you’ve been trapped in cycles of binging, restriction, or chaotic eating, it’s crucial to establish regular eating patterns and provide your body with the necessary calories. Restoring your biology creates a foundation for intuitive eating.
- Practical tip: Schedule regular meals in your calendar, and don’t be afraid to ask for support from loved ones.
- Managing Your Emotional Life:
Emotional eating often arises from the need for comfort in the face of difficult emotions. And if you learn at a young age, or even if you learn in middle age that food is going to help with that, it actually becomes a very powerful mechanism that is difficult to step out of.
To heal your relationship with food, you must learn how to understand, express, and cope with your emotions effectively. This involves examining your emotional triggers for overeating, whether it’s stress, overwhelm, anger, or boredom. How can you learn to take care of those emotions in a way that serves you and your health goals just a little bit better?
- Practical tip: Begin by identifying the emotions that lead to emotional eating, and explore alternative ways to cope with them, such as mindfulness or journaling.
- Creating New Neural Pathways:
To establish lasting change, you must create new habits and neural pathways in your brain. Your body and brain need to learn to trust each other. If you’ve experienced a history of dieting and irregular eating, your body might fear a future famine, prompting overeating. Consistency in your eating habits helps build trust between your body and mind.
- Practical tip: Gradually introduce new routines, ensuring your body learns to expect regular nourishment.
- Addressing the Root Cause:
To heal your relationship with food, you need to address the underlying issues and root cause of it all. For me (and many others!), the root cause can be feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion, which lead to unhealthy food choices. It’s essential to assess your life as a whole and identify what needs to change to reduce these stressors.
This is the piece of it that is still very much a work in progress for me. And when I look at so many of the clients that I work with, this is one of the things that really determines if people are successful in reaching their goals or not.
When you’re burning the candle at both ends, it’s almost impossible to find the space to really tune in and hear what your body needs when you’re running on fumes all the time. And so when you’re in that state, part of the work is sitting down and taking an honest look at your life and asking yourself what needs to stay,what’s got to go, and where you can put boundaries in place so that you can start to take care of yourself again.
- Practical tip: Reflect on your life and the stressors contributing to your relationship with food. Establish boundaries and prioritize self-care to reduce overwhelm.
Finding balance means recognizing that you can’t wear all your hats simultaneously and that it’s okay to take some off when necessary. Balancing your roles, self-care, and food choices is integral to achieving a healthier relationship with food.
The issue of emotional eating is complicated and multifactorial and we need to look at it from the perspective of biology, our emotional lives, our neural pathways, and how it fits into the context of our whole life. Healing your relationship with food is an ongoing journey that demands self-compassion, understanding, and a commitment to address multiple aspects of your life. By following the four steps outlined here, you can work towards a healthier and more harmonious connection with food. Remember that it’s okay to be human and embrace your imperfections; it’s all part of the process. Ultimately, finding balance in your life and prioritizing self-care will help you on your path to healing.