How do you make peace with food if you’ve been struggling with an eating disorder or food addiction?
Disordered eating habits and body image issues have become all too prevalent in our society. We are inundated with information each day via magazines, social media and the news of how we should be eating, what foods are good and bad, and of course body image. Eating disorders come in all different forms such as binge eating, skipping meals, obsession with body image, compulsive eating and excessive exercise.
Letting go of the diet mentality is key to overcoming disordered eating habits and body image issues. We need to stop labelling foods as good and bad and start to learn to listen to our bodies and understand how they function. Food is here to nourish us and should be enjoyed, not feared.
While most of us know that we eat to fuel our bodies, we also have to be aware that we eat for other reasons. Social, cultural and biological influences all affect how and why we eat. Overcoming food addiction and disordered eating patterns requires confronting these patterns and then coming up with a solution to overcome them.
One of the biggest things to think about when looking at recovering from eating disorders is to be patient. We did not learn these habits or thought processes overnight. It takes time to address the deep-rooted issues that have brought us to where we are. In many cases, food is used as a means to cope with our feelings. Being aware and addressing this is essential.
How can food be your friend rather than an enemy?
Unfortunately, we are not given manuals for our bodies and they come with a lot of trial and error. The human body is very misunderstood by most of us. However, when we start to view food as nourishment and fuel, our perspective changes.
Trusting that our bodies can handle the food we eat is key. Practicing mindfulness when eating can prove to be extremely helpful. Simple things like not rushing through a meal, eating in a relaxed, calm state, putting all our food on the plate and really being present at meal times can help us better connect with our bodies and our true hunger. Satiating ourselves mentally, rather than physically can help re-establish balance in our bodies.
How I work with eating disorders
The first step is to let go of any stigma, anger, judgement, criticism or guilt surrounding body image and food. I like to take a gentle approach, starting off by making small changes. I focus on making mindful actions not only with food choices but our thoughts around it as well.
When I work with a client who struggles with disordered eating patterns, it’s really about stripping it back and addressing the root cause of the issue. Addressing the psychological drive to eat is the key. Our thoughts really do shape our bodies and stress and feelings of overwhelm or being out of control can manifest into our eating patterns.
Overcoming eating disorders and food addiction takes work and the support of a team. I highly recommend clients seek counselling. A few other tools that can help with emotional issues around food could include things like reading self-help books, journaling, meditation, prayer and affirmations.
The important thing to remember is that you are not alone and eating disorders come in many different forms. Being aware, taking responsibility and then taking action are all key to battling and overcoming disordered eating patterns.
Mia Harris is a Holistic Nutritionist based out of Victoria, British Columbia. She graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and is a memberof the National Association of Nutritional Professionals. She has a passion for helping others achieve optimal wellbeing through nutrition, exercise and personal development.