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Love or Hate Food? How does it impact you?



"We live in a diet culture and preoccupation with food, including the message that food will resolve all your concerns in one way shape or form"


But when does a focus on food, calories and weight become something else?


Having grown up in the diet boom and not ever seeing anything different other than my significant models in my life stuffing their faces and declaring diet the following day. Then as an abused child having no food, it is no wonder I developed a disordered eating mindset, which was ultimately due to control, to make me feel that I was good at something and being successful.


 

What is Disordered Eating?

Disordered eating is used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviours that may or may not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder. When we talk about behaviours, I would prefer to think about it more on a relationship front.


Disordered eating is very much a relationship with food, exercise, and your body.


I know that for me my relationship with food was about control. I was desperately trying to be someone else, to feel worthy and the only mechanism I had was my body and ability to be fit and thin just like the media portrayed, because then you would have your dreams.

But then that obsession became into something else, and I would get anxious going into situations where I had no control. Friends inviting us for a meal, and I did not know what or how food was being cooked. Convincing myself just by that one event I would become fat and unworthy, that I was a failure. I would be very vocal as to the number of “allergies” I had and on occasions would even take my own food.

Even now from childhood, I still think eating cake is bad and though I long to take a bite the mental play and feelings of guilt are still strong.


To understand Disordered Eating, we need to understand what Non-Disordered Eating looks like?


It essentially has only four components!


Regularity, Variety, Flexibility and Fun!


  • Regularity means eating frequent snacks and meals throughout the day. For me I have breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon snack. Equally some people are not breakfast people yet still eat regularly.

  • Variety involves consuming a large selection of foods from each food group and includes “treat” foods for enjoyment. Nothing is off limits.

  • Flexibility in eating is the ability to adapt to changes in routine, settings and the unknown.

  • Fun means eating for pleasure, celebrating special occasions with eating.


Characteristics of Disordered Eating


These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Frequent dieting, anxiety associated with specific foods or meal skipping.

  • Chronic weight fluctuations

  • Rigid rituals and routines surrounding food and exercise. Including over exercising to compensate or burn extra calories.

  • Feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating and from the inability to maintain food and exercise habits.

  • Preoccupation with food, weight and body image that negatively impacts quality of life.

  • A feeling of loss of control around food, including compulsive eating habits

  • Using exercise, food restriction, fasting or purging to "make up for bad foods" consumed.

  • Distorted body image, or body shape and weight is the primary measure of self-worth

  • Eating for comfort and not hunger


I will be honest with you, most of these applied to me at one time, now I have done so much work on self-love, self-confidence and acceptance that I only fall back, when I feel overwhelmed and not aligned to my highest energy.



What is the impact?


Like with many things, everything we do, say, think and feel all have an impact on us as an individual. Disordered eating, though not clinically diagnosable can cause many health consequences and may negatively impact your cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems, as well as your hormones, skin, hair, kidneys, and blood cells. In addition, any deficiency whatever the cause can result in fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and depression or social isolation. It is important to be mindful of the impacts and balance with the mental struggle of control and self-worth.


Support available to elevate your health and wellbeing


Behavioural changes are part of the road to recovery. There are also disordered eating treatments that employ strategies to help patients address dysfunctional thoughts.


Cognitive behavioural therapy, this approach involves helping people understand how their automatic negative thoughts about food, eating, weight, and shape fuel their behaviours. Then, people work to change those thoughts and behaviours.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy - ACT is a type of CBT that helps people practice acceptance of their thoughts and behaviours while working to commit to healthy and helpful actions. This approach suggests that trying to avoid or stop certain thoughts can worsen problems. Practicing acceptance while working toward goals can help build greater psychological flexibility.

Research suggests that ACT can help reduce feelings of discomfort about internal experiences while helping people commit to behaviours that are in line with their values.


However, if you do not have access to these and relating to my own journey, I found the following strategies as support.

  1. Recognising and label thoughts – I can’t eat cake – Disordered eating thought and thank it for arising but reminding yourself that you are safe and will decide.

  2. Challenge thoughts – My strong notion is not to eat cake because I will put on weight. But what is the evidence for that? Yes, if I did for every mealtime and every day then it is likely, but equally our bodies are amazing machines and eventually you will crave something more nutritious!

  3. Trust your body and intuition - Practice daily breath work, grounding yourself and clearing the mind. There are many free apps such as insight timer that can support this. This will allow you to truly listen to your body and tune into its needs. Remember food is fuel and fuel is required for your body to function. Learn to feel how your body feels, if it feels tired, then reassure yourself rest is important for your body to recover. Look at alternatives to a heavy exercise session, like taking a walk and connecting with nature!

  4. Keep a diary / journal – start to recognise which situations make you feel out of control, unworthy and see if there is a pattern.

  5. Use positive words to deflect from negative


None of the above I found easy to do and everyone has good days and bad days, and you may find the need to get a more holistic support approach, such as coaching, hypnosis or a nutritional therapist. Each one of us are phenomenal beings and are worthy of being here and serving your true purpose, so remember to be kind to yourself.


Final Words

Disorder eating is not an easy journey and the road to recovery is undulating yet I believe that true self-love, self-belief, self-worth and finding the right support will enable you to achieve an elevation in health, mind, body, and soul.



References


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