Creating A Healthy Relationship With Food

Imagine this relationship.

You spend all day thinking about it.  You plan your time around it, and when you’re going to be able to spend time with it.

Your friends and family don’t like it.  They think it’s not good for you.  They think you can do a whole lot better, and they’re not shy about letting you know how much they disapprove.

You feel anxious and empty when you don’t have it, and happy and fulfilled when you do have it.

You know too much of your energy goes towards it.  You know too much of your happiness depends on it.  You beat yourself up about how dependent you are on it and feel ashamed.  You might even be isolating yourself from friends and family so they won’t guess how you feel about it.

Finally you decide you’re done with it.  You take control of your relationship with it, and for a little while you feel so proud.  You have given up something that is so unhealthy for you!  You’re in charge, you’re strong and successful and moving in the right direction.  Your family and friends are proud of you and that approval feels so good.

Then you start to feel lonely, stressed, anxious and sad.  You think maybe you overreacted, maybe it wasn’t really so bad.  You really were happier with it than you are now, right?

Now the cycle has started over again.  You’re thinking about it all day, isolating and becoming secretive again, and battling shame and anxiety.

What is IT?

Many of you may be recovering addicts or have a loved one who is an addict.  This is how addiction has been described by many who suffer with it.

“IT” may also be an abusive spouse or lover.

Today I want to talk about how “IT” can represent food.  Many of us struggle with our weight and have an unhealthy relationship with food, particularly sugary, salty and fatty foods.

We use food to soothe ourselves when we’re unhappy or feeling anxious.  Eating sugary, salty, fatty foods stimulates receptors in the brain the way heroin does.  Our relationship with food can become just as unhealthy as an addiction or abusive marriage.

This is the reason why good bariatric surgery programs include intensive mental health evaluations and counseling, as well as nutrition counseling, before surgery.

Bariatric surgery changes your relationship with food.  If you’re not ready for the change you will go through a grieving process.  It is almost as if an abusive spouse died suddenly.  There is grief and guilt and relief (and then guilt over feeling relieved) and nostalgia because really, that relationship wasn’t so bad, right?

People who are obese can benefit from mental health counseling even if they don’t plan to have bariatric surgery.  It is very difficult to change your relationship with food without trained help.  For instance, you wouldn’t expect a heroin addict to just wake up one morning clean and sober without help, would you?

If you love someone who struggles with their weight, please share this post with them.  If YOU struggle with your weight, I want you to know 3 things:

  1. YOU are worthy of having a healthy, fit body that feels good every day.
  2. YOU are not weak or stupid or bad because you have trouble managing your weight.
  3. Just like addicts can get clean and stay sober, YOU can learn to create a healthy relationship with food so that food nourishes and supports your body instead of making it sicker.

QUESTION: What is the hardest thing about eating healthy for you?

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