Identifying Your Relationship With Food

by Eleni Psillakis 1702 views Lifestyle

Identifying Your Relationship With Food

Socialising and food go together! Relationships are often developed and maintained around a meal. This certainly used to be the case for family life every night of the week. When dinner was ready and the table was set, it was a time for the family to sit down together and talk.

Over time, this does not appear to occur as much. Not only has it lead to a decline in home cooked meals but it may be fair to say that with all the distractions and gadgets we have, it has also lead to the decline in our relationships and the art of conversation. Parents may be time poor as they race back from work to fit in their activities as well as get the kids to their sports and or music activities and homework.

There is little time to get together…

My thoughts are that this may also contribute to a decline in our relationship with ourselves.

According to a study by Nuemark-Sztainer D, et al.(2004) it was found that family meal times may play an important part in the prevention of unhealthy weight control behaviours. The other factors within the family structure that may effect this were the strength of the relationships within the family, weight-specific pressures within the home and I also believe the individuals thought process does as well.

I say this as I was the eldest child of four and my siblings did not develop an eating disorder, yet I personally did.

I thought the other day about our relationship with ourselves and how, for certain people, this is reflected in their relationship with food. Some relationships are easy going, some may be up and down, others loving and nurturing while some may be abusive. It occurred to me that during my time suffering from anorexia nervosa in my late teens and early adult life, that my relationship with myself was not healthy. The way I processed things in my life resulted in a lot of fear and guilt, which I would not discuss but would turn inwardly.

relationship with food

Eventually, these emotions translated to how I felt about food and exercise.

It became an abusive relationship based on unhealthy thoughts about myself. And like an abusive relationship, it was difficult to walk away from. I developed irrational fears about eating certain foods, eating too much, irrational fears about resting and extreme guilt if I broke my rituals.

They made me feel safe.

If I did break them, the cycle of guilt and fear would strengthen. I see these kinds of relationships with food as addictive behaviour, much the same as any addiction. The cycle needs to break and it can be scary doing so. Some people may be in a denial stage but deep down are worn out by the cycle, but won't admit it.

It worries me that these unhealthy food/exercise behaviours may be taught indirectly to those in our households or within the fitness industry, to clients. Are we ‘dishing up' a healthy relationship with ourselves and food or are we serving problems. Some social media photos and posts of ‘meals' and/or extreme exercise behaviours need to be discerned in a number of ways:

What is the real motivation for eating and exercising in this manner for the person responsible for the post?
  • Do they even align with yours?
  • Is the post based on evidence-based health and nutrition?
  • Or is it just their opinion?
  • What effect is the post going to have on someone who already has problems with extreme diet and exercise behaviours?
  • And can they differentiate between what is healthy and what is not?
So I think a good starting point would be to ask yourself is:
  • "What is my relationship with food and exercise like and what is it based on?"
  • Do you love and support yourself, giving your body what it needs to do all the things it loves and is good at?
  • Maybe you YOYO diet?

Or is it a relationship based on guilt and extreme behaviours, that wear you out, mentally and physically and create a vicious pattern, where you feel you are only worthy if you stick to these rituals?

These are extremely important questions to ask yourself, and please be honest when you do take the time to do so.

If your mental, emotional, social and spiritual health is affected in a negative way because of the way you treat your body, then the chances are something needs to change.

You hold the power to change, but will you take that step?

Neumark-Sztainer, Dianne et al. "Are Family Meal Patterns Associated With Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Adolescents?". Journal of Adolescent Health 35.5 (2004): 350-359. Web.

Eleni Psillakis

Eating Disorder Educator

Combining over 28 years experience in Education, and the same in the fitness industry as a group instructor and PT, my passion is to raise awareness of eating disorders as serious mental health issues. I am working alongside the Centre for Eating and Dieting Disorders, to review their guidelines for Identifying and Managing Eating disorders in the Fitness Industry.

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