Eating disorder recovery can be challenging, particularly as we rely on food for effective body functioning. This reliance may further complicate recovery; however, that does not always have to be the case. Taking steps to heal your relationship with food can aid in eating disorder recovery. This article will discuss the steps to follow to begin this healing relationship.
What Steps Can I Take to Start Healing My Relationship with Food?
Food is essential to survival, but it can become an obsession and a source of stress for many people. If you struggle with your relationship with food, you are not alone.
Many steps exist to begin healing your relationship with food:
- Practice mindfulness when eating. Pay attention to your food, including how it smells, tastes, and feels in your mouth. Make eating an experience; this way, you can be intentional about meals and eat more mindfully.
- Avoid using food as a coping mechanism. While it might feel that way initially, food is not a cure for stress, anxiety, or other emotions. Try to find other helpful ways to process your feelings, such as exercise, meditation, journaling, or meeting with a therapist.
- Ditch the diet mentality. Focusing on diets and dieting leads to a restrictive mindset, damaging your relationship with food. Instead, focus on following a nutritional plan that includes a variety of foods eaten in moderation.
- Learn to listen to your body. Your body is a valuable indicator of when you are hungry, full, and satisfied. Pay attention to these cues; eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and eat what you enjoy.
- Challenge negative self-talk. Thoughts such as “I am not good enough” or “I’m too fat” can harm your relationship with food. Instead, practice self-compassion and forgiveness and focus on positive self-talk, such as “I am worthy of love and respect” and “I am doing my best.”
- Seek support. Healing your relationship with food can be difficult, so don’t hesitate to seek help from friends, family, or a professional. Having someone to talk to can be beneficial, whether it’s a therapist, nutritionist, or support group.2
What are the Best Ways to Cope with My Emotions Instead of Turning to Food?
It is easy to fall into the trap of emotional eating as a coping mechanism, so learning how to manage those emotions is an essential first step to moving forward.
Acknowledge the feelings you are experiencing; take time to consider the links between what you are feeling and food. You may wish to journal these feelings as a way of detecting patterns to share with your healthcare team.3
When experiencing feelings that may lead to eating, it can be helpful to find an alternative activity, perhaps doing yoga, going for a walk, or talking to a friend. Replacing one behavior with another positive behavior can aid in recovery.1
How Do I Break the Cycle of Disordered Eating Habits?
Healing your relationship with food is a journey; recognizing that is one of the critical steps to addressing your relationship with food. Repairing this relationship and reconciling your feelings with food will take time. Recovery can be challenging, and it is essential not to fall into a pattern of negative self-talk. Having strong support systems in place is crucial; these include personal support systems like friends and family and professional help. With the right tools and support, you can learn to love and appreciate food for what it is and what it does to keep your body well.
Breaking the cycle begins with acknowledging it in the first place and recognizing the link between “diet culture” and disordered eating.2
Overcoming an eating disorder is hard work. Celebrating all you have achieved so far as you move toward recovery is essential. There are many resources and programs which you can access to assist in your recovery.
- Sepel, J. (2020, March 9). 11 Steps To Rebuild Your Relationship With Food. MindBodyGreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/steps-to-rebuild-your-relationship-with-food
- National Eating Disorders Collaboration. (n.d.). Disordered Eating & Dieting. https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/disordered-eating-and-dieting/
- Davidson, K. (2020, December 3). How Can I Improve My Relationship with Food?. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fixing-a-bad-relationship-with-food
Kim English is a Nursing Professor and has been teaching nurses at the undergraduate and postgraduate level since 2002. Kim has supported a family member through the lived experience of eating disorders and works to advocate for support in rural areas.