I’ve struggled with my relationship with food for years now.
In my early years of high school, I remember being concerned with how much and what I ate, and how it would affect my image. But my relationship with food didn’t begin to control my life until my first year of college.
My first semester was one that I will never forget. It is filled with positive memories and times that I will forever cherish. But it wasn’t until winter break when I realized how the food I was eating began to impact my body.
I remember looking at a picture that me and my brother had taken at a Christmas party. It was then that I realized how much weight I’d gained from all the processed food I had been eating at college. Since then, I became hyper-fixated on my appearance and began scrutinizing everything that I put in my body.
I also thought about food constantly. At breakfast, I was thinking about lunch, and at lunch I was thinking about dinner. I finally decided I needed to change my habits because this was an impossible way to live.
Here are a few ways that have allowed me to experience freedom from food.
1. Let go of the diet mentality.
When I first started to become fixated on my food choices, I quickly entered the binge and restrict cycle. I would tell myself that I could only consume certain foods and that I had to limit my calorie intake.
This would lead to binge eating with any junk food I could find. I would then feel extremely guilty and tell myself that I would eat better tomorrow, But that only led to restricting again and thus creating a never ending toxic cycle with my eating habits.
When I finally started to detach my worth from what I ate and how I looked, I was able to see more clearly what my body was actually benefiting from. I let go of the idea that 2000 calories a day was bad and would somehow have an effect on my worth or how others saw me.
2. Practice intuitive eating.
During this time, I was so concerned about losing weight and looking better that I was willing to try anything. In my second semester of college, I decided to try intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a mealtime schedule in which someone only eats during a certain window of time, sometimes as little as four hours. I had read that people that practiced fasting shed weight incredibly quickly and I decided I had to try it.
Ultimately, I was almost always tired and by the time I allowed myself to eat, I was starving and wanted to eat anything in sight. This practice put a strain on my mental and physical health, not to mention that I didn’t lose any weight.
When I began to practice intuitive eating, which is the practice of listening to what your body needs and wants, I felt much less restricted when it came to food. I was able to connect with my body and found that I didn’t crave sugary or high calorie foods as much as I thought I would.
3. Don’t compare your needs with other people’s needs.
Throughout this time in my life, I constantly compared what or how much I was eating to my friends or family members. I would think that I was failing if I had more on my plate than my sister or if I wanted an extra piece of cake.
What I neglected to realize was that there are so many factors that go into how many calories a person needs or what kind of foods make them feel good. For instance, I’m several inches taller than my sister and my friends. Therefore, the amount of calories that I will need to feel energized compared to them is bound to be different.
When people are more active, they need more calories to energize themselves and provide the proper nutrition so that their body can heal. Once I began to recognize that what others eat is not an indicator of what my body needs or may want, I was able to begin to stop comparing myself in many ways.
Changing my relationship with food is something that I still have to work at every day. It is often easier said than done to listen to your body and its needs.
While this article is not meant to substitute for medical advice, there are ways you can try on your own to start your journey to mend your relationship with food.
If you feel out of control with your relationship with food, seek help from your primary care physician or a dietitian.