10 Indicators You May Be At War with Food… And What to Do About It.
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Do you find yourself spiraling about food decisions? Feel your heart racing and your stomach clenching when you sit down to eat? Are there foods that you just feel anxious about eating?
I get it.
The culture that we live in right now has us believing that food dangers are lurking around every corner where calories will jump out and attack at any opportunity. As a dietitian, I’m here to say it’s okay for you to take a deep breath and to rediscover peace with food.
How do you know if you are at war with food?
It’s important to be honest about where you are in your relationship with food. Did you identify with any of the statements above? Then you may still be aligning with diet culture and waging war against food.
Some other characteristics that demonstrate a strained relationship with food are:
- Skipping meals or snacks
- Exercising more or eating less after you ate “too much”
- Reliance on rigid food rules to tell you what, when and how to eat
- Talking about food in terms of good versus bad
- Believing one food impacts your weight/body
- Experiencing anxiety before and during meals and snacks
- Experiencing guilt and shame after meals, snacks, and desserts
- Cutting out food groups or specific foods from your eating pattern
- Feeling out of control around food
- Missing out on social events (restaurants, parties, etc) because there is food present
Unfortunately, several of these characteristics are normalized in our current diet culture so it can make it challenging to label it as a strained relationship with food.
So why would someone want to make peace with food?
It’s a great question and one I get asked frequently. Aren’t you supposed to be “cautious” and “particular” about foods?
The answer is you don’t have to be. I don’t know about you but having a strained relationship with food sounds exhausting and miserable. Constantly tracking, counting, disciplining, feeling guilty or ashamed about food choices, and the list goes on and on.
As a certified eating disorder specialist, I am very aware of how these food rules and behaviors around food can culminate and fuel an eating disorder. However, you don’t have to have a diagnosed eating disorder to be fed up with diet culture and want to change your relationship with food.
Have you ever wanted to find relief from food guilt and shame? Have you ever just wanted to be able to freely enjoy the plate in front of you without a flurry of negative thoughts? Do you find that when you allow yourself to enjoy a food that you go “overboard” eating it?
Then you would benefit from making peace with food.
So how do I make peace with food?
To make peace with food, we have to uncouple our food from diet culture. So, start where you are in this moment by rejecting the diet mentality. This is a hard step so take the time you need to process this and grieve the loss of going on one more diet or the fantasy of what could have been.
Next, spend some time reflecting on what areas you feel at odds with your food and list them out. You can even use the list above to get you started but be specific – listing out any foods or food situations you may avoid. Again, take your time here. The more specific and thorough you can be the clearer the roadmap will be to making peace.
Once you have generated your list, reflect on the level of anxiety you feel when you think about eating that specific food or participating in a food situation.
The final step is to get around that food and expose yourself to it. This can feel really scary to do alone. It can be helpful to create a positive environment to try a new food – this could include another person to help with accountability, ensuring that you’re not ravenous at that time, plating your food, and even creating some ambience. Know that you may not feel completely comfortable to try this forbidden food and that’s okay. Encounters with our feared foods don’t always start with eating it on the first try. Sometimes even being near a food can peak our anxiety so be gentle with yourself in this process.
Making peace with food is a vital step in the intuitive eating journey and starts with confronting the roots of diet culture and creating a plan to incorporate feared foods. What steps have you taken? What was your experience?
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works
Intuitive Eating Workbook: 10 Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food