By Malya Levin, LCSW-C
This is so bad for me I shouldn’t be eating this.
I totally pigged out on junk food, now I can’t eat the rest of the day.
I have zero self-control, so I must cut out all unhealthy foods.
Everyone has heard some variation of these comments in their life. Whether it’s coming from a relative, friend, co-worker, stranger or from yourself, these remarks are woven into our daily lives. They are so commonplace that most people don’t recognize just how dangerous they can be.
The way we talk and think about food impacts how we feel about food, and ultimately, how we feel about ourselves. Imagine a scenario in which you say, “this doughnut is terrible for me” and then you eat it. How do you feel? Guilty, disappointed, and just basically bad about yourself.
During my work as a family therapist at an eating disorder inpatient and partial hospitalization program, I saw, firsthand, the extreme behaviors that can come from an unhealthy relationship with food. Many families must learn to change the way they speak about food and weight in order to best support their loved ones in treatment.
Unfortunately, statistics from NEDA (The National Eating Disorders Association), show that 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years. This can feel defeating for people who want to improve their eating habits but don’t feel they can keep up the strict restrictions a diet requires.
In order to develop “healthier” eating habits, I believe we must develop a healthier relationship with food.
- Don’t label food as good or bad. Focus on the belief that all food is good for you in different ways because it’s nourishing your body. Avoid describing certain foods as bad or off limits. The goal is to take away the guilt associated with eating foods we typically think of as “unhealthy.”
- Eat in moderation. No matter what the food, work on exhibiting self-control and maintaining appropriate portion sizes. The point is to improve overall eating habits, so limiting yourself to a portion of any food helps accomplish the goal. So, no self-imposed punishment by denying yourself certain foods.
- Eat balanced meals. Try to incorporate all food groups into your meals. When a food group is cut out, often we crave that food and then cannot control how much of it we eat when we “cave.” The idea is no food is off limits because it is being included in a balanced way.
Remember to be kind to yourself! Focus on being patient as you try to create a new and healthier relationship with food. It’s not easy to change the ingrained patterns of thinking that most people have. Think about how a healthier relationship and approach to food can improve how you feel about yourself.
Malya Levin, LCSW-C, is a therapist for JCS.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.