By: Jessica Johns-Green, LPC Unhealthy relationships with food and eating disorders are prevalent in our society. Mental health issues are also prevalent in our society with over 40 million adults diagnosed with anxiety every year. So have you ever wondered if you use food for comfort and to just deal? You’re driving home after a […]
By: Jessica Johns-Green, LPC
Unhealthy relationships with food and eating disorders are prevalent in our society. Mental health issues are also prevalent in our society with over 40 million adults diagnosed with anxiety every year. So have you ever wondered if you use food for comfort and to just deal?
You’re driving home after a stressful day. On your way, you mull over the events of the day. The things that made you worried or angry. As you approach home, your mind becomes set on a big bowl of ice cream. Maybe two bowls.
I’m stressed. I’ll have a bowl of ice cream. Maybe two.
Using Food To Cope With Emotions
Ever been there? If so, this is typically a sign you are using food to cope with emotions. It makes you feel better to enjoy ice cream rather than think about the conflicts of the day. Ice cream reminds you of happy times, and for just a moment when you’re digging into your bowl, you forget.
When life feels unmanageable, we often use food as a tool to distract us, or soothe us, or sometimes even both.
Food and emotion are linked; however, not always in a negative way. People in every culture use food to celebrate, be near loved ones, feel comfort and mark big occasions. But for many people, the relationship with food can be difficult, and even destructive. Destructive relationships with food can often lead to eating disorders.
How Do I Know If I Have An Eating Disorder or An Unhealthy Relationship With Food?
It can be challenging to identify eating disorders and other types of problematic food behaviors because they take many shapes. Some examples include under-eating, overeating, or a combination of both. And often, these kinds of problems can start with good intentions. It may be as innocent as a bowl of ice cream. However, if the bowl of ice cream is to deal with anxiety, then over time you may gain weight. Eventually, you begin to feel helpless about your struggles with eating and anxiety.
Maybe if I just ignore my emotions and eat the ice cream I will feel better.
Eating Behaviors That Can Be An Area of Concern
Problematic eating habits can lead to mood and health problems. Although not all problematic eating habits will lead to an eating disorder, you can gain a better understanding of the types of areas of concern.
- Being rigidly restrictive with food and extremely focused on weight/appearance to the point where either your health or other areas of life suffer greatly. In more severe cases, this is known as anorexia nervosa. A disorder characterized by dangerously low calorie intake and anxiety about eating food and your body size and shape.
- Overeating that becomes a regular occurrence, and is often driven by emotions, such as worry, sadness, loneliness. At it’s most severe, binge eating disorder is characterized by eating large amounts of food and feeling out of control of the eating.
- Habitually trying to ‘make up’ for eating too much in some way. If you are stuck in a repeating loop of overeating and over dieting, it’s not just your health that suffers, it’s your mood, too. Excessive workouts, heavily restricting calories, laxative use after overeating are all signs to take a look at your relationship with food. Bulimia is a disorder characterized by a cycle of binging (excessive overeating) and purging (vomiting, laxative use, obsessive exercise), as well as, negative body image issues.
- Excessive anxiety about eating the ‘right’ food/healthy food. Eating healthy is great and essential for your mood. However, for some people, it can start to feel out of control. Choosing what to eat can feel overwhelming or leave no room for flexibility. Although not a recognized disorder, some practitioners are referring to cases of Orthorexia, a condition where health food choices become an obsession and a source of anxiety.
Reach Out For Help
Eating disorders can be dangerous and potentially deadly. So, if you identify with any of these, reach out for help. It can feel overwhelming to begin to focus on the problem and finding solutions can feel impossible; however, you are not alone in the journey. If you need help, talk to a supportive friend, speak to your doctor or find a therapist. Therapy offers a place to deal with the emotional issues that drive these problems. Working with a therapist can help you to find confidence in your ability to cope and have a healthy relationship with food. At the Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch, we are here to help. You deserve to feel empowered, not helpless.