Week 12: Evaluate Your Relationship With Food

Having identified your healthy living pitstops last week (week 11), this week, your task is to explore your relationship with food.

Many of us have a weak, unhealthy relationship with food this week, thanks to the conditioning we have received from the media and society since we were a child.

Having looked through several food diaries and journals in the past.  it’s interesting to see the words we use to describe food.

“I love steak. I’m never going to give it up.”
“I love cookies. They make me so happy.”
“I have sinned because I ate that piece of cake.”
“I cheated on my diet.”
“I feel terrible because I didn’t stick to my diet and ate chips the other day.”
“I hate myself for overeating.”

It’s funny because all these are extremely strong words we’re using. Love. Hate. Sinned. Cheated. Terrible. Guilty. All these are strong emotions that we’re evoking, all in the name of food. Yet is food a living thing? It’s not. Food is not alive. It’s dead. It’s a non-living thing that just sits there in the kitchen counter/fridge/container we’ve put it in whether we like it or not. No matter how much we love it or hate it, it’s not going to bounce out and hug us. It’s never going to return whatever emotions we hold for it.

Because this is a 1-way relationship that is never going to be reciprocated, the intense emotions we hold towards our food leads to an unhealthy, erratic eating behavior. From depriving ourselves of a certain food because we’ll feel guilty about eating it, to binging that exact same food the next moment. From feeling ecstatic about getting to eat our favorite food, to feeling upset and unhappy when we don’t have it. From rewarding ourselves for adhering to our diet to beating ourselves up when we fall off our tiny wagon.

This week, let us spend some time to evaluate our relationship with food as a whole, via our eating habits. The more conscious we are of our eating behaviours, the more it’ll help us develop healthy eating habits and live a healthy life.

Step 1: Reflect on your motivations for eating and your behavior around food

Let us now evaluate how our relationship is with food, via these 12 signs. Refer to the 12 Indicative Signs of Emotional Eating, in step 2

and give yourself a point (+1) if the sign is relevant to you. If it isn’t, then don’t give yourself any point (0).

Step 2: Identify the group you fall under

Now, tally up the points. You should end up in one of the 4 groups below: 

12 Indicative Signs of Emotional Eating

There are many kinds of emotional eaters – some eat in response to a negative emotion, while some eat in response to a positive emotion. Below are 12 indicative signs of emotional eating:

  1. You eat when you are stressed. When you have things to do (work/studies / exams), you reach out for food subconsciously. Especially when you’re up late at night and by yourself, though it can happen in the day and in front of others too.
  2. You eat as a response to your emotions. You eat when you feel sad / annoyed / disappointed / angry / lonely/ empty / anxious/ tired / bored. It’s a reaction so subconsciously embedded that you don’t even think about it. You just automatically reach out for food whenever you experience those emotions.
  3. You seek solace in food. When you feel down, you seek out “comfort food”. You bury yourself in food like ice cream, cake, chocolate and cookies, even though they are absolute junk and have zero nutritional value. For some reason you can’t quite explain, they provide you with comfort.
  4. You have trouble losing weight (due to the way you eat). Even though you want to lose weight and you know the technicalities of losing weight such as the foods and quantities you should eat, you have trouble sticking to your diet. You can’t seem to stop yourself from eating as and when you want to (see next sign).
  5. Your eating is out of control (You can’t stop yourself from eating). You eat even when you are not hungry, and you continue to eat even when you should have stopped long ago. Your desire to eat seems to have taken a life of its own. At times you would even go out of the way just to get food or to satisfy a particular craving, even though you may not be hungry at all.
  6. You eat to feel happy. You are emotionally dependent on food, relying on it for happiness. You derive positive emotions from eating, even though it’s nothing more than a neutral activity to help you live, just like breathing, drinking water, and passing waste. Note this is entirely different from appreciating food as you eat it, which I’m all for. This is about eating specifically to derive the feeling of happiness, which creates a lopsided relationship.
  7. You eat when you feel happy. You see eating is a necessary companion to happy emotions, just like how people eat to celebrate good news.
  8. You are fascinated with eating/food. You love food. You love to eat. When you’re not eating, you can’t help but think about food. You long and crave for it. When you’re eating, it’s like you’re in wonderland. Eating and food draw an intense level of interest from you. Interestingly, none of your fascination is reciprocated by food nor eating.
  9. You use emotionally-charged words to describe food/eating, like “sinful”, “decadent”, “guilt-ridden”, “love”, “lust”, “indulgent”, “enticing”, “craving”, “tempting”, etc, even though food is a non-living thing, incapable of feelings nor returning your love/hate.
  10. You eat even though you are rightfully full. No matter how much you eat, no matter how full you feel, you never feel quite satisfied. Whatever satisfaction you get from eating is momentary, and you return to eating after a while to recapture that emotion.
  11. You think of eating even though you are rightfully full. Even after you’ve had your fill, you continue to think of food. You think about what to eat for the next meal right after you’ve finished eating. You obsess about X, Y, Z food, and when you can eat it. You can’t wait till it’s time to eat again. You think about how satisfied you’ll be when you finally get to eat. You count down to the next meal time.
  12. You have random food cravings out of the blue. Sometimes, you get urges to eat a certain food, which you can’t explain yourself. And it’s not even that you’re hungry. It’s just a craving which you must satisfy, else you’ll feel unhappy for the day.

Does any of the above resonate with you?

  1. Group A: 0-2 points
  2. Group B: 3-5 points
  3. Group C: 6-8 points
  4. Group D: 9-12 points

And here’s the evaluation based on the group you fell under:

  1. Group A: You have a healthy to a very healthy relationship with food. You should be happy that you have a neutral stance towards eating because most people don’t. Having such a healthy relationship with food is no doubt extremely helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and adhering to weight loss/gain goals (if you have any).
  2. Group B: You have an okay, somewhat average relationship with food, which can be improved much further. While food doesn’t cause you much anguish, it certainly doesn’t serve your healthy living goals either. The next steps in the this week’s exercise will help you do that.
  3. Group C: You have an average to a poor relationship with food. It’s not unlike the kind of relationship most people in our society have with food this week since this is what the media perpetuates. It’s highly important that you look into it and address it if you want to commit yourself to healthy living.
  4. Group D: You have an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. This would be the relationship I used to have, which often led to bingeing, hating myself for bingeing, and bingeing yet again. Your very poor relationship with food is very likely due to compounded issues/attachments with food/falsified beliefs, which take the time to slowly explore and unravel.

Step 3: Reflect on your relationship with food

Look at the group that fall under. What do you think about it? Do you think it accuracy depicts your relationship with food? Why or why not? And how so?


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