10 indicators of an unhealthy relationship with food
Ideally, food should be a source of bodily fuel and enjoyment! When we eat for fuel and enjoyment, we make healthy food choices and you eat only enough to satisfy hunger.
People with unhealthy eating habits don’t pay attention to the body’s normal biochemical hormones that tell us when we are hungry and when we are full. This is typically a major problem for emotional eaters that use food as a coping tool for life’s problems and uncomfortable emotions.
Emotional eating can have devastating effects on one’s self-esteem and of course, food never solves any problems or alleviates feelings, instead of eating behind emotions only piles more problems on top of what already exists. Many overeat unhealthy high fat, carb-laden foods while stressed, sad, lonely, or heartbroken. This reactionary habit of reaching for food when problems arise also leads to guilt, shame, and low self-esteem as the eater lacks the coping skills to deal with life in a healthy manner and intuitively knows that food is not a solution.
There are ways you can tell if you are eating healthy or unhealthy because unhealthy habits will typically exhibit these ten signs of unhealthy eating—or at least most of them.
Here are 10 indicators that you might have an unhealthy relationship with food:
- Eating in front of the television. Being present! When we sit down in front of the television to eat, the focus on what and how much we are eating is less than the focus of the television program. This is when we tend to overeat because we are not present with what we are doing.
- Eating sugary or salty foods. These, along with foods that are high in fat, tend to be the comfort foods that provide you with a temporary sense of relief but do not cause a lasting period of comfort. These foods are consumed in excess during times of stress, sadness, loneliness, or as a way to cope with any problem or uncomfortable situation that may occur in your life. You tend to go back for more just to feel comfortable again.
- You eat most of your food later at night. What does your rhythm of eating look like? Do you skip breakfast, eat a light lunch and, when the stressors of the day have piled up or your body becomes ravenous, you head straight for the pantry to comfort the body and mind, and stuff yourself. Food eaten at night is eaten when your metabolic state is lower so more of this food goes to fat.
- You prefer to eat alone. I completely get that a lot of us enjoy eating alone but, there are a number of people that do not choose to do so and that is when loneliness creeps in. This is where emotional eating can set in for some. Also, do you prefer to eat alone so that no one sees what you are eating or you are too embarrassed to eat in front of others? Eating in the comfort of others, being relaxed and not feeling judged is huge for our success in weight loss.
- You use food as a reward. Food becomes part of our everyday reward system. You tell yourself that when you have finished a project or accomplished some goal that you will have something special to eat as a “reward” for good behavior. The foods you choose as part of your reward system tend not to be healthy fruits and vegetables but instead are junk foods.
- You associate food with guilt. Food is something to be ashamed of when we are eating unhealthy. After you eat, you feel guilty about what you have done, much the same way as an addict or alcoholic feels after going on a bender.
- You have no relationship between having a full stomach and the need to stop eating. Because you ignore body signals when you are eating unhealthy, you eat until you are stuffed and physically uncomfortable. You don’t recognize when your body has been properly fed and keep on feeding it anyway.
- You make unhealthy food choices. Unhealthy eaters forget that you need a balance between healthy proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fats. Instead, you eat foods that provide empty calories so you are not only poorly fed but you gain weight eating the wrong kinds of foods. High fat and sugar foods stimulate “feel good” chemicals in the brain, and such food does stimulate pleasure centers in the brain, so it becomes very easy to turn to your favorite donut to feel better after a fight with a friend or co-worker.
- You see food as a friend. You spend more time thinking about food as a comfort measure and as something to eat when you want company. Rather than turning to friends and family to comfort you when you are stressed, you turn to food, which never seems to let you down.
- You are overweight. You don’t become overweight when you are strictly following bodily signals for hunger and satiety and you unintentionally eat too much. Eating to comfort emotions does cause obesity and the wide variety of complications that go with that kind of weight gain.