I’ve previously talked about what Fatphobia is, society’s common misconceptions about being fat and how that relates to one’s health and perception of beauty (spoiler alert, it’s all based on making you feel insecure). In the end, I wanted to give you advice on how to amplify YOUR body empowering the absolute force that you are and allowing self-love to shine through. If you haven’t read that blog yet, please do check it out and read about the time I cried my eyes out when I realized how it had affected me growing up!
To continue the conversation on striving for acceptance and respect towards our bodies, I want to talk about how our perceptions about self-image are inherently tied to our relationship with food. Fatphobia can not only affect one’s thoughts about their weight/size, but can also alter a person’s eating behaviours.
The Eating Behaviour Continuum
Weight preoccupation and body dissatisfaction can contribute to disordered eating, and if it continues to develop, these behaviours might become a mental illness: eating disorder. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re different, and it’s not that one type of behaviour will certainly lead to an eating disorder, but rather the number of disordered behaviours, how frequently they happen, and how severely they affect one’s quality of life.
What is disordered eating?
Disordered eating describes the unhealthy eating behaviours that stem from worries about body image. It is quite common, and these types of behaviours include dieting, restrictive eating, and binge eating. Many people experience disordered eating at some point in their life.
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are diagnosed by doctors or psychologists based on criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are the most common examples of eating disorders but there are a few others that are not talked about as often, like ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) & OSFED (Other Specified Feeding & Eating Disorder). Appropriate Treatment requires the attention of medical professionals including a dietitian, psychologist, medical docs and nurses… and for that reason, seeking help must extend beyond this blog post.
If you know, or are someone battling with an eating disorder, please talk to your doctor. In addition, you can use these resources to learn about the signs that may indicate the presence of an eating disorder and for more information and support!
The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) http://nedic.ca
Eating Disorders | CMHA British Columbia https://cmha.bc.ca/documents/eating-disorders-3/#cure
Kelty Eating Disorders https://keltyeatingdisorders.ca/types-of-disorders/disordered-eating/
PLEASE TAKE THIS TO HEART: Wherever you are in your journey, you are not lesser, you are not wrong. There is no need to feel ashamed if you diet or practice any of the behaviours in the range of disordered eating or eating disorders, because we are all human. We all have different experiences with food; events, discrimination, or stigmas that shape our relationship with eating throughout our life.
Above all, it is not shameful to seek professional help. One of my goals I am so passionately driven by as a dietitian is to support individuals build or repair this relationship, so their experiences with food are not harmful (physically, mentally, or emotionally), but bring so much such vibrancy to life and happiness in their own skin, which everyone deserves.
How to nurture a healthy relationship with food
1. Take Inventory (of your thoughts, emotions, and triggers)
Nurturing any relationship, including food and your body, should start with realistically reflecting upon where you are at this point in your life, and whether your feelings and what you are currently doing will allow for a healthy relationship to flourish.
Do your actions involving food make you feel content/happy? Why or why not? Are there other aspects of your life that influence your eating behaviours? Being unconditionally honest with yourself about the food behaviours you engage in and why is an essential step before you can move forward and change them.
Be patient with yourself in the process. Confronting this head-on is not easy, may even be painful to do, and will surely take time. However, gaining a true grasp of what your relationship with food is like now is necessary to focus your thoughts, behaviours, and life towards cultivating a healthy balance and love for food.
2. Take Power Back (over food)
If you struggle with disordered eating, you may feel that you are in a constant fight of food vs. your self-control. A lot of people can relate and empathize with feeling a lack of “willpower” for breaking a “clean eating” streak, and as a result, becoming defeated. For example, eating a bag of chips and the next day going on a full-on binge of everything you deprived yourself of since it feels as if all your progress was lost. How do we begin to overcome this?
Forgiveness. Forgive any negative emotions you may have had towards yourself for giving into food, and come to terms with the fact that food does not have power over you. Eating certain types of food or more than what you told yourself you would, does not make you weak. Food does not define you. It does not have the power to determine your worth, or whether your body is good enough.
You hold the power to use food to nourish, fuel, and protect you. When you claim that power back, eating a bag of chips or a chocolate bar will just feel like you are meeting your needs/cravings, not fighting an uphill battle. Reframe food as being an ally, rather than an adversary to your health.
3. Take Initiative (seek help)
See registered and regulated health professionals that practice from a Health at Every Size® standpoint.
Seeing a dietitian (like myself) and therapist experienced with disordered eating can help you improve your relationship with food. It’s also important that they take a Health at Every Size ® approach, by putting the emphasis on self-acceptance instead of weight loss. These professionals are able to help you safely navigate your path to better health without judgement of your past or current eating behaviours. Many dietitians also specialize in managing specific eating disorders and may provide beneficial aid in addition to treatment recommendations from a doctor.
Recovering from disordered eating and repairing your relationship with food can be a difficult journey, but is definitely a worthwhile one to embark on, because having a healthy love for your food will naturally go hand-in-hand with learning to love who you are inside and out!
Spread the love to someone who may need help healing their relationship with food by sharing this blog!
If you want to get help with how to deal with any health behaviours that may not be serving you well, let’s chat. You can book your free call to find out if we’re a good fit and what packages I have for you.
This blog was written with the help of UBC dietetics student, Miguelle, and Sophia.
A Description of the Continuum of Eating Disorders: Implications for Intervention and Research [Retrieved: March 23, 2019] https://www.researchgate.net/
Definitions [Retrieved: March 28, 2019] http://nedic.ca/know-facts/definitions
Disordered Eating [Retrieved: March 23, 2019] https://keltyeatingdisorders.ca/types-of-disorders/disordered-eating/
Overcoming an Unhealthy Relationship With Food [Retrieved: March 23, 2019] https://www.crystalkarges.com/blog/overcoming-an-unhealthy-relationship-with-food