By Lauren Denos: 8/17/2015 (Mindset)

Eating disorders are very common. There are also many people who are not classified as having eating disorders, but still have some hang ups and issues with their food. Food is not the enemy, yet many people seem to classify it that way. It is some sort of badge of honor if you are able to starve yourself enough to force a couple extra pounds to come off. But what if you could change how you feel about food so it can get back to being what it is meant to be, necessary for human survival and part of the enjoyment of the human experience.

Food is necessary for survival. If we were meant to starve ourselves then our bodies would not use calories as its fuel source. When you eat too little you are short changing your body on energy it needs so that you can enjoy your life more. Have you ever had one of those days that you feel like you really need to take a nap and kind of grouchy and suddenly you realize that you have not eaten since dinner the night before? I know plenty of people who do this. What is happening is you need some fuel, not just coffee as the habit tends to be. You need a balanced meal to give your body the vital nutrition it needs to function properly.

See food as an expression of self-love and self-respect. Start to look at your food as a sign of self-love and self-respect, because that is what it is. When you go without food or are eating complete garbage, you are telling yourself you are not worth anything else. Make time to eat. Some people like to eat twice per day while others do better with 6 mini meals. Whatever works best for you is fine, but make sure you show the self-respect to yourself by ensuring you get those meal times in.

Enjoy it! Your food is meant to be enjoyed! Despite what so many people believe, you do not have to choose healthy or tasty, you can have both! Food is experiential, this is why so much of our culture revolves around it. We do lunch with friends, we go to dinner for dates. It is a social enjoyable act. You should be enjoying as much in your life as possible. When you can eat foods that are both healthy and enjoyable, you will stick with getting healthier. It is not a torture process you have to go to, but just a fun way of life.

Stop feeling guilty. The level of guilt people have over what they eat is ridiculous. The negative emotion you spend on feeling guilty does not help your health. If you are at a party and choose to have a slice of cake – then have one! Don't sweat it, that one piece of cake is not going to make you gain a few pounds overnight. If you stress about your cravings, then a great way to deal with cravings is to eat a good balanced meal first and then if you are still hungry eat that slice of cake. That way, you are not going to feel like you need to eat 5 slices.

If you are constantly feeling guilty for what you are eating, then you need to take a look at what is going on. Are you really eating bad and need to change things? If so, then start making some small changes, make it easy like add a 1/2 cup vegetables into your meals. You do not need to torture yourself by thinking you need to completely reform your diet overnight. This is one of the biggest reasons people binge eat. They take away everything joyful from their eating, and then when they feel like they are going to crack, they eat a whole pan of brownies and a whole bag of chips. As a result, they wind up feeling bad about themselves for the failure and recommit to being even stricter with their eating from here on out. This is not helpful or healthy. You would be better off eating your healthy meals and having a small dessert afterward. This way you would know that you can have some today and tomorrow, it is not a big deal. Plus, when you allow yourself to have something you want like this, it ceases to have as much of a hold on you. Generally speaking, our brains are like rebellious teenagers. The minute you tell yourself you cannot have something that is all you seem to want. Let that go. Stop torturing yourself.

If you are feeling guilty for eating just about anything, even when you eat healthy food, or when you have a square of chocolate, then you need to look at what is going on inside of you mentally. Are you dealing with a bad body image and why? Maybe paying attention to too much of what the media says is the idea body could be messing with you. If that is the case then find something else to start reading. If it is a feeling of general inadequacy, then it is time to start realizing how awesome you are.

Sometimes if you are dealing with not feeling like you are good enough, there are other things you can be doing to improve your life. It may be that you need to change something in your home life, it may be that going back to school to pursue the career you want. The thing is, sometimes the root of the problem with your eating is not food at all. The food is just a way to self-medicate for other things in your life that are making you unhappy. I know plenty of people that eat junk food when they are bored and not accomplishing something worthy to them in their lives. It is time to start look at what is going on with this guilt. What is the root of it and what small steps can you start making to relieve it?

Look at your food differently and you can start to enjoy this aspect of your life. Life is way too short to not enjoy it. Let go of the guilt and the shame. From now on whenever you need to eat or think of food remember that it is a show of self-love and self-respect, this will remind you to pick foods that will be more nutritious for your body and enjoyable at the same time. Live your life and enjoy every aspect of it.



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