As I've talked about a lot, it seems to be the trend that 9 out of 10 women have some form of relationship with food. Sometimes it's actually a very GOOD one, but there are very few that don't think about it at all in some capacity. I remember when I was going through the recovery stages to get to where I am now, I would think to myself and wonder if the habits that I was exhibiting were actually those that any woman would feel or if they were unhealthy voices in my head.
One thing to remember is that everyone is VERY different in what they find healthy. The biggest thing is that it works for YOU and keeps you mentally at peace. I used to get VERY frustrated when people would act as if macro counting was unhealthy while I was doing it because I felt 10000% at peace with food in every way but now that I'm on to the next stage, counting for me wouldn't be right just because it became more of a job. However, there are TONS of people that count calories/macros that are fine. It's inherently a GOOD thing to help you reach your goals. Jillian Micheals counts calories. Heidi Powell counts macros. They are both just fine. haha!
However, there are basic things that must be there to determine whether you should check yourself on your relationship with food and maybe work on it.
1. You are NOT thinking about food all the time
I know there are jokes about when you eat one meal, you are thinking about when you are having the next however if you are genuinely doing this then that means that you are not eating enough at that particular meal. Our brains tell us a lot more than we realize about what we should eat, and sometimes we try to restrict and when we do, we start thinking about food more and more.
It's also okay to recognize that if you are in a cut, you won't have as many calories and therefore you might be thinking about food more. As long as you know this phase is temporary then that's fine but if you are just in this never ending phase of restriction of food but yet thinking about it all the time then that's not a good thing.
2. You aren't practicing any "off" behaviors
This kind of goes without saying I think, but I thought it was necessary to add in that if you are finding yourself binge eating at any time or intentionally restricting without clear evidence of a goal that is a healthy weight loss goal then it might be time to look into how you can fix this.
3. You are able to eat out with friends no problem
No matter on what end of the spectrum of an unhealthy relationship with food, typically, it presents itself in wanting to eat alone or at home. You have control over what you are eating OR in other cases you know that if you go out with friends then you might end up going overboard. In either case, you should be able to go to dinner (even on week nights) with friends and not get anxious about it.
4. You can have a cookie or cupcake
There's a difference between having goals and being restricted. When you truly form a good relationship with food, you can pass by the bake sale and have one cookie and it not wreck your day. You can eat it, enjoy it, not feel guilty about it and move on. It's a beautiful thing.
5. You trust your body when things aren't perfect
You are GOING to overeat. There might be times that you under eat because you ordered food at a restaurant and it didn't fill you up (although this is the more rare option). If you overeat, you should NOT feel instant anxiety over this. You should be able to trust your body that in the past, you have over ate and things have become normal again as they will with this situation. You SHOULD enjoy family and friends during the holidays. I feel that we are all trying to desperately figure out how to not gain weight during the holidays when the truth is, most people with a healthy relationship with food, gain weight during the holidays. It might only be a few pounds but there is that trust there that your body will bounce right back because that's what they are designed to do.
6. You eat an adequate amount of calories to support your well being
I feel as if this again goes without saying however there are some that will intentionally restrict but because it keeps them smaller, they are mentally at peace. That was only a very small time in my life but my freshmen year to junior year of college, this was me. I knew that I was intentionally restricting but I told myself that if I ate the way a normal human ate that I'd get all kinds of anxiety so I just didn't. So while I say that everyone is different in what gives them mental peace, this is not a situation where that is useful. Mentally, you may not be in a position presently that you are able to decide for yourself and therefore it might help to ask a dear friend that you know would have your best interest at heart.
Also, if you are an athlete, are you eating to support your training? If not, then it might be time to really look at things and see if you can make some changes to help this.
7. You look forward to gatherings, meal times, etc
For whatever reason it may be, if you are dreading meal times and going out to eat with people then it might be a sign of something deeper. Again, there are going to be times that you are going to say "Uh I ate pizza for lunch and I really just would rather eat a green smoothie for dinner instead of going out" but it's not something that happens all of the time. This goes back to what I was saying earlier about going out with friends, but not just going out, but meals in general. You should look forward to meal times with your family each night and the conversations around the dinner table and the fellowship together. Of course, that's if you eat together which I hope you do! :)
There are so many spectrums and so many things that I could go over, but for the most part I think this covers the board basics. It's also crucial to realize that just because you aren't to these stages now does not mean that something is wrong with you and this does not mean that you cannot get there. I think that as mental health becomes more and more acceptable, we are able to see that these things are not BAD things but they are things that we need help with. When I've read blogs like this, I feel it's a very judge-y topic like "Uh you have a problem and you need help" and I feel it really cultivates an atmosphere of something that you should be ashamed of. It's not that it's not something that you need to change, but I just want to be a gentle voice in the crazy.
If you are working your way there, then you go girlfriend. It takes time. It takes consistent effort. My friend and I were talking yesterday about how we wish that good habits were just natural. We kind of depend on them to be then we get to this place where we are like "Oh shoot, why isn't this happening?" That goes with everything-reading the Bible for example. I have gotten out of the habit. It's not going to just happen if I don't START. You have to start, and then eventually these things become natural.
If, of course, things are serious, you should ALWAYS ALWAYS reach out to a professional! I'm off to my day, and right now currently, my dog just came and laid down on my arm while I'm typing because he wants attention. I can't make this up and it's so cute I have to share.