Growing up, many of us were exposed to diets and food restrictions in various forms, be it for weight loss, health reasons, or cultural practices.
These experiences can shape our relationship with food in both positive and negative ways, and for some individuals, dieting as a child can lead to binge eating in adulthood.
This article aims to explore this connection, the reasons behind it, and provide three steps that can help heal our relationship with food and body.
What is Binge Eating?
Binge eating is defined as consuming large quantities of food in a short amount of time, often accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt, and loss of control. These episodes will typically happen at least once a week for a month and up to several months at a time.
Unlike bulimia, binge eating is not followed by purging behaviors like vomiting or over-exercising.
Individuals who engage in binge eating are often associated with being overweight or obese but this is not always the case.
People who struggle with binge eating will have a higher risk of developing other eating disorders, disordered health behaviours, depression, and other health issues.
The Connection between Childhood Dieting and Binge Eating
The research on this topic is still developing, but studies have shown that dieting as a child can increase the risk of developing binge eating in adulthood.
This is because restrictive diets can trigger feelings of deprivation, which can lead to binge eating as a way to compensate for the lack of access to certain foods.
In addition, diets that eliminate entire food groups or impose strict caloric restrictions can alter the way our bodies respond to hunger and fullness cues, leading to overeating and bingeing.
Moreover, children who are put on diets are more likely to internalize a negative body image, leading to low self-esteem and a distorted perception of their own bodies. This negative body image can persist into adulthood and contribute to binge eating as a way to cope with emotions such as anxiety, stress, or depression.
Healing Our Relationship with Food and Our Body: Three Steps to Take
Our relationship with food and our body can be complex and emotional. It may be shaped by a variety of factors of which include our childhood experiences and learnings as well as cultural expectations, and societal pressures.
For many people, this relationship can be fraught with negative thoughts and behaviors, such as dieting, binge eating, and body shaming. Healing this relationship can be a lifelong journey, but there are steps we can take to improve our relationship with food and our body.
Here are three steps that can help us establish a more positive and peaceful relationship with food and our body.
Step 1: Practice Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is an approach to eating that emphasizes listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues, and rejecting the diet mentality.
This means rejecting the idea that certain foods are “good” or “bad” and allowing yourself to eat what you crave without guilt or shame. By practicing intuitive eating, we can learn to trust our body’s signals and make food choices based on our physical needs, rather than external pressures.
Intuitive eating is a gradual process that requires patience and self-reflection.
It’s important to start by noticing your hunger and fullness levels throughout the day, and only eating when you’re hungry. Avoid skipping meals, as this can trigger binge eating, and be mindful of the food choices you make, without attaching moral value to them.
As you practice intuitive eating, you may find that your relationship with food and your body becomes more positive and less stressful.
Step 2: Address Underlying Emotions
Binge eating, restriction, and body shaming can often be coping mechanisms for dealing with underlying emotions such as stress, anxiety, or depression. By addressing these emotions, we can reduce the urge to engage in negative behaviors and develop healthier coping strategies. This can include seeking therapy, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in physical activity.
It’s important to remember that healing is a journey, and it may take time to fully understand and address the emotions behind our relationship with food and our body. However, seeking help and taking the time to reflect on our emotions can lead to a more fulfilling and peaceful relationship with food and our body.
Step 3: Surround Yourself with Support
Having a supportive network can be a crucial component in healing our relationship with food and our body. This can include family members, friends, or a professional dietician / nutritionist.
These individuals can provide encouragement, help hold us accountable, and offer a safe space for us to discuss our experiences and emotions.
In addition, connecting with others who have gone through similar experiences can provide comfort, validation, and a sense of community. This can be achieved through support groups, online communities, or workshops and retreats focused on body positivity and intuitive eating. Surrounding ourselves with positive and supportive individuals can help us feel more confident in our bodies and more relaxed about food.
Being made to diet when you were young is not your fault.
It is often the result of several generations of dieting practices simply being passed down to the next unfortunate soul in the chain.
While it is not your fault, you are unfortunately burdened with that but, what you do have, is the opportunity to break the chain and ensure no other members of your family have to suffer through similar experiences.
Healing our relationship with food and our body is a lifelong journey, but taking the steps to practice intuitive eating, address underlying emotions, and surround ourselves with support can lead to a more positive and peaceful relationship with both.
It’s important to be patient with ourselves and to remember that healing is a process, not a destination. By taking small steps each day, we can make progress and find peace in our relationship with food and our body.
Balance is Northern Ireland's leading nutritionist and dietician coaching team. We work with everyone from Olympians to office workers to help them achieve their nutrition and diet related goals.
Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you;
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