Food addiction in my early twenties led to a six-year stint with anorexia, and later to binge eating - until I began taking effective steps to creating a healthy eating lifestyle. The truth is, a life without food addictions has been one of the biggest blessings I could have ever imagined I’d give myself. I absolutely love to eat, and I eat tons of healthy food, but the difference between the old and new me is that I don’t obsess anymore like I used to. It is not an easy journey, but I promise you that a life without food addiction is so worth it. Try implementing these steps to creating a healthy eating lifestyle and join me in living free from the imprisonment of food addictions forever!
1. Ask Yourself Some Hard Questions
One of the most important steps to creating a healthy eating lifestyle is to ask yourself some pretty hard questions. For me, the questions were, “What am I missing out on in my life that I used to have that is causing me to seek comfort in food?” The answer for me was easy: intimacy between friends and family. Another question I had to ask myself was, “Why does being thin and not eating make me feel safe in the midst of what is lacking in my life?” That question took years for me to be able to answer. Finally, I realized that a history of low self esteem and struggling with body image after being abused led me to constantly hating my body and wanting to become smaller and smaller. I never realized that really, I just wanted to mentally disappear from life, and at the same time, was trying to do the same to my body. Now I know that skinny does not equal safe, nor does eating until I’m stuffed. Asking yourself the hard questions is the only way to start making changes and these questions can be some of the best things you ever ask yourself to gain stability, happiness and comfort in your life again.
2. Find a Passion
Gracious girls, we were made to do more than look pretty and be thin! We were all given passions the day we were born, so please, for the love of women, go find yours! What makes you tick? What makes you happy so much that the time seems to fly by? It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but looking inside to find your passion is one of the best ways to develop a healthy eating lifestyle. Why, or how, you might ask? Well, for starters, it gives your life some focus outside of food and weight. It also takes your mind off eating, restricting calories, or eating out of boredom. Passion also fulfills your soul, which sounds hokey, but is vital to you being happy and not needing to turn to food addictions for comfort. Don’t let anyone tell you what your passion should be. Chances are, you already know what it is and it is time to let it shine!
3. Get Social
Food addictions usually coincide with isolation. I didn’t go out with friends, nor even want to, during the worst points of my eating disorder. For starters, it would make me have to face food with people, which was scary. Second, doing things with friends meant I would have to get close to people, and after losing many, many people who I loved very much in my life at one time, I was terrified of getting close to anyone. I’ll admit I’m still working on this, but what I can tell you is that when I started doing small things, here and there with friends, it made me feel more normal, more alive and more of a person than I ever did inside the entrapment of my food addiction days. I felt a part of me begin to flourish that hadn’t felt alive in years. Get out, get social and remember, your life is not about what you eat. Life is about who you are, what you do with what you’ve been given and how you interact and treat others.
4. Get Some Balance
One of the most important things to do when trying to achieve a healthy relationship with food again, is to just simply eat more balanced. Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and a few healthy fats. This is never a bad way to eat, unless you have a nutritional issue, like not tolerating grains. If you’re unsure of where to start in this area, there are also plenty of online sources that can help you. We’ve also got some fantastic articles here on All Women Stalk on healthy eating that I hope you’ll check out too! When the body is in balance, so is the mind. Eliminating a deficiency in one area, and staying away from too much sugar and junk food, is a great way to balance out your brain and your body.
5. Eliminate the Temptations
Two of my greatest binge food temptations were peanut butter, along with boxed cereal. I could never eat just a little and would binge on the whole package. Yes, it was painful afterwards both emotionally and physically, yet I couldn't stop in the heat of the moment. When you’re trying to overcome a food addiction, don’t keep your trigger foods in the house. If you’re recovering from anorexia and still suffering binge eating during recovery, which many women do, this can be hard. For awhile, I was confused if keeping these foods away were considered restricting myself, which I was told not to do in recovery. However, I had to realize that just as I had a problem with anorexia, I also had a problem with binge eating. I couldn’t not address the fact that some foods were not helping me heal. Get rid of your tempting foods and pretty soon, you won’t want them anyway. Instead, fill your fridge and your pantry with healthy foods that you wouldn’t binge on. Very rarely are any of us going to binge on veggies and protein unless we’re physically starving. Keep the junk foods and binge foods out and your stress level will automatically go down.
Yes, even though exercise can seem like an odd way to heal a food addiction, it is! Exercise is not about burning calories here, but instead, it’s about the mental effect exercise has on you. Exercise is crucial to endorphin production, which stimulates serotonin in the body. This makes you happy and gives you a natural “high” so to speak, that many of us turn to food for. Exercise is also important for our hormones and producing the right amounts. Exercising 5-6 days a week is a great way to start, and it will benefit you from the moment you do it! I promise you that exercise not only helped me sort through some mental conflictions I had, but also helped to give me an outlet to release stress I felt around food, or lack of food. It also helped me sleep better, which regulated my metabolism, hormones and overall sense of well being. My favorite exercises are calming kinds like power walking, yoga and pilates. Pick an activity you like and just start!
7. Confide in Someone
Whether you see a counselor, talk to a friend, your spouse or your parent, it is important to talk to someone about what you’re struggling with. You also need to choose someone supportive of you, not someone who will put you down. You can’t get through this alone and you didn’t get to this point alone. None of us are perfect, so why do we care so much what others think? Remember, we all have our struggles and food is simply one of many that women will suffer with. Talk to someone, and let them know what you’re dealing with. I’ve told some of my worst food “secrets” to people I confided in, and you know what? They helped me not only see that it was normal for someone dealing with a food addiction, but also helped me see that in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t as big of a deal as I had made it, so long as I didn't keep doing it. Just talking about it also helped me release tension that led to disordered eating anyway.
If you’ve ever suffered from a food addiction, you know it is a serious issue. If you haven’t, then you’re one of the lucky ones out there! Do you know anyone with a food addiction or have you ever struggled with one yourself?