Redefining My Relationship with Food

A group of friends eating at a picnic table

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

This blog was submitted anonymously by a woman in eating disorder recovery.

For most of my life, I thought of food as the enemy. I actually used to say that it was my biggest weakness. It was like a drug I was supposed to avoid instead of something my body needed to live. If I ate only a certain amount or type of food, I was being good, but if I ate more than that limit or a “bad” food, I was being bad. The food made me bad (or so I thought), and therefore it was something I needed to fear or fight. Just like an enemy.

About two years ago, a therapist told me something that helped me finally move away from that thinking. I was working on challenging the idea of “good” foods vs. “bad” foods, and week after week, this therapist kept telling me that food is neutral. It still wasn’t clicking. I still couldn’t get away from the categories. And then she encouraged me to reframe it: to think less of the particular food—and whether it is “good” or “bad”—and to think about my relationship to it instead. Instead of thinking, “x food is bad,” she recommended that I say, “My relationship to x food could be improved.” Rewording it in this way helped me see that it was not the food that was the problem, but it was my relationship with the food that was.

This experience was like a lightbulb moment that helped me understand a couple of things. First, it showed me what people mean when they say “peaceful relationship with food” and how my relationship with food was not peaceful in any shape or form. Secondly, it helped me picture what I was actually working on in recovery. Before this moment with my therapist, I was operating as if going through the motions of recovery (following a meal plan, maintaining weight) would automatically make food less of an enemy. While those things were important, I also needed to look at the thoughts and judgments that I was directing toward food. If you want to have a peaceful relationship with a person, you can’t always be thinking judgy things about them, and the same is true for food. You have to look at the things that go into making the relationship work. While food isn’t inherently good or bad, there are some barriers that make it seem that way and you have to work on overcoming those so that you can view food from a more neutral and accurate place.

I am grateful to that therapist and I would give the same advice to others struggling with food or judgments about particular kinds of food. Food is just food, and once you remove the “good” and “bad” labels from it, there is much more room for you to finally have a better and more peaceful relationship with it.

Tags: ,

The Emily Program Logo