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How your relationship with food mirrors your relationship with others

Do you love to try new foods, are you a snacker, or a strict 3 meals per day kind of person? Maybe you prefer to eat alone. Chances are your relationship to food and people will have similarities.

Having disordered eating means that you have an unnatural relationship with food, but what does that mean for your relationships and what does that look like?

There are 3 categories to describe your relationship with food: too rigid, too chaotic, or a mix of both.

If you have a rigid relationship with food, this means that you have many food rules and exert a lot of control over their eating habits and behaviours. This could look like (but not limited to)

  • Weighing food

  • Having smaller/larger portions than your partner, friend, or family member

  • Limiting snacks

  • Calorie counting

Those who have a rigid relationship with food, often manifest their control with food rules to reduce anxiety. However, having such rigid food rules could increase anxiety and develop into an eating disorder.

Having a chaotic relationship with food, might describe someone who may acknowledge food rules; however, they might not follow them all the time. They’re often desperately trying to feel in control but finds it difficult to keep control in practice. A chaotic relationship with food could look like (but not limited to)

  • Hiding eating habits/behaviours from others

  • May eat when they’re alone.

  • Has an inability to say ‘no’ even if they’re full

  • Binge eating

  • Emotional eating

  • Eating until all food is gone on plate/packet (ignoring fullness ques)

Someone who struggles with both chaotic and rigid relationship with food switches between both of the characteristics. They may often find themselves trying new diets or go through ‘healthy eating’ spells, but once this is broken, for example eats a piece of cake, they will find themselves binge eating, justifying it with an “I’ve have ruined it now” mentality. This leads into a cycle where feelings of failure may spark further emotional binge eating until they feel low again and then starting a new diet – and the cycle continues.

It's important to note that someone with disordered eating or an eating disorder may switch between a chaotic and rigid relationship with food

during different phases of their recovery.

So how do these relationships with food mirror the relationships we have with other people?

Well, the relationships we have with anything are often a result of our lived experiences and our personalities. These two things shape how we experience and show up in the world, sometimes they’re helpful and sometimes they’re not. But the good news is that once we begin to work on ourselves, we can become self-aware of the helpful and not so helpful traits and pattern of behaviours we may exhibit, along with healing parts of us or explore/complete unfinished business from our past.

If your relationship with food is rigid, you may notice that you also have rules within your relationships, such as being the one who makes the decisions within your relationship or find it hard to let your partner take the lead. This can sometimes come across as slightly controlling. Someone with a rigid relationship with food may prefer to be in a long-term relationship as this offers a level of certainty and consistency which eases anxiety. You also have a small social circle and may be very selective with who you interact with.

If your relationship with food is chaotic, you may be more susceptible to short term relationships/friendships. You may find that a romantic relationship and/or friendships may be exciting and rewarding at first, but you may find reasons to end the relationship, or the spark dies quickly. You may have one or two people that you’re close to, but you still may not 100% open with your emotions with them in fear of rejection or judgement. Therefore, you may likely ‘bottle’ things up, which can have a harmful impact on your mental health.

Someone who has a mixture of both chaotic and rigid relationship with food will resonate to characterises from both categories.

The goal of working with a food and body coaching like me, isn’t to ‘fix’ or ‘change’ things but it’s about finding the balance and flexibility in all areas of your life instead of living in the extremes. It’s about understanding how your relationship with food is the key to unlocking your relationship with other things in your life, such as relationships, friendships, money, and body! And bringing things into your awareness that need attention, what needs to heal and be explored, and what are causes of your patterns of behaviour.

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