Food + Me = Healthy?

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? How can you tell?

Sometimes it's obvious. You binge and purge. You erode your throat and your teeth with stomach acid. You feel so guilty every time you eat, you kneel before the porcelain goddess to pray for forgiveness.

Or: you're anorexic. You are literally starving yourself to death. And this is no exaggeration. I met a young woman who killed herself this way. It's a slow, painful death. And not just for the person starving, but for her friends and family and caregivers.

Or: you're obese. This way you're killing yourself, too, but slowly. You're putting a strain on every organ, every joint, every bodily system. You're screwing up your hormones. But the damage creeps up on you. You might be able to pretend it's not happening. Until the day you get that diagnosis: you are infertile or you have diabetes or insulin resistance or high blood pressure. Until your heart gives out.

But most of us are not quite so obvious in our relations with food.

Do you know you're allergic or have a sensitivity to some foods, but you eat them anyway? And then you feel sick? Even though your body has given you very clear messages, you've ignored them.

Are there certain foods, or groups of foods, that you refuse to eat even though you know your body needs those nutrients? We, as human beings, are so adaptable that we can survive on a wide range of different diets. But surviving is not thriving. If your diet is not optimal, there will be signs. How frequently do you get sick? Do you pick up every bug that goes around the office? If so, your immune system isn't as strong as it could be. Is your energy low? Can you make through a vigorous hour of exercise without flagging? Can you sprint up a hill?

Do you spend most of your day fantasizing about your next meal? Do thoughts of food take up much of your mental space? Do you regularly crave foods that you know are unhealthy? Do you give in to those cravings frequently? Do you yo-yo diet, dropping pounds one week and then regaining them the next? Do you take weight loss drugs or supplements? Do you compromise your health by attempting to lose weight?

Do you use food to change your mood, soothe your hurt feelings, fill up the emptiness in your life? Do you eat in private, hidden away in your car or your bedroom, so others can't see what or how much you're eating? Do you hoard food?

Sugar acts in a very similar way to heroine in the brain. Do you think you might be addicted to sugary foods or drinks?

Is it possible you have taken your quest for healthy eating too far? Do you NEVER allow yourself a treat? Is there no joy or pleasure left in your meals? Have you stopped eating with friends and family because your diet doesn't allow you to EVER splurge? Do you obsess over the contents of every morsel you put into your mouth?

Even if you answered "yes" to some of these questions, this is not cause to freak out! We are all guilty of fantasizing about the next meal, or going a little overboard with a new diet, or craving unhealthy treats once in a while. But if you feel like you have become obsessed with food in a way that doesn't serve your overall well being, then this is an opportunity to step back and assess the situation. If you can't handle it on your own, you may need to ask for help. There are MANY others who are just like you. Overeaters Anonymous has meetings both online and in person. Or you might choose to visit a therapist one-on-one.

An alcoholic can stop drinking permanently. A heroine addict can give up the drug and never go back. But someone with an eating disorder HAS to eat every single day. Three or more times each day, we are all confronted with food choices. Healing your relationship with food will benefit every aspect of your life, from your physical to your mental and emotional well being. Don't wait. Take that first step toward getting healthy today.