I would devour almost anything in the fridge to tame the emotional tiger inside me. This would end with me berating myself for consuming so many calories and wasting money. Yet, the cycle always continued. The slightest amount of stress would trigger an instinctive reach for the closest chocolate bar, ending with a pang of guilt and self-hatred. This is the dangerous love-hate relationship with food many of us have in our stressful lives. 

My relationship with food has been a constant roller coaster and detrimental to my well-being. It took the development of an illness for me to realise what I’d been doing to myself. This piece is not meant to be medical advice, nor should I be seen as your new spiritual guru. This is just my two-cents on what I’ve learnt. So, here are three goals I've set for myself that have helped me rebuild my relationship with food.

Learn to handle emotions constructively without food

Living on a restrictive diet with only a handful of go-to foods made me realise how much I’d been using food to cope with my emotions. Slowly and painfully, I learnt that when it’s easier to reach for the bag of chips, it might be healthier to identify the underlying emotions. Some of the questions below are those that I’ve found most helpful in breaking the vicious cycle.

Can something be done to resolve the issues? Am I truly hungry? Or am I just looking for comfort through food? Is there any other way to resolve the emotions that I’m feeling? 

You might need the help of a counsellor which means confronting yourself. Although it'll be uncomfortable, it'll be worth it in the long run.

It’s ok to treat yourself without guilt

The Dobby effect explains how we fall into this endless loop of guilt and self-punishment. Low self-esteem leads to emotional eating which brings on self-shaming and even lower self-worth. If we don’t punish ourselves (be it through diet or a spinning class), we feel like we’re less attractive. 

So, if you decide to treat yourself, go ahead! Life is meant to be cherished...so enjoy that slice of cake. 

Learn to see food as an ally, not an enemy

Detoxes and diets all seem to mask food as a form of punishment. When you see food as the enemy, you may actually be harming yourself. In fact, a study has shown that by depriving yourself completely of cravings, you're more likely to end up binge eating.

It's important to be aware and watch out for these trends as they can end up doing more harm than good. Focus on introducing healthier options into your diet instead of freaking out about what you can and can't eat. That way, you empower yourself to see that there is so much to choose from. Plus, you're less likely to be stressed out.

So, the message that I hope this piece has conveyed is that food isn't inherently good or evil, it's our mindsets about them that has made it so.