Do I have a good relationship with food? Warning signs and when to seek help

Food forms an important part of everyone’s lives, and many of us will spend time thinking about what we eat. Our eating habits can change from time to time, and sometimes we might want to eat more healthily.

But if food and eating feels like it is affecting other parts of your life, it might be a problem. Problems with eating, and an unhealthy relationship with food, can lead to eating disorders.

It’s better to flag any signs of eating problems or disorders as soon as you notice them, as the sooner you are able to get help, the better your chance of recovering and repairing that relationship with food.

Read more: ‘My weight wasn’t considered low enough to get help for my eating disorder’.

Signs that you might have an eating problem

Signs of an unhealthy relationship with food, or eating disorder, can vary between each person. For some people, some tracking or restriction can be a healthy way to be aware of what you are eating, while for others this can lead to obsession.

An eating disorder is a medical diagnosis based on your eating patterns, and medical tests on your weight, blood and body mass index. An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult. This can be just as hard to live with as a diagnosed eating disorder and you should seek help if you are affected. It’s important to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship with food. This can include:

  • limiting the amount of food eaten

  • eating very large quantities of food at once

  • getting rid of food eaten through unhealthy means

  • feeling tired and struggling to concentrate

  • having strong negative feelings about your body or body image

  • avoiding social situations where you think food will be involved

  • exercising a lot

  • changes in your mood, including feeling withdrawn or depressed

  • dramatic weight loss

  • feelings of guilt or shame about food or your body

  • thinking about food a large percentage of the time

  • eating in secret or in private

  • sticker to rigid rules about what you can or cannot eat

  • comparing your diet or body to other people

How to get help

If you think that your relationship with food is not good, you should make an appointment with your GP. Your GP can refer you to a specialist, who can assess your personal needs and develop a plan for your treatment. It can be very hard to admit you have a problem and ask for help. It may make things easier if you bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.

Treatment can help you develop balanced and healthy eating patterns and help you face – and cope with – the underlying issues which may be causing your eating problem. Treatments usually involve “talking therapies”, where you discuss your feelings and emotions with a specialist who can give you advice and help about how to make changes.

You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711. To read more about eating disorders and how to ask for help, you can visit Beat’s website. You can also find information about eating problems from Mind, the mental health charity.

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