Developing a Healthy Relationship with Food

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Dear Expert,

I am moderately overweight. I have tried many times to lose weight, but I feel stuck in a cycle that ends in guilt. Whenever I start trying to lose weight, I end up getting obsessed, thinking about food all the time, doubting every food-related decision I make, and being very critical of myself. How can I shake these harmful thoughts and lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way?

— 16 years old

Thank you for reaching out, this is a really great question. I think it is important to examine how you define different foods. It sounds like you may be thinking there are “good” foods and “bad foods”. When we tell ourselves that foods need to be avoided because they are bad we sometimes have an emotional reaction to that. Maybe we feel deprived when we avoid them. Maybe we feel guilty if we allow them. Sometimes we go overboard with our portions of those foods if we tell ourselves we aren’t going to let ourselves have them for a really long time (as soon as we get back on our diets). If you don’t have allergies, there are no “bad foods”. It is only when we overdo it, and eat to soothe an emotion (loneliness, boredom, anger, worry, sadness) that foods become bad for us. If we eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full, and make healthy choices that nourish us most of the time, food shouldn’t be so powerful when it comes to how we feel about ourselves.

That may be oversimplifying a really complicated subject. I realize that there is an incredible pressure on girls today to look a certain way. Most middle and high school aged girls want to change something about their body. Wanting the “perfect” body, the one we see in movies, social media and every place we look is really, really hard. Accepting our natural body type and finding things we love about how we look is a good place to start. Sometimes it helps to focus on the miraculous things your body does for you every day – when you really stop and think about it, our bodies are miracles. Our bodies allow us to walk, run, dance, swim, climb, draw and sing. And many, many other things.

Treasure yourself, treasure body. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.


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