As a woman who grew up dancing, playing sports, and is now a member of a sorority, it’s safe to say that I have seen my fair share of body dysmorphia and unhealthy eating habits. In my 21 years on this earth, I’ve never met one person who I can say has a perfect relationship with food. Honestly, some days I question what a “healthy” relationship with food even looks like. But as someone who starting “dieting” at eight years old and now doesn’t even own a scale, I can confidently say that I know what a healing relationship with food looks like.
This past week I had two midterms on the same day in my two hardest classes, naturally. My type-A personality and (unhealthy) fear of failure had my mind consumed with science for two weeks, and I was feeling the stress. My natural tendency when I’m stressed is to eat, and while I’ve made great progress with finding other ways to combat stress, I ate a Kit Kat, Starburst, and an absurd amount of chips and hummus at the library on one particularly stressful night.
A few years ago I might have said that I “broke down” and ate it all, because I used to view eating “bad” foods as a weakness. After interning at a facility that helps individuals with disordered eating and gaining knowledge about nutrition from my Dietetics curriculum, I learned what I consider one of the most important principles of eating: No Food is Bad Food. Are there certain foods that benefit my body nutritionally more than others? Of course. Will eating “fun” foods instead of these once in a while harm my health in any way? Not at all. Because sometimes when you have two midterms the next day, eating your weight in candy is more beneficial for your mental well-being than eating kale.
I do believe that there is a fine line between using emotional eating as an occasional form of self-care and using it as a crutch. This is something I had to figure out as I grew up over the years and began healing my relationship with food. Senior year of high school was a really hard time in my life, and so every day at lunch I would eat things I wasn’t even really hungry for, like chocolate pudding, chips, and granola bars because it temporarily made my day better. Over-eating almost every day was an emotional crutch, and it wasn’t healthy. Not only did it make me rapidly gain weight, but it wasn’t addressing the root of the problem-I was unhappy. Once I began to distinguish the difference between eating “fun” foods temporarily and using them to deal with unhappiness, healing my relationship with food was a more natural process.
Finding other coping mechanisms can help in bettering our relationship with food. My favorite ways to deal with emotions are working out, meditating using a mediation app, writing about them, or just going for a walk and calling my mom. I’ll always believe that No Food is Bad Food and that emotional eating can be present in our lives to some extent. But when we address our emotions for what they are, we can find healing both in our minds and with food.