How to Heal Your Relationship with Food

Chances are, if you have PCOS you have been on at least one diet in your lifetime. For some, you may have done almost all the big ones (WW, Atkins, Jenny, and Nutrisystem), forking over thousands of dollars in hopes of losing weight. But where has it gotten you? And more importantly, what has it done to heal your relationship with food?

Dieting has been shown to disrupt our inner innate cues of hunger and fullness. When this happens, it can lead to skipping meals, fasting, emotional eating, bingeing, purging, diet pill use or other forms of distorted eating.

Dieting also causes us to be mindless eaters.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is about noticing and enjoying food and nourishing your body. It’s noticing the taste of food, the smell, the texture, and how it feels in your body. It’s about eating a variety of foods, free of judgments.

Mindful eating is about being physically connected to the food you eat by recognizing and responding to your body’s internal cues of hunger and fullness.

Mindful eating is also about being aware of your emotions associated with food and learning how to enjoy food without judgment.

Oftentimes, people who eat mindlessly or eat for emotional reasons are not aware of their feelings. Instead, food becomes an unhealthy way to cope with feelings. Can you relate?

Below are several types of mindless eating. See if you can identify what eating types, if any, you fall into. I’ll have some solutions at the end to help you heal your relationship with food if you have PCOS.

Bored Eating

Many people eat when they are bored as a way of “filling” their day. This can be dangerous for people with PCOS, because eating food for the sake of having something to do can lead to anger and shame, possibly spikes in blood sugar, and then urges that are less than helpful. While it is true that eating is an activity that takes up time in a day, it is not something to do just because you are bored. Below are signs that you could be a bored eater.

Signs You a Bored Eater:

Ask yourself the following questions:

Do I choose to eat instead of making plans?

Do I eat when I have nothing to do?

Do I choose eating when I am alone and feeling uninterested in other activities?

Do I deliberately plan a day around shopping for food?

Do I think about my day as moving from meal to meal?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a bored eater.

 

Disconnected Eating

Disconnected eating occurs when you lose the physical connection that determines your food intake. This happens when you don’t trust your body to regulate how much you eat.

Signs you are a Disconnected Eater:

Do you decide what to eat based on the “rules” of the diet you are on or on food beliefs you have

Do you have all-or-nothing or black or white thinking when it comes to your eating and food selection? For example “I ate a desert and blew it so may as well finish the rest”

Do you view foods as good or bad?

Do you have anxiety around food?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a disconnected eater

Distracted Eating

Distracted eating, unlike emotional eating or disconnected eating, can occur without your realizing it. Distracted eating occurs when you eat without paying attention to what you are doing.

Have you ever been watching TV while you eat and suddenly notice the food is gone? Maybe you ate it all and didn’t remember tasting it. Sometimes you don’t know what it looked or smelled like. How satisfying is that? You missed out on the pleasure of several sensations. Distracted eating is just like that. Your mind is elsewhere.

Signs You a Distracted Eater:

Eating while working on the computer

Eating while watching television

Eating while driving

Eating while you were crying or yelling

Notice you’ve eaten an entire bag of something without realizing it

If you are engaging in this type of eating more than once each week, you may be a distracted eater.

the pcos workbook: your guide to complete physical and emotional health

Emotional Eater

The occasional spoonful of ice cream when we’re feeling sad, blue, or happy is normal. But, when eating becomes one of the only ways to cope with emotions, it’s emotional eating. Emotional eating involves the use of food as a coping strategy for regulating intense emotions on a regular, ongoing basis.

You may be an emotional eater if you:

Binge on comfort food when you are stressed

Keep certain foods out of your house for fear of eating an entire package in one sitting

Eat as a distraction from life events

Eat or use food to solve interpersonal problems

Eat when you have negative thoughts about yourself or your future

Eat when you’re lonely/sad/anxious

Eat after you spend time with certain people or certain situations

How to Heal your Relationship with Food 

Here’s how you can heal your relationship with food if you have PCOS. If you have identified yourself as one, several or perhaps all of these types of eaters, know that it doesn’t always have to be this way. You can change your eating and heal your relationship with food.

Here are some ways to do it.

Stop Dieting

First, give up dieting and the false hope it gives to people with PCOS. Unfollow pages on social media that promote weight loss for PCOS. Instead of dieting, focus on sustainable lifestyle changes to improve your health and fertility. This includes nutrition and supplements, exercise, stress management, and better sleep.

Start Noticing

Healing your relationship with food if you have PCOS takes work. Start becoming a more mindful eater by keeping a journal and notice if you eat when you are not hungry or don’t stop eating when you are full. See if you can connect any emotional ties to the event.

The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health (where this content came from) has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and problematic eating. Use the mindful eating log and exercises to help you make connections to the food and your emotions and internal cues for hunger and fullness.

Ask for Help

You might want to seek the guidance of a psychologist, psychiatrist, licensed professional counselor, social worker with a specialty in eating disorders. He or she will help you understand the role that food plays in your emotion regulation and offer new strategies and techniques to regulate your feelings.

If the information in this article resonates with you and you are committed to make a change, work with me. I have been a dietitian for over 20 years with a background in treating individuals with distorted eating, eating disorders, and PCOS. I’d love to help you heal your relationship with food and take control over PCOS once and for all. Here is the link to my online calendar. I hope to talk to you soon!

angela grassi PCOS dietiitian nutritionistAngela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN, is the founder of The PCOS Nutrition Center, for which she has been providing evidence-based nutrition information and coaching to people with PCOS for over 20 years. Angela is the author of several books on PCOS, including PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide, The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health, and The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook. Angela is the past recipient of The Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur Award, The Award in Excellence in Practice in Women’s Health, and The Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having PCOS herself, Angela has been dedicated to advocacy, education, and research of the syndrome. Click here to schedule a session with Angela to learn more about how nutrition coaching for PCOS can help you!

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