Is it an eating disorder or just normal food stress? That is the question. Many people have a preoccupation with food, but would never consider it an eating disorder. Maybe because it doesn’t fit the diagnostic criteria of an eating disorder. Maybe because it doesn’t seem severe enough. Maybe because this preoccupation or focus on food is just “normal” food stress.
The truth is there is no normal food stress.
Food is not supposed to be complicated or hard or stressful. It is not supposed to be something that fills our days and our thoughts. It is not supposed to make us feel emotionally bad EVER.
Yes there are foods that impact our bodies in certain ways that can give rise to physical symptoms, BUT those are very different from the emotional guilt and stress that surrounds eating certain foods for many people.
Food is our sustenance, nourishment and social connection. It is to be eaten and enjoyed so that we have energy to live; energy to make it through the day; energy to survive.
Along the way, as we have evolved as humans, this fundamental value of what food is has gotten lost. Instead it has been replaced by diet culture. The obsession with thinness and fitness and health and the “right” diet has led to food becoming something that we should scrutinize, avoid, manipulate. It has become something that we use to avoid emotional pain. Over eating, under eating, obsessive healthy eating, eating junk food, thinking about food all of the time; these are all ways that food has become a tool in our lives instead of sustenance.
Food is no longer seen as the fundamental nourishment that it is.
Instead it has become acceptable to use food as a coping mechanism, a distraction, a place to direct our stress and overwhelm. That can manifest in different obsessions and actions depending on the person.
While it may not be an overt eating disorder – many of us are using food as a tool to help us cope with our lives and what is happening in this. This is creating an entire society with an extremely complicated relationship with food.
It does not have to be this way.
Part of understanding this complex and emotional relationship we have with food is for each of us to understand what is going on with ourselves. What underneath our day-to-day actions makes us need to use food in the ways that we are. What is safe about thinking about food versus thinking about other things? What does engaging with food offer us amidst the complexity of the world and of our emotions? This is something that all of use can take time to reflect on.
Underneath the preoccupation with food there might be something that we need help and support navigating. You don’t have to have an overt eating disorder to have thoughts, obsessions, guilt, dysfunctions, stress, or just an overall complicated relationship with food. It is the norm these days. But it doesn’t have to be.
Food is not meant to be hard. Remember that when you find food taking over your thoughts. Food is supposed to give you energy instead of taking it away. If you are finding that thinking about or engaging with food is taking more energy than it should – there is always support to help navigate it. Never hesitate to reach out – eating disorder or not. I am here to help you look beyond the food and figure out how to best support and nourish your body both emotionally and physically.