How to Stop Seeing Food as the Enemy

 From February 26 through March 4, people across the nation will come together to bring awareness to problems relating to eating disorders, poor body image and unhealthy relationships with food, issues that affect 30 million Americans each year. This movement, started by the National Eating Disorder Association to help spark conversations about these issues and what people can do to help themselves or a loved one who is suffering from one or more of these issues. To help promote awareness of this issue, Her Campus Cal Poly would like to share with you some ideas on how to stop seeing food as the enemy and how to start developing a healthy relationship with your body, your eating habits, and yourself.

Know that food isn't the answer to everything...

Binge eating may make you feel better in the moment, but in the long run, it is unhealthy and can cause severe harm to your body. Binge eating in response to sadness, frustration, or other harmful emotions will cause your brain to release oxytocin, the "feel-good" hormone, but once that oxytocin fades, those feelings will return. The fact is, food won't hug you back, so when you're in need of a boost, try to find activities you enjoy, such as meditating, spending time with your friends (including your favorite four-legged friends!) or listening to your favorite music, that will encourage oxytocin production and help you relax.

But it's still a key part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Food is a necessity in daily life – it provides us with the energy we need to power through each day and make it great! When eating, it's important to remember to eat foods that make you feel good inside and out and also eat foods that you enjoy. A salad is a great example of a healthy meal – it has a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and recent studies suggest that eating salad regularly can help protect your body from disease. But if you don't like salad, or you don't think you're getting the nutritional benefits you need from it, then don't eat it! Everybody is unique, and it's important for you to provide your body with the foods that meet its needs, even if it means making different lifestyle choices than the latest health trends recommend.

Be positive toward yourself and your body.

Neither you nor your body are perfect, but that doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you. It's important that you remind yourself that your eating habits are not a measure of you as a human being – you are more than a number on a scale. It is easy to fall into the cycle of unhealthy eating habits, and it is a problem that we have all encountered at one point or another. When this happens, know that having one bad day does not mean you will have a bad life, and every day is a brand new chance to practice self-love by regularly offering yourself positive affirmations, practicing self-acceptance, and allowing yourself to eat foods you enjoy without feeling guilty.

Let go of toxic thoughts that are poisoning your relationship with food.

Have you been treating food as a reward for exercising, or as something you can use to comfort yourself on a bad day? If so, it's likely that these toxic thoughts are causing you to see food as more than what it is. Food isn't a reward, a comfort item, or anything else – it's simply food. If you want to have a healthy relationship with food, the best thing you can do is to focus on consuming roughly the same amount of food each day, regardless of whether or not you exercise, or had a bad day. How much you consume and when is entirely up to you, and should be based on your body's needs – and nothing else.

Know that the answers to your problems are in you, not food.

Often, we find ourselves looking to food as the answers to our problems, but we never seem to find them. This is because the solution to most of your problems isn't in food – it's in you. You must learn to be your own Wonder Woman – to stand up for yourself when things get tough, to give yourself permission to be happy with being yourself, and to give you the self-love that nothing, including food, can replace. 

Remember, food is nothing more than a means of providing your body with the energy it needs to function each day – there is no reason to believe that your diet, weight or waist size will define you and how beautiful you are as a person. Take time today and every day to appreciate your body, and all the miraculous things it can do, things that wouldn't be possible without proper self-care and nourishment.