Many people are lucky enough to go through life without ever having to give a second thought to what they put in their mouths or how they feed their bodies. Other people become completely consumed and overwhelmed by eating to the point that their relationship with food becomes dysfunctional and unhealthy.

Dysfunctional eating can become a struggle for anyone, at any age and of any gender. Often dysfunctional eating starts with simple dieting strategies. Over time, these dieting plans morph into something that no longer resembles a sound weight management plan.

The Struggle Of Dysfunctional Eating

Dysfunctional eating starts to disrupt normal life when it interferes with the healthy intake of food. It is called dysfunctional because eating is no longer about consuming food to satisfy a nutritional need or to satisfy hunger but instead is used for other reasons, which are usually egregious in nature.

Healthy Weight Network describes dysfunctional eating as eating to alleviate anxiety, numb pain, for comfort or to relieve stress.

Dysfunctional eating can go beyond eating behind emotions, it can entail not being able to identify when you are full or satisfied or simply not knowing, or being in touch with how much food, the body needs.

It can also mean eating too much for the sake of pleasure, letting food control you and living to eat instead of eating to live. Additionally, many people are hooked on carb rich foods, like junk food, chips and sugar that plague our society and many experts believe that carb intake is a one of the, if not “the main” reason for the astronomical obesity rates in the United States, with 1/3 of adults obese.

In essence, in dysfunctional eating patterns food has more power over you than you have over it. In one way or another you struggle to justify eating this or skipping that but you never really get in touch with the simple concept of “food for sustenance.”

How Your Relationship With Food Shapes How You Eat

One way dysfunctional eating begins is when people start categorizing their food into good and bad categories. Good foods become safe, easy to consume without guilt while bad foods become forbidden and only consumed in secret and with horrible feelings. Severe deficits in food intake can begin to skew the view of safe and unsafe foods.

Often long periods of food deprivation will lead to an over-consumption of a particular food. This food is now deemed dangerous or harmful because it caused a binge. In reality, the lack of overall intake resulted in the binge of food, but the disordered eating pattern and the unhealthy food relationship will not allow that view to be seen.

Does all of that sound too complicated? How about this?

You ate too much at lunch, so you decide to skip dinner. Then at dinner, you’re starving and eat way more than you need because you gorge on a pile of pasta pesto. Now you know it must be the pasta pesto. Pesto is just too tempting. Can’t eat that again, or you might overdo it. This is one way you can begin a dysfunctional relationship with food.

Those who perceive food as comfort will fall into the emotional eating trap, reaching for chips, ice cream, and pizza when they are stressed, angry, lonely, or bored, leading to guilt, shame and regret.

Those who see food as something pleasurable, will habitually over eat, which also leads to feelings of guilt, shame and regret.

Many people simply are not in touch with the key concepts of healthy eating, such as portion control and moderation as these strategies elude those who struggle with weight and proper nutrition.

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