Do you eat to live or live to eat? We all have a relationship with food and it can represent much more than nourishment to keep our bodies alive and healthy. Take a look at your eating habits. Do you eat just the right amount of nutritious food to maintain a healthy weight, to feel good, and live your day energetically? Do you have favorite comfort foods that you reach for when unhappy or feeling off center? Do you know when you are eating to provide emotional nourishment? Many of us under- or overeat when we have unresolved emotional issues, which is at the bottom of associating food with love. Let's take a look at our personal eating patterns and see what might be brewing below the surface. In that way we can make wise adjustments that support a healthier relationship with food.

Begin by looking at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? Are you overly self-critical? Are you satisfied with your basic form? I am not talking about wishing you had something that is impossible, such as a different body type or hair texture. Next, ask yourself how you feel inside, your energy level, your mental attitude. Are you in balance much of the time or not too often? Do you know how to get yourself feeling good again and to get back in balance when you eat poorly? We all make poor choices some of the time. The important thing is to know yourself and how to get back into a healthy balanced internal state which produces a healthy outer state.

Now take a look at your eating patterns. Do you go from one extreme to another, skipping meals and then overeating later in the day or evening? Are you a social eater and eat more when at a restaurant or with others? Do you hide your eating? Do you cook meals for yourself when alone? Some people eat three meals a day no matter what, even when they are not hungry. Some eat much more food than their bodies can use while other people eat less, not being able to stomach much food. Some people set overly rigid and strict rules about eating foods in their "bad" category, such as sweets or bread and butter, and then punish themselves when they break the rules. Do you make promises to yourself about what and how you will eat, but then continually break those agreements?

Go deeper now; what are some of your early memories around food? Maybe you see family dinner time as unpleasant where your dad dominated the conversation and you, as a child, wanted to eat and run, but had to sit and listen beyond your patience level. Or maybe you remember family reunions with lots of smiles and hugs and loads of wonderful, heavy foods like mashed potatoes with gravy and delicious deserts. Maybe when you hurt yourself or cried as a young child your mother gave you something sweet to quiet you. These early memories affect us today because they have an emotional component that stays with us, many times at the unconscious level. That is part of the reason why we find ourselves associating food with either love and comfort or the opposite.

To make a positive change in our relationship with food, we benefit from seeing how these early experiences drive us today and how we must override some of them. Think about your eating patterns, your beliefs about food and eating, and the spoken or unspoken rules behind them. What do you already know about your psychological relationship with food and its effect on your satisfaction with your body, energy level, and emotional/mental health? Focus on the unhealthy aspects to build awareness so you can make more aware choices that move you in a positive direction. Spend time pondering your true needs, especially when you are eating to fill yourself emotionally. Ask yourself what risks you need to take to meet these needs so you do not misuse food when looking for love or security. It is normal to feel resistance with this inner process, but it does not have to stop us from building a new relationship with food.

Author's Bio: 

Suzanne E. Harrill, M. Ed., LPC empowers individuals to build awareness, heal self-esteem, create satisfying, life-enhancing relationship, and to grow spiritually.

Suzanne’s Counseling and Writing:
•Encourages inner worth and healthy self-esteem
•Facilitates self-discovery, self-awareness, and inner healing
•Builds rich meaningful relationships
•Supports managing life challenges and transitions
•Helps one manage life challenges–divorce, illness or depression (within self or a family member), retirement, caring for elderly parents, dealing with adolescents
•Encourages creativity, confidence, and inner self expression through art and journal writing

Suzanne’s unique and intuitive approach, along with her warmth, combine to provide a personal, loving, and engaging experience which inspires others in their process of self-healing through inner work. Many of her clients see her as their fairy godmother, as in her book, Enlightening Cinderella, providing insights and support for inner healing, awareness, and transformation.

For over 30 years, Suzanne has facilitated the growth and awareness of many people through counseling, writing, teaching, and professional speaking. On a personal note, Suzanne has been married since 1966, has three grown daughters, and is a grandmother. She enjoys watercolor painting and creating original stained glass pieces.