Every person has a unique relationship with food.

For some, the relationship is positive and healthy, using food for fuel and enjoyment. Others tend to struggle, allowing mealtimes to cause stress and anxiety.

Additionally, there’s often an ebb and flow in the relationship as well. In your own life, you’ve probably had good days and bad days regarding meals and snacks.

Yet, when you experience more negative emotions than positive ones about food, something is off-kilter.

And, understandably, this is a thin line to walk. After all, it’s easy to get used to feeling one way or another—even when it’s uncomfortable.

With that in mind, let’s explore five clear cut indicators that it’s time to seek help.

1. The Relationship Is Either Hot or Cold

Much like a cinematic love affair, your relationship with food is either on fire or it’s ice cold. Meaning, food can be your best friend one day and your worst enemy the next day.

For example, you may go to the extreme to count calories, complaining that no restaurant or grocery store has what you need. Yet, you absolutely fall to pieces over every delicious morsel. But you hate it!

All the while, you blame food that you love to hate and hate to love. It’s a cruel cycle.

In short, a healthy relationship with food is a bit more steadfast than the ups and downs of a love/hate relationship.

2. Breaking the Rules Brings You Down

If you’re like most people with a healthy intake on your mind, you have what is known as “cheat meals.” At these moments, you’re okay to eat foods categorized as unhealthy.

However, if you break the rules any other time, you really beat yourself up. It can ruin your entire day, in fact.

What it boils down to is losing control. The moment you go back for seconds or eat after 7:00 PM, for example, you feel as though you’ve lost. So, you do what it takes to regain control.

3. Life Is Paused Until You Reach the Goal

There’s a good chance that those memes about finding joy in the journey annoy you. Even focusing on process goals, not outcomes, may rub you the wrong way.

Why? Mostly, because you don’t feel like life can start until you reach your goal—lose 10 more pounds, melt two more inches off your waist, etc.

For you, the journey or the process doesn’t matter as much as reaching the goal. And, food is either helping you get there or it’s getting in your way.

4. You Internalize the “Good” or “Bad” Food Label

Most of us have opinions about what food is good for us and what food is not. To categorize food is a normal function.

However, you may take this categorizing a step further, internalizing the label of good or bad.

For example, when you eat “good” foods then you view yourself as a good person. On the other hand, when you eat “bad” foods then you transfer that negative label onto yourself, making you a bad person.

5. There Are Too Many “Not Allowed” Zones

How much do you trust yourself around food?

Those who have a poor relationship with food see food as the enemy—a temptress, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a trickster. As a result, you may have declared your house a chocolate-free zone, for example.

The issue isn’t really the chocolate. No. The chocolate is innocent. Rather, it’s that you feel powerless against the evil force that is food (chocolate, in this case).

In no relationship should you ever feel powerless. To regain that balance of power in your relationship with food, it’s time to seek help.

Take the first step…

If you are ready to address an eating disorder or issues with food that may be impacting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Linda K. Laffey, MFT