Although there are a host of things you can do to work toward “normal” eating, here are 10 ideas that are tried and true. Some will be easier than others, but all are necessary if you want food to stop being a hassle and to have a positive place in your life.
1. Take a step back and reflect on the way you relate to food and how you could improve the relationship. Reflecting is a good way to break denial. Stay relaxed and don’t pressure yourself to change. Just identify a few changes you could make.
2. Consider whether your eating patterns are simply bad habits or whether you have major underlying issues to work through—ie, are you used to munching while watching TV (habit) versus using food to avoid emotional pain (underlying issue).
3. Develop compassion for yourself. Replace harsh judgments with being forgiving when you do something you perceive as wrong, eating or otherwise. Notice how it feels to be compassionate rather than judgmental about yourself.
4. Surround yourself with people who support your “normal” eating goals. Make a list of those who do and those who don’t, then figure out how to work with or around people who might try to derail or sabotage you.
5. Identify your life goals and be honest about whether you’re converting frustration and disappointment about not reaching them into eating or obsessing about food. Take one small step to make your life more satisfying.
6. Eliminate diet think. If you’re aiming to become a “normal” eater, you have to think like one. Change starts in the brain, not at the dinner table.
7. Consider personality traits that keep you stuck in dysfunctional eating—mistrust of people, perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking, fear of failure and of making mistakes, disliking being dependent on people—and work on changing them.
8. Decide to make peace with your body no matter what you weigh. Hating your body will NOT help you change your size. Body acceptance will.
9. Think for yourself. Make “normal” eating such a priority that you allow yourself to eat differently than friends or family. Break with the herd and risk being authentic.
10. Recognize that recovering from food problems is a long and arduous road, but continue to find ways to hold onto hope and remain motivated—join a message board, talk to friends, keep a journal (not a food log!), or get into therapy.
Imagine what it would be like to accomplish all 10 ideas. If the process feels overwhelming, take a deep breath and give yourself time to achieve them. Reread this list daily and pick one or two areas to work on every day. Keep at it and you’ll get the payoff down the road in a better life and an improved relationship with food.