Do you ever feel that your relationship with food is doomed to failure?

How can you truly break old habits and move to a relaxed and enjoyable place where you can eat out effortlessly and feel proud and comfortable of your body? Maybe you feel that you can skip along quite happily for a few weeks and then suddenly, wham, bam, you are back to flicking furiously through diet magazines for the latest craze; weighing yourself obsessively twice a day and piling on the body self-loathing with intensity. Why? Why? You really thought that this time you had it sussed. Here are seven myths about change that we sell ourselves and how to combat them.

1.You are back to square one when things are not going well

Wrong! Change is a process and it is extremely unusual (particularly where food is concerned) that you can alter long-term patterns overnight. You are very likely to slip back again and again before the new ways of being have become embedded and formed as sustainable habits. When things go wrong, view see this as a blip, not a catastrophe. Look at what happened; learn quickly from the experience and move on!

2. Someone else can make the changes for you

Alas if only this was true! I think we are all looking for rescue at different points in our lives. If only we could find that perfect book, therapist, life-coach, significant other - someone to come along and make it all better. Unfortunately, no-one else can do it for you, but you can embrace support. Help and be helped by others along the way. Someone that has walked the path before can provide wisdom and valuable insights. They can be your guide rather than your rescuer.

3. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Henry Ford

Going on another diet; being too restrictive; eliminating food groups; obsessive weighing; body checking . . . If you keep doing these things, it is unlikely that change will happen. Yes, they are safe, familiar and do bring short-term results. Do you really want to be on this hamster wheel forever though?

4. If you've gone gone off track one day, the rest of the week is lost

Don't wait until the day you feel like changing. Just go and do it. Oh, how true this is. Keep going even when you don’t feel like it and you will get there.

5. You will never get there

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - Lao-tzu. When I look back over the years, the change in my relationship with food has been a slow but persistent journey. Fifteen years ago, I stopped being bulimic; about ten years ago, I stopped bingeing completely. In the last few years, I have moved to a place where food is a real pleasure; something I enjoy; something that doesn’t occupy much headspace. It has taken time.

6. It's best to be strict and limit food intake

If you aren't eating enough for your body, you will find yourself constantly thinking about food. People often ask me to "take away all this thinking about food" when actually they are not prepared to give up dieting or restricting food. When you don’t eat enough for your body, you are over-riding a physiological process – you really cannot win.

7. There are only 'good' and 'bad' days

In the past, you might have felt that you were either "being good" or controlling your eating and doing well. Or you might have felt that you were out of control; in chaos and on a self-destructive path. The way out of this, is finding a comfortable and sustainable middle ground. Rules need relaxing. Flexibility has to be embraced. Compassion and kindness to the self are crucial. Embrace the shade of grey. This might feel uncomfortable after the extremes of the black and white rule-bound rollercoaster, but it is your way out.


Harriet Frew is a verified welldoing.org therapist and body-image and eating disorder specialist


Further reading

Shame, guilt and your relationship with food

7 ways to reduce food waste

When you lose control around food

Helping your child develop a healthy relationship with food