With the raising awareness about eating healthy and staying active, many people are extra cautious about food choices. While it is helpful to exercise and be conscious about what you eat, it could jeopardize our healthy relationship with food.
Quiz - Have you ever experienced:
Preoccupation with weight, calories info, fat content
Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
Lots of concern with body size and shape
Binge-eating and/or purging
Excessive exercising (i.e., exercising when ill or starving)
I've never experienced any of these
If you have experienced one or more of the descriptions above, you are likely in an unhealthy relationship with food and could be at risk of developing an eating disorder.
Why may unhealthy habits with food develop?
😨 Emotional eating 😨
While physical hunger is the hunger that can be satisfied by a meal, emotional hunger involves using food to fill your emotional needs (i.e., loneliness, sadness, stress). Research shows that emotional eaters tend to have a heightened dopaminergic system response. Therefore, an easily accessible and socially acceptable activity: eating, becomes a coping mechanism for dopamine release in the brain when they feel down. When this rewarding behavior is reinforced over time, it develops into a habit, and another part of the brain (basal ganglia) takes over.  As a result, the repetitive action of binge eating is no longer related to the initial reward of "tasty food" but becomes an act of compulsiveness . Eating behaviors triggered by emotional hunger might feel good at the moment, but the actual underlying emotional problem is never addressed. 
🧬 Other factors 🧬
Genetics and environmental factors (life stressors such as childhood bullying, media-driven thin body image) all contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Eating disorder is not about lacking "self-control." It is a bio-sociocultural disorder. 
**If you or your family/friend experience an eating disorder, is it strongly encouraged to seek professional help. Eating disorder has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness and needs to be treated seriously.
In Taylor Swift's documentary Miss Americana, she revealed her struggle with anorexia triggered by photographs and comments about her appearance. After a long journey of recovery, she realized that "we are seeing so much ridiculous standard of beauty on social media that makes us feel like we are "less than" what we should be. " She learned to stop caring about comments on her weight, accepting "the fact that I'm a size six instead of a size double-zero." 
How to have a good relationship with food?
Intuitive eating is a science-based framework created by two registered dietitians in 1995.
[ Intuitive eating ]
"A way of eating that focuses on becoming in tune with your body's hunger and fullness signals and combating black-and-white thinking around food choices . "
10 Principles of intuitive eating: [5,6]
Reject the diet mentality
Avoid reading posts about specific diets or thinking that a particular diet would work for you. This may make you feel like a failure every time a new diet stops working.
Eat when you feel early signs of hunger.
If you wait until you get starving, you will be more likely to overeat.
Make peace with food.
Telling yourself that you shouldn't eat a particular food can build up uncontrollable cravings and binging. So try to permit yourself to eat according to your will in the first place.
Challenge the food police.
Note and challenge the judgemental voice in your head that associates your self-worth with your food choices: you are "good" for eating minimal calories and "bad" because you ate a burger. Practicing meditation can help you become the "observer" of the voice instead of reacting to it. Unfollowing or deleting social media that fuels anxiety about body image can also help.
Respect your fullness.
Check-in with yourself while eating by asking: "How full am I feeling?" Pay attention to your body when you feel comfortably full, so you know when to stop.
Have a meal that tastes good to you and makes you feel good.
Having a pleasurable eating experience makes it require less food to satisfy you.
Honor your feelings without using food.
Keep in touch with your emotions with mindfulness practices, and be aware when you catch yourself wanting to eat more, even when feeling physically full. Find other ways to deal with your emotions than eating. Some suggested by the TWS daily checklist include: meditation, workout, deep breath, kind acts, connection, get jiggy.
Respect your body.
Know that your body is capable and beautiful as it is, and there is no single standard of "ideal body shape."
Rethink your intention for exercising.
Shift the intention of exercising from losing weight to feeling more energetic and happy, making exercising more enjoyable.
Your overall food patterns matter more than one or two snacks. As long as you eat healthily overall, one unhealthy meal will not break your health.
Surprisingly, recent research shows that your mindset towards what you are eating has a powerful placebo effect that can change your body's physiological response. For example, when you think you should follow a particular diet but you don't live up to that, the belief of "I'm not eating healthy enough" itself can harm the body's metabolism and physiological response due to the stress and anxiety associated with the thought. Therefore, instead of being fixated on a particular eating pattern, why not try listening more to your body and eat intuitively?
 Novak, S. (2021, December 29). The neuroscience of emotional eating. Discover Magazine. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/the-neuroscience-of-emotional-eating
 Moore, C. F., Sabino, V., Koob, G. F., & Cottone, P. (2017). Neuroscience of Compulsive Eating Behavior. Frontiers in neuroscience, 11, 469. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2017.00469
 Eating disorder myths. National Eating Disorders Association. (2019, August 22). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/toolkit/parent-toolkit/eating-disorder-myths
 Savage, M. (2020, January 24). Taylor Swift reveals eating disorder in netflix documentary. BBC News. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-51234055
10 principles of intuitive eating. Intuitive Eating. (2019, December 19). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/
Jennings, K.-A. (2019, June 25). A quick guide to intuitive eating. Healthline. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/quick-guide-intuitive-eating#benefits
 Huberman, A., & Crum, A. (2022, January 24). Dr. Alia Crum: Science of mindsets for health & performance | huberman lab podcast #56. YouTube. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFR_wFN23ZY
 Segers, A., Depoortere, I. Circadian clocks in the digestive system. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 18, 239–251 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-020-00401-5