We develop patterns of behavior early in life. We associate certain events with certain feelings and behaviors. One such pattern is our behavior with food. Being fed by our parents when we were young may come to represent being cared for or being loved. On the other hand, not being fed when we were hungry may have produced a deep insecurity about whether there would be enough food in the future.

Food can be used as a distraction. For instance, we may have been told at the doctor’s office that if we that if we didn’t cry when we got a shot, we would be rewarded with a lollypop. Therefore, we focused on getting the lollypop instead of feeling the fear or pain of the needle. We effectively blocked the pain and focused on the reward, the sugar. It is any wonder that later in life when we experience pain, emotional or physical, that we think a candy bar will make us feel better.

We may have been told we can have dessert if we were good or if we ate everything on our plate. Thus, dessert became a reward, an acknowledgement of success. Today, we may trudge through a hard day at work knowing a reward awaits us at the end of the day.

We can also use food to procrastinate; to avoid some action or responsibility that needs to be taken care of. I’ll eat first, then I’ll do that report or balance the check book. We may eat while performing these duties using the food to get through the mundane, boring tasks of daily life. We may use food as a means to “stuff down” uncomfortable feelings or thoughts. We become hard-wired to turn to food whenever a feeling comes up.

We may use food to cope with the stress in our lives. But, in time our destructive eating behavior has a profound effect on our self esteem, relationships, finances, daily activities, and quality of life. We find that we have less time and less energy. We may even recognize that food has become our best friend and our source of comfort.

People often become depressed or anxious because of their eating patterns. Disordered eating is not just about the food. It is the obsessive thoughts about the food, weight, body image or what we eat or not eat. It is using food for emotional reasons.

In breaking the cycle it is important to realize that we have done the best we could up to this point. Negative self-criticism about previous actions only perpetuates the cycle . The solution is to recognize that there is a relationship between our emotions and our eating behaviors. Destructive eating behaviors are just a symptom of the problem, not just its root cause.

To get down to the root cause, we need to identify why we are turning to food. Then we can take action to deal with this underlying cause. Our thoughts are the first link to our actions. We need to learn to identify thoughts and feelings. We can’t change something we are not aware of. With awareness we can then find appropriate action to take care of our Self. All you need to start is the willingness to change, to open your mind to a different approach.

Starting with small steps, through the use of repetition, we can form new habits. You can work with yourself instead of against yourself. The body was designed to work in conjunction with your appetite by eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. You can get back in touch with this innate ability.

Author's Bio: 

After years of experience helping clients recover from the effects of dieting, obesity, eating disorders, addictions, and disordered eating, Rebecca Cooper can share some facts that can restore our society to sanity regarding food, weight, and addiction. Ms. Cooper has a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. She is a California licensed therapist, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, Board Certified Professional Counselor, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. She started the first transitional living residence for women recovering from eating disorders. She is the Founder of Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs™ located in Orange County, California, where she heads up a team of psychologists, therapists, registered dietitians, exercise physiologist, psychiatrist, and a medical doctor.Rebecca is the author of the Diets Don’t Work® a structured recovery program for disordered eating. This innovative program is successfully being used by recovery homes, therapists, and clients. She is also CEO of 21st Century Wellness, Inc., and was the first President of the Orange County Chapter of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. Ms. Cooper is the author of several published articles and a workbook that accompanies the Diets Don't Work® Book. In addition to recorded DVDs and CDs, Ms. Cooper also appears on television and radio to promote eating disorder awareness. Rebecca has been the guest on radio/web/television shows. She is an international speaker and conducts workshops and seminars on such topics as Eating Disorders--a National Epidemic, The Effects of Yo-Yo Dieting, Why Diets Don’t Work, Journey to Self, Understanding the Binge Cycle, and A Solution for Disordered Eating. In October 2004, Rebecca was honored as the Rising Star in Business by WomanSage©, an event sponsored by the University of California at Irvine Medical Center. The award was in recognition to her innovative approach to helping women with eating disorders and her dedicated service of helping others recover. In May of 2009, she was nominated for the Orange County Business Journal's Women in Business Award.

If you a friend or loved one that needs treatment for an eating disorder, go to www.rebeccashouse.org or call 1.866.931.1666.