Why Do You Eat?
By Abigail Natenshon
Author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder

It is important to become aware of your eating responses. An awareness of yourself, of your eating patterns, habits, and behaviors gives you greater options for making changes, and for feeling good about the positive things that you may be doing for your body. As you consider responding to the statements in the following quiz, remember that there are no right answers and wrong answers in this exercise. This listing is meant to provide you with an increased awareness of yourself and how you eat.

Defining your relationship with food. Why do you eat?

  • I eat when I am hungry.
  • I stop when I am full.
  • I stop way after I am full.
  • I stop before I am full.
  • If I love the taste of something, I will eat more than I need, but that is okay.
  • I eat when I am nervous or anxious about something.
  • I eat when I am sad.
  • I eat because food is there.
  • I eat to be sociable.
  • I eat to sustain and reinforce my energy.
  • I eat to grow my bones and muscles.
  • I eat to become alert and smart.
  • I eat to feel good.
  • I eat when I feel good.
  • I eat because I like the taste of food.
  • I eat every time I come home after being out.
  • I eat every time I am in the kitchen.
  • I eat whenever I watch television.
  • I only eat when I absolutely have to.

We all eat for many reasons, for varied reasons, for different reasons. That’s okay, as long as for the most part, we are eating nutritionally dense or healthy foods, varied food choices, and we are eating healthfully, with moderation and balance. Eating a bit too much or too little is not a hazard, as long as it does not happen regularly, and as long as some form of physical exercise or activity is a regular part of your life.

It is important to become aware of whether you might be a person whose eating is primarily and consistently stimulated by your emotional state and needs. Emotional eating is not a healthy reason to eat or restrict food; in these instances, the food serves to hide the real problems and the personal pain that you may be experiencing as a result. If you cannot define and confront a problem, you will have little chance to resolve it.

Psychotherapist Abigail H. Natenshon has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders with individuals, families, and groups for the past 28 years. She is the author of When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Parents and Other Caregivers, Jossey Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA. October 1999. Based on hundreds of successful outcomes, this book shepherds concerned parents step-by-step through the processes of eating disorder recognition, confronting the child, finding the most effective treatment for patient and family, and evaluating and insuring a timely recovery. A guide to eating disorder prevention, this book is useful to parents, health professionals and school personnel alike in countering the pervasive epidemic of unhealthy eating and body image concerns, and destructive media and peer influences. Her work can be reviewed further at her web site at www.empoweredparents.com. To order visit amazon.com.

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