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New year, new you? How to avoid falling into a disordered eating

It’s the end of the holiday season. All the special meals have been consumed, the decorations put away, and the expectations of the new year begin to set in. We’re constantly bombarded by messages imploring us to “start the year off right,” and that pressure also applies to our relationship to food.

Whether your relationship with food has created struggles in the past or not, it’s natural to want to make positive lifestyle changes. Resolutions will often revolve around diets or a change in eating patterns – particularly after a festive holiday season. The issue can be deciphering whether these changes are innocent and positive, or if they are actually a slippery slope to disordered eating and a negative relationship with your body.

How can you know the difference? First, reflect on your relationship to food prior to (and during) the holidays. Did you ever feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment after eating a particular food? Was it difficult to eat with others? Did you feel judged? Have you tried dieting in the past?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, it’s worth reevaluating potential food- or dieting-focused resolutions.

If you’ve experienced cycles of dieting, or if eating, in general, tends to feel stressful, then a New Year’s resolution centered around food might add to the anxiety and confusion. Some popular eating trends could even be harmful, as they can promote restrictive or disordered eating. Here are some questions to ask when you’re thinking of making changes to your eating patterns:

1. Is this an extreme way of eating that leaves me with little or no room for flexibility?
2. Is there a possibility of becoming anxious or even more anxious than I already am about food?
3. Will you have to think of food most of the day in order to follow this?

If you’re unsure or feel confused about eating it’s always beneficial to seek professional advice. A registered dietitian is an excellent source of evidence-based information when it comes to nutrition and food. If there are any questions related to an unhealthy or disordered relationship to food, a dietitian specializing in this area is a great place to start. 



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