Many disregulated eaters grow up in dysfunctional families and, therefore, lack understanding of what constitutes normal behavior and feelings—you may do whatever your parents did or exactly the opposite and be confused about what is mentally healthy or unhealthy. This uncertainty limits your life skill effectiveness and makes it harder to improve your relationship with food. So, here are some guidelines for emotional health.
There are people in the world who will love, value, and take care of you age appropriately. They’ll listen intently to what you have to say, take you seriously, believe you, compassionately challenge you when you do things not in your long-term best interest, validate and support your feelings, and enjoy being close to you. It’s natural to want to confide, share, and express feelings and expect a friend/lover to do the same. This creates mutual trust, understanding and closeness.
There are people who will tolerate you having opinions and thoughts of your own even if they disagree with you. Emotionally healthy folks don’t mind differences. They value an honest exchange of ideas. They won’t shame or make you wrong for how you think or act even when they don’t see things your way. They recognize that they’re okay even if people don’t think or do as they do. They value you for your individuality.
There are people who will acknowledge when you are right and they are wrong and who have flexible thinking, that is, they can change their minds when the evidence points them in a different direction. They can take in new information—no matter what the source—and use their critical thinking skills to assess and integrate it into their own belief system. They examine life by using higher order thinking and rationality, not through an emotional, reactive lens. They are interested in learning about you and life.
There are people who will be truthful, honest, loyal and have integrity. They won’t put you down to feel better about themselves. They will hold onto their individuality and value being part of a team or group. They won’t lie to protect themselves or you. Their behavior will align with their values and intent. They won’t hypocritically practice one thing and tell you to do another. They will strive to be ethical and moral. They won’t expect you, them, or the world to be perfect or in their control.
Of course, this is the bare minimum of what’s healthy. Add to this list with your own ideas, then make it your business to use it as a guideline for future relationships.