Food. For each and every one of us in this world there is a different response to what appears as a simple, four-letter word. But really – a simple, four-letter word it is not. I have folks I work with that see a crumb of food as a mountain of fear and others see a mountain of food as a teeny, tiny relief from feelings that seem unbearable. Some see food as their best friend, others as their worst enemy. Love, hate, fear, anger, hope, joy, sadness, and a host of a million other emotions are unveiled when food is placed in front of various individuals. Our past, where our memories linger, what we are trying desperately to remember or sometimes forget, all impact our relationship with food.
My question to you… are you living it, leaving it, or loving it?
Does your life revolve around food? Do your emotions seem to be connected to different types of food (i.e. stress to chocolate, loneliness to fries, shame to ice cream, anxiety to pizza)? Often times I will have clients in my office share with me the connections I just mentioned. For you, there may be a very different emotion connected to those foods, but my hope is to provide you an example of what it means to have an emotion that is so intertwined with certain foods. We live in a society that is constantly telling us to be thinner, faster, better, stronger. They want us to work more, sleep less, and provide exceptional service with a body that we barely have time to care for. It has become so easy to allow food to control our lives versus being a solid component of our lives. Consider whether food is something you plan your life around as a means of an escape, a coping mechanism, or if it is something that liberates you from the stresses of your busy life for just a short while.
Negative memories are often the culprit for why people avoid certain foods. Our experiences as children can affect us for years and cause us to walk away from a relationship with food. Sometimes negative body image can lead folks to disordered eating patterns in an effort to control the way their body looks and how they feel in their body. We can actually see some similarity between folks who leave food and those who live for food…
Both sides are trying to avoid the feeling their facing. We are surrounded by the (unrealistic) message of needing to eat less and exercise more so that we can have the “perfect body.” If we leave food behind we have no means to nourish the body and therefore lose the physical strength to keep going day after day. If leaving food behind is something you struggle with, start with considering why you believe it is necessary to leave it behind.
Cooking, baking, catering, and serving are just a few ways that folks enjoy food and have the opportunity to share it with others. Some individuals are the “foodies” that get out and explore all the new restaurants, try a variety of new foods, and really appreciate food for the colors, textures, and flavors it has to offer. While “loving it” can certainly be taken to an unhealthy extreme, in this case I really want to highlight the fact that food can be quite pleasurable. There are many people who have a positive, healthy relationship with food that can guide us in a fulfilling and sensual experience with food.
So – food? Do you… live it, leave it, or love it?
-Emily Estes, MS, RD, LMNT