Sunday, September 22, 2013

Relationships with Food

I was just going through my e-mail and I came across my daily reminder to click for charity.  You know the one, where you just click once a day and advertisers give money to various charities including animal rights, autism research, world hunger and so on.  They always have little inspirational stories on each page, to help encourage people to remember why they are taking five minutes out of their day to click on several pages.  What caught my eye today was the inspirational story on the diabetes research page.  Actually, it was a fragment of a sentence on that page, and the author was talking about how horrible it is when carbs aren't comforting, sugar is scary and so on.  This really made me stop and think about the many relationships that we have with food.

Food is such a basic need in our lives.  If we don't have it, we die.  That's a pretty simple, straightforward relationship, I think.  We could just leave it at that, and life would probably be a lot easier for so many people.  But, of course, we're human beings and we can never really be satisfied with keeping things simple, right?

So what happens?  Food becomes "comfort" or "decadence".  Different types of foods take on different meanings, like "good" or "bad", "healthy" or "unhealthy".  We start applying moral values and judgments to food and the people who eat it.  The fat man shouldn't eat a cheeseburger.  The skinny woman should eat a pork chop.

Eventually these judgments shift from the food to the people themselves.  Obviously that fat woman is a slob, stupid, and lazy.  It is apparent to the world that the skinny man is weak, a wimp, and a wuss.  The muscular guy over there obviously eats "right" and exercises.  The toned and slender woman is no doubt conceited and consumed completely by how she looks, with as much depth as a mud puddle. 

All of these judgments and they all originate from food and our dysfunctional relationships with it.

So today I give you a challenge, Dear Readers.  My challenge to you is to take a good, long, hard look at your relationships with food.  Do you use the words "good" and "bad" in association with things that you eat?  Do you see a fat person ordering a dessert and automatically judge them negatively for it?  Do you see a slender person eating a salad and automatically judge them for it in either a positive or negative way?  How do you approach food in your life? 

I'm not saying that we shouldn't take pleasure from food.  Goodness knows that I happily take pleasure in a scoop of quality ice cream, a fresh spinach salad with vinaigrette, or a plate of homemade macaroni and cheese.  But what I AM saying is that I am fully aware of how I associate these things with pleasure and I strive to enjoy them for what they are:  appealing tastes and textures.  I am still working on removing the judgments from my food, though I am getting better at it, and instead just applying actual descriptors to what is in front of me.  Words like "good", "bad", "healthy", "unhealthy", "reward", "naughty" all are slowly being expunged from my food vocabulary and being replaced with "satisfying", "creamy", "rich", "fresh", "tasty", and "just what I wanted right now".

Take a stab at letting go of the old relationships and starting some new ones.  The majority of you reading this are living in places where a huge variety of food is literally at your fingertips.  Enjoy that variety in all of its glory, and let yourself do so.  I think that you'll be surprised at how it changes your life.   Because a lessening of judgment is never a bad thing. 

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