What is your attitude and relationship with food?
What is your attitude towards- and relationship with- food?
This is a loaded question with a million different aspects. It is like a prism of glass with one single sunbeam shining in and an explosion of light reflecting out on the opposite side. Our thought processes about, relationship with and attitude towards food is similar. For some, food may be a tangible item consumed to keep one alive, but for many, it literally has a personality within one’s life. It almost always has some form of an emotional response in our lives, stemming from how we were raised and different situations in our lives.
This is a gigantic subject to unravel, but exploring it will make you understand yourself better. Being educated and aware of your relationship with food will change your life. You will be the winner. There is so much emotion wrapped up with our relationship and attitude towards food and, in today’s world, food has never been more accessible. It’s as if we are living through a real-life Willy Wonka factory: wherever we look there is some delicious and easy-to-access delicacy. I am reminded of those cartoons such as ‘Tom and Jerry’ where Jerry smells the food and gets airlifted right to it. The environment is set: for us to eat whatever we desire is just too easy. But let’s focus our attention on the emotions, relationship and attitude we hold onto with food.
The origins of our relationship with and attitude towards food
The relationship we have with food started the minute we were conceived and growing in the womb. From our genes, to what our mother ate while she was pregnant with us, to childhood behaviours and what we were exposed to all plays a massive roll in how we think and behave today. Having a good relationship with and attitude towards food isn’t something you can achieve overnight. Rather, it’s something that you’ll likely have to work on your entire life. Interestingly, the energy and effort needed to work on your food relationship is similar to that that you’d need to work on a relationship with your partner or friend.
A bad relationship with food
Understanding what makes up a bad relationship is key to creating a good one.
These are some of the indicators that you may have a bad attitude towards- or unhealthy relationship with- food:
- You have developed rules around the foods you can and cannot eat.
- You rely on calorie counters or apps to tell you when you’re done eating for the day.
- You feel guilty about eating.
- You ignore your body’s natural hunger or satisfied cues. Under-eating and over-eating are both concerns here.
- You have a history of yo-yo dieting or following the latest diet trends.
- You are afraid of having too little food or too much. Portion size is stressful for you.
- You find yourself restricting and/or binging on food.
- You feel immense stress and anxiety when eating in social settings due to fear of what others may think of your food choices.
As with any relationship, it’s not always perfect and you don’t need to have all of these to have some sort of unhealthy relationship with food. You may just be struggling with one of them. It is good to know and be aware, as with everything. It’s important to note that the ultimate goal of a ‘good food attitude’ and relationship is to have more positive experiences with food than negative ones. Be kind to yourself. It’s a process and being on the journey is key.
Food is crucial in our lives, not just for the fuel it provides us but for the social aspect it brings. Much of human relationships are built around the food table, breaking bread together, building community. From couples going on a first date, to business meetings to friendship groups and so the circle goes. Our social lives are built on the foundation of food, from eating together to sharing with each other. Therefore, having a good relationship filters into your social lives too.
A good relationship with food
It’s important to know and understand what it is to have a good attitude towards and relationship with food:
- You listen and respect your body’s natural hunger cues.
- You eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.
- Food is not off-limits because of the calorie content but rather based on the health aspects of the ingredients to you. E.g., being Vegan.
- You don’t let the opinions of others influence which foods you choose to eat.
- You don’t feel the need to justify your food choices.
- You understand that you are not defined by the foods you eat.
- You enjoy all food in moderation, again depending on your health choice, for e.g. If you have a food aversion to dairy, you know not to eat dairy.
- You choose foods that make you feel your best.
- Calories are not the focus of your food choices.
The purpose of this article is to discuss your attitude and relationship around food, not your personal health beliefs. Vegetarians and vegans can have just as healthy a relationship with those who eat all food groups.
An emotional eater
We have come to use food as a tool for numbing and distancing ourselves from our emotions. Why is this? Because when it comes to dealing with emotional issues, we may tend to follow the path of least resistance, which is usually directly into our kitchen or pantry. As food- and particular foods- are more prohibited in our minds from being acceptable to eat, they become more and more powerful as a numbing mechanism. The flip side is true for others; when they are stressed and/or emotional they do the opposite and tend to not eat as much, and instead lose their appetite. Neither is right or wrong but what happens between our brain and gut, where different chemicals and hormones are released. The same way each of us react differently when faced with stress and trauma: where either ‘freeze, fight or flight’ takes place. Some overeat and some under-eat. Which one would you say is your go to?
Our brain’s wiring and the role it plays in our attitude and relationship towards food
Our brain (and its diverse and incredibly complex mass of networks), neurotransmitters, hormones and chemicals are all factors that play a part in our relationship with food. Research shows that our brain is the driving force for all of the above. It’s not always a simple, ‘my body needs fuel formula’ and therefore we eat. The true sum of it is what we think and feed our body drives the perpetual motion of what we want to eat. Much of the processed foods we eat have been created in a lab and added to our factory manufactured foods which drives the chemical desire and craving for those foods. It is not an accident that ‘when you pop, you can’t stop.’ We have all heard about how sugar is one of the foods that drives addictive behaviour in us, the research and science speaks for itself.
So, is it time to ask yourself and take a detailed assessment of your behaviour, emotions, attitude and relationship with food? Where are you at and what do you want to work on?
Is it time you saw a counsellor, coach, dietitian, nutritionist? We have a team of specialists, ready and able. (will put in link)
The neurons at play, worth the read.
This is an interesting article worth a read from Harvard Medical School:
Bradford Lowell, MD, PhD, remembers his astonishment the first time his lab “turned on” hunger-promoting neurons in a mouse.
The genetically engineered rodent, which was already full, devoured food pellets as if it hadn’t eaten anything all day, quelling any doubts about the neurons’ importance. “I recall thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen,” says Lowell, an HMS professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).
That 2011 feeding frenzy was a turning point in Lowell’s decades-long quest to understand how the intense drive of hunger compels us to eat—and makes dieting so difficult. It is one of many “wow” moments he has encountered while decoding the incredibly complex tangle of circuits in the brain that control appetite.
To illuminate how the system works, Lowell and his colleagues are assembling a “parts list” of hunger-related neurons and the genes they express, as well as a “wiring diagram” of how these neurons communicate with each other and with higher structures in the brain. Lowell hopes that finding the missing pieces of both maps will lead to treatments for obesity or eating disorders. Etc…
To read full article, link attached above.