In The Mood For Food – Essay On Love Hate Relationship
Haven’t most of us at some point in our lives experienced the heartache of a difficult lover? The push and pull? Have you ever considered that you may be living with an elusive lover every day? FOOD!
Have you thought about how profoundly intimate food is? Thought about what is behind this powerful connection that your naked eye skipped? How much of the relationship with food, just like with a lover, is based on intense emotions of self-worth?
This hasn’t always been true – long ago the Rubenesque curves were emblematic of wealth and beauty. More recently modern standards of beauty emphasize the opposite and being super thin is viewed as beautiful and healthy (fat became despised and the overweight along with it, low self-esteem the result!). You’ve also learned that being overweight is not healthy and with being fat has a negative social stigma on several levels. However, losing weight remains an elusive hope and for many the biggest struggle of their daily lives. The carousel of thoughts revolves around “If only I was thinner”. Losing weight is now seen as the most easily accessible hope for transformation. Dieting becomes the panacea answer to your dreams of a better self.
So, with so much at stake, why do you fail?
Once upon a time you are born, and that’s when it all starts. Hungry as a baby, you howled from the top of your lungs and the whole world reacted to your tantrums with a calming and soothing response – food. Feeding became one of the most pleasurable and satisfying experiences of your early life and remained deeply ingrained with your mother figure. You experienced solace and love when you were well fed. Feeding and soothing became inextricably bonded, food the most satisfying and the core of a myriad of feelings.
In the aftermath of your infant experiences, few let go of this pattern in their adult years when food should serve a different role. You as a grown-up should have become responsible for handling your own discomfort and emotional challenges with other coping skills. But as you matured the intensity of those early positive feelings grew distorted and triggered emotional upheaval. Eating once the answer to your basic needs became the shortcut to the resolution of all ills and fears. The ultimate self-soothing tool.
Without self-awareness you turn to the magic realm of food for quick comfort well beyond the basic primordial need for calories. You start packing on food like there is no tomorrow. Food is no longer just parental love but the heartless Casanova roller coaster lover. You can’t resist its tentacles, although you know it’s bad for you. You feel cruelly trapped and betrayed but yet you succumb.
Eating ice cream and cake are like dating a difficult and yet much desired lover – sweet at first bite but bitter with heartache and disappointment later. Sometimes you just want a casual date with French fries and wings, and then you have moments when you prefer the intense chocolate mousse tryst. Remember the days you went on a blind date and it was dead boring as steamed broccoli and salad with no dressing? Better off staying home and making love to the soda and BBQ chips instead you think afterwards. What about that night when after a few beers you went to bed with a whole pizza just to be so embarrassed in the morning that you didn’t even tell your best friend. Monogamy is not a word to be taken seriously in this dictionary. So you abandon yourselves with an abundance of decadent choices. Gazing through the wine list you politely ask for a whole bottle for one. The erotic pleasure of your palate savoring all the scents and flavors in the world contained in that well aged Bordeaux.
As adults there is also a social norm that you should do something nice for yourself when you feel bad. You feel entitled to excite some dormant senses, stimulate those inactive under used taste buds, run a bubble bath, and have a glass of wine or a superb meal. But you are just bypassing or suppressing your feelings. You allow a psychological hunger to take control over your physiological need. The discomfort of losing control takes over and rebounds with a false sense of security and a rebellious act as you think:
“I am eating whatever I want and I should be accepted as I am!”
The overwhelming sense of peace is with us very short lived; the quick elation is followed by a sense of horrifying guilt. You wake up next morning to face the reality that nothing in the closet fits, your shirt buttons are popping off, your pants or dresses are tight. The shadows of doubt, guilt and anxiety are hovering in your mind. The inner voice gets louder and louder, and screams STOP EATING! Why are you losing control? What just happened? Not again!! Often followed by another binge over the guilt. A truly vicious cycle.
NO MORE, we fire lasers from our eyes into our reflection in the mirror.
Suddenly you are deluding yourself, feeling in control in the driver seat by only addressing the calories you consume. Your start your New Year’s Day diet NOW, the black coffee is great for breakfast, the lettuce leaf is perfect for a morning snack, one carrot stick is delicious for lunch, a scoop of nonfat yogurt is a wonderful afternoon energy booster. That’s a strategy for failure. Where was the emotional resolution? Without one you’ll be famished, angry and exhausted by the end of the first day. Worse is that this sense of deprivation brings a fight back response. Without realizing it you just entered into the fast track of a binge-diet pattern. Rage kicks in rearing its gargantuan head toward an act of rebellion. You re-assert the right of eating whatever you want for comfort falsely convinced you are in control and no longer tied up in restrictions. (I’ll go back to bread and water tomorrow so the cheeseburger tonight is ok).
But the naysaying is like kicking a dead horse, not true liberation. What’s missing? Understanding the food/emotion connection…
I’m here to tell the steps to end your Emotional Eating – you can break the cycle forever and it’s easier than you think if you take certain steps. But the advice you need first is not to start starving. Eat your way out. Emotional Eating will end when you gain control of your emotional response reflexes.
Hmmmm… Let’s sit down for a second and analyze this. Hunger is a mood – it’s the peak of an emotional mountain and in place since you were first nursed – easy to see that emotional eating connects to the need for maternal comfort. Food becomes the mother so to speak of all ills good and bad. In short you take that cycle from childhood into your intimate relationship with food as an adult. There is a parallel truth in the saying that we always date two people, one of them mother.
Empowerment lies in understanding this connection and it can make a big difference in your life. Liberation comes only when you understand how you soothe your anxieties, and understand the role of food – become mindful of what you need food for and what you don’t. You don’t have to give up epicurean pleasures as long you can develop a healthy breaking system and understand what emotions you are feeding. Learning how to cope with the root of your daily insecurities without resorting to food, alcohol, or other addictions.
Change takes time but it starts with you and your attitude first – diet and exercise to follow. With that in mind some guidance for those who are about to “break-up” with food.
Recipes’ for Success:
- Love yourself first and foremost – acceptance is the first step to successful change.
- Stop putting yourself down. Your beauty is already inside and will soon be outside too.
- Connect with feelings good and bad and end your emotion based feeding frenzies.
- Let go of fear and start eating healthy food.
- Don’t beat yourself up – if you cheat just move on and try instead to think about why. What was the emotion you were feeding as you devoured the pint of ice cream?
With these daily mantras in place and you will begin to get in touch with your true needs and appetite. Shifting the negative view of weight is a radical transition in thought as well as breaking of your procrastination and the start of making change happen. Stop unleashing food as a mean of instant gratification. Connect with actual hunger devoid of emotion – getting hungry does happen all on its own! Legalize farm healthy food from the undesired low class category to the favored. Get back to basics without the fancy menu names you don’t understand. Food will soon transform from a lover to an honest friend. A true friend will never put us down as in the aftermath of a sugar load. A friend without bipolar roller coaster swings but who offers steady, nurturing and mature love, which gives us the vitamins of energy, self-acceptance, focus and stamina. You’ll need to find alternative ways to feed your soul. Exercise, meditation, a favorite hobby can each become a satisfying replacement for food. You need more than a quickie with a candy bar and that is why food is never the answer. Accepting the fact that as humans you need self-love and confidence in order to thrive and knowing that a box of Oreos will never fulfill that need is key.
End the scale verdict. Once you’ve made this leap you’ll no longer look for acceptance by that ex-lover called food. The closet will no longer house lost aspirations. The mirror on the wall will stop being a dreaded reality then you start becoming enchanted by your own confidence. You are dancing with the shopping cart that is not full to the brim with ice-cream but healthy choices. You naturally turn down the dessert menu. You’ll never be caught off guard when facing your daily problems and you’ll know that food is not the answer. Suddenly you don’t mind catching your reflection in a shop window. You finally love your wardrobe again and feel liberated from chasing your demons. The date with the plain grilled fish and steamed Brussels sprouts feels just right and you cannot get enough of that form of love.
You will create more intimacy in your life with others. You will trust yourself again. Things feel right and in harmony, without the roller coaster of recriminations and regrets. You’re free now to own responsibility for what you eat and your portion sizes. You are finally guilt free and you have stopped condemning yourself. You reached a sense of resolution and before you know it you take up less space in the world physically and emotionally.
The lightness of being as a floating balloon or skating on air.
Life is all about this profound connection with your self. Start down that road today. That’s the best Valentine’s Day gift of all – not a box of chocolates but rather the message in a card you send yourself. I LOVE ME!!